What does Matthew 3:15 mean?
ESV: But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
NIV: Jesus replied, 'Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.' Then John consented.
NASB: But Jesus, answering, said to him, 'Allow it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he *allowed Him.
CSB: Jesus answered him, "Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then John allowed him to be baptized.
NLT: But Jesus said, 'It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires. ' So John agreed to baptize him.
KJV: And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Verse Commentary:
John has been preaching a simple message: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. He has been baptizing those who repent from their sin in order to be ready for that kingdom to arrive (Matthew 3:1–2). Now the King of that kingdom has come to John and asked to be baptized, as well. John resisted, saying he was the one who should be baptized by Jesus (Matthew 3:13–14).

Jesus insists. His explanation is not immediately easy to understand. He tells John "it is fitting for [them] to fulfill all righteousness."

Scholars have offered many interpretations of Jesus' explanation. The most widely held view is that Jesus had no sin to repent from, but had come to earth to die on behalf of the sins of humanity. Baptism would identify Him with that sacrificial role and symbolize His coming death and resurrection. In this way, baptism would allow Jesus and John together to "fulfill all righteousness" by publicly foreshadowing the way all sin can be forgiven. This would also serve as an example for Christians to follow later (Acts 18:25; 19:3–6).

A simpler possibility is that it was just God's will for Jesus to be baptized by John. Jesus may be saying to John that they will be "fulfilling all righteousness" in the sense of doing what God wants—of doing the right thing. In other words, Jesus may have been saying to John, "We're going to do this because it's what God wants us to do."

In either case, John immediately agrees to baptize the Messiah.
Verse Context:
Matthew 3:13–17 describes Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist. Jesus arrives at the site of John's baptismal ministry somewhere along the Jordan River. John resists, but Jesus insists that His baptism is meant to fulfill all righteousness. As Jesus emerges from the water, He sees the heavens open, and the Holy Spirit descends to rest on Him in a dove-like form. The voice of God the Father declares that Jesus is His Son and that He is pleased with Him. Jesus' ministry is both confirmed and revealed on earth.
Chapter Summary:
Matthew introduces John the Baptist as a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3. He is the voice crying in the wilderness as he prepares the way for the Lord. John calls the crowds who travel to hear him to repent from their sins. The kingdom of heaven is close! He also warns of God's judgment, specifically on Israel's spiritually-barren religious leaders. Finally, the Messiah he has been speaking of arrives and insists that John baptize Him. When he does, the heavens break open, the Holy Spirit comes to rest on Jesus, and the voice of God the Father says Jesus is His Son and that He is pleased with Him.
Chapter Context:
Matthew's story of Jesus jumps forward several decades from the moment when His family settled in Nazareth. This passage finds John the Baptist preaching about repentance in the wilderness and baptizing those who are willing. Crowds come from all around to hear John preach in the look and style of Elijah, including Israel's religious leaders. John warns them of God's coming judgment on those who do not truly repent. Jesus arrives and insists that John baptize Him. As Jesus emerges from the water, the heavens break open, the Holy Spirit descends to rest on Jesus in dove-like form, and the voice of God declares that Jesus is His Son. After this baptism, Jesus will be led into the desert to be tempted by Satan, in chapter 4.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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