By Joseph Ametepe
"Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?' But Jesus answering said to him, 'Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he permitted Him" (Matthew 3:13-15).
This passage is a tender and touching one. It is a meeting between the messenger, John the Baptist and the Messiah, Jesus. Not only does it teach us the humility of the Messiah Jesus, but it also instructs us that God's ways are often not our ways. John the Baptist had been sent to make ready the way of the Lord, and to make His paths straight (Matthew 3:3). John had been faithfully doing just that. With great boldness, he preached the message of repentance to the people of Israel (Matthew 3:1-2). He lived a simply life and baptized many who came to him confessing their sins (Matthew 3:4-6). Without fear or favor, he proclaimed the message God had put in his mouth to the proud and self-sufficient religious leaders of Israel. He let them know that talk is cheap. They must not merely talk the talk of repentance, but they must also walk the walk of repentance. They must bear fruit befitting repentance (Matthew 3:7-10). So far, so good for John.
But John is now about to learn a fresh lesson in life. He is about to learn that lesson believers in Jesus Christ learn over and over again in their walk with God. That is, God's ways are often not our ways. John learned this lesson when the Lord Jesus came to him at the Jordan River to be baptized by him. You see, John didn't expect to be used by God in this way. As a result, John tried to prevent Jesus from receiving baptism at his hands. The Greek word translated "prevent" is 'diakoluo." It also means "forbid," or "deter." The Bible preserves John's reason for trying to deter Jesus from being baptized by him. He thought Jesus should baptize him. Please understand that this was an honest reason. John didn't think he was adequate for such an honor. Earlier in his preaching, John made it clear he was not worthy to remove the sandals of Christ (Matthew 3:11). So John really didn't think God could use him in this way. As long as he was preaching fiery sermons to the multitudes and baptizing others, it was okay with him. However, God's plan for John was not limited to preaching fiery sermons and baptizing people who were thronging to him at the Jordan. God's plan for using John also included baptizing His Beloved Son, Jesus the Messiah and the Savior of sinners. So in the Jordan River, God taught His messenger a life-changing lesson: God's ways are often not our ways. Having learned the lesson, John permitted Jesus to be baptized by him. And so John was used in a way he hadn't thought God could use him. The Greek word translated "permit" is "aphiemi." It is the word from which we get the all important word, "forgive, pardon, or remit debts." But here it means, "let," "let go," "allow," "abandon," or "tolerate." John let go of his thinking that God could only use him in a certain way. He let God be God as to how He wanted to use him. He allowed God to use in a way that he certainly never thought he could be used. John abandoned his way of thinking regarding the way he thought God could use him in His service.
Now I would like you to note something very special in this encounter between the Messiah and the messenger. Jesus the Messiah said to John the messenger: 'Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Notice the words, "fitting for us." It is obvious from this expression that Jesus is speaking about Himself and John. Indeed, the thought here is amazing! Jesus is here letting John know that he's been given an awesome privilege of playing a significant role in fulfilling all righteousness. Of course, Jesus was the only One qualified to do that. But, by His statement, He included John in that divine work. What an honor! What a privilege! John became the only man to whom Jesus spoke these words of incredible honor. It's always a great honor when we let go and let God use us the way He wants.
Personally, I had John's experience several years ago while I was living in Vancouver, British Columbia. I had been working on my graduate studies in civil engineering. Having completed my masters, I made plans to pursue my goal of getting my Ph.D. During this time, God had been using me in a local church as well as in the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship on the campus of the University of British Columbia. I was thriving in these roles. I was perfectly fine with the way God was using me. But God was about to give me "the Jordan River Experience." He had plans to use me in ways I hadn't thought of, that is, to be a full-time minister of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. So the time came when I heard His call to quit my pursuits in civil engineering to enter full time ministry. Like John, I tried to prevent God from using me in this way. I tried to deter God by arguing with Him. "God, You are calling the wrong person! God, this must be a mistake!" I resisted Him for two years. John the Baptist didn't resist Him that long. But I did. Thank God for His patience with me and forgiveness. Finally, after two years of resistance, I let go of my dreams to pursue His dreams. I abandoned my way of thinking on this issue. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I said "Yes," to God. I surrendered my will to His. I submitted to His plan for my life, that is, for Him to use me the way He desires. I subjected my desires to His desires.
By the grace of God, I have learned and continue to learn that God's ways are often not our ways. As God and Lord of our lives, He may choose to use us in certain ways we haven't thought of. But the question is: When you are facing "the Jordan River Experience," will you let God be God? Will you let go of your dreams in order to embrace God's dreams for your life? Perhaps, you are now at a point in life where God is "nudging" you and indicating to you that He wants to use you in ways you haven't thought of. With the help of the Holy Spirit living in you, will you surrender your will to Him? Will you submit to His plan for your life to use you in the way He wants to? Will you subject your desires to Him? Will you say "Yes," to Him?
After John the Baptist surrendered to God's will and baptized Christ, we are told that the heavens were opened and the Spirit descended on Christ as a dove and God's voice was heard out of the heavens, saying, 'This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased' (Matthew 3:16-17). John's obedience to God was honored in a way he hadn't thought of. May our obedience to God in whatever way He desires to use us bring great glory to His name, both now and forever! In the precious and powerful name of Jesus Christ!