Matthew 3:15
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.
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(15) Suffer it to be so now.—The “now” is emphatic, at the present time, in contrast with what was to follow. Hereafter, John should be the receiver and not the giver, but as yet there was a fitness in each retaining his position (the words “it becometh us” seem to refer to both, not to the speaker only). The word and the thought are the same as those of Hebrews 2:10. Even He had to pass through the normal stages of growth, and so an outward ordinance was even for Him the appointed way to the fulness of spiritual power. He was in His place receiving that rite. John was doing his proper work in administering it.

Matthew 3:15. Suffer it to be so now — In this my state of humiliation: For thus — By this appearance in the form of a sinner, and stooping to thee, my inferior; it becomes us — Me, and my disciples according to my example, to fulfil all righteousness — To do whatsoever is just, fit, and requisite in our circumstances. Or, it becometh every messenger of God, and even every follower of mine, to observe every divine appointment, and to honour every divine ordinance. I therefore offer myself to be baptized, that I may show my readiness to obey all God’s righteous precepts, and to justify God and approve his counsel, Luke 7:29-30, and celebrate his wisdom in sending thee to prepare his and my way, by calling men to repentance, and in that way fitting them for the blessings of my kingdom. “Our Lord’s baptism tended,” says Dr. Macknight, “to promote the ends both of his own mission and of his forerunner’s, as it established the authority of both. It established John’s mission, great honour being done him by the Messiah’s receiving his baptism. It established our Lord’s mission also; for after he was baptized, the testimonies of the Spirit and voice from heaven were given him in the presence of the multitude assembled at Jordan. That these testimonies should have been given on this occasion, rather than on any other, was fit; because it was an august manner of opening our Lord’s ministry, was the most public occasion that could be found, and pointed him out as Messiah to the Baptist, who was thereby qualified for the principal duty of his mission, John 1:31.” By this we are taught a holy exactness in the observance even of those institutions which owe their obligations merely to a divine appointment. Surely thus it becometh all his followers to fulfil all righteousness. Jesus had no sin to wash away, and yet he was baptized. And God owned his ordinance so as to make it the season of pouring forth the Holy Spirit upon him. And where can we expect this sacred effusion, but in an humble attendance on divine appointments? Then he suffered him — He that sins through ignorance, will correct his error upon better information.

3:13-17 Christ's gracious condescensions are so surprising, that even the strongest believers at first can hardly believe them; so deep and mysterious, that even those who know his mind well, are apt to start objections against the will of Christ. And those who have much of the Spirit of God while here, see that they need to apply to Christ for more. Christ does not deny that John had need to be baptized of him, yet declares he will now be baptized of John. Christ is now in a state of humiliation. Our Lord Jesus looked upon it as well becoming him to fulfil all righteousness, to own every Divine institution, and to show his readiness to comply with all God's righteous precepts. In and through Christ, the heavens are opened to the children of men. This descent of the Spirit upon Christ, showed that he was endued with his sacred influences without measure. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. At Christ's baptism there was a manifestation of the three Persons in the sacred Trinity. The Father confirming the Son to be Mediator; the Son solemnly entering upon the work; the Holy Spirit descending on him, to be through his mediation communicated to his people. In Him our spiritual sacrifices are acceptable, for He is the altar that sanctifies every gift, 1Pe 2:5. Out of Christ, God is a consuming fire, but in Christ, a reconciled Father. This is the sum of the gospel, which we must by faith cheerfully embrace.Thus it becometh us - It is suitable and proper. And though you may feel yourself unworthy, yet it is proper it should be done.

All righteousness - There was no particular precept in the Old Testament requiring this, but he chose to give the sanction of his example to the baptism of John, as to a divine ordinance. The phrase "all righteousness," here, is the same as a righteous institution or appointment. Jesus had no sin. But he was about to enter on his great work. It was proper that he should be set apart by his forerunner, and show his connection with him, and give his approbation to what John had done. He submitted to the ordinance of baptism, also, in order that occasion might be taken, at the commencement of his work, for God publicly to declare his approbation of him, and his solemn appointment to the office of the Messiah.

15. And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now—"Let it pass for the present"; that is, "Thou recoilest, and no wonder, for the seeming incongruity is startling; but in the present case do as thou art bidden."

for thus it becometh us—"us," not in the sense of "me and thee," or "men in general," but as in Joh 3:11.

to fulfil all righteousness—If this be rendered, with Scrivener, "every ordinance," or, with Campbell, "every institution," the meaning is obvious enough; and the same sense is brought out by "all righteousness," or compliance with everything enjoined, baptism included. Indeed, if this be the meaning, our version perhaps best brings out the force of the opening word "Thus." But we incline to think that our Lord meant more than this. The import of circumcision and of baptism seems to be radically the same. And if our remarks on the circumcision of our Lord (see on [1218]Lu 2:21-24) are well founded, He would seem to have said, "Thus do I impledge Myself to the whole righteousness of the Law—thus symbolically do enter on and engage to fulfil it all." Let the thoughtful reader weigh this.

Then he suffered him—with true humility, yielding to higher authority than his own impressions of propriety.

Descent of the Spirit upon the Baptized Redeemer (Mt 3:16, 17).

Jesus said unto him, Suffer it to be so now. The question is not whether thou or I be more excellent. It is thy duty to baptize, for my Father hath sent thee to baptize. It is my pleasure and duty to be obedient to my Father, whose will I know, though it be hidden from thee. Baptism is a new law of the gospel church, of which though I be the Head, yet I must be conformed to the members of it, concerning which my Father’s will is, that they should be baptized with water, as well as with the Holy Ghost. Besides that, I am to put an end to the Jewish typical circumcision, and to put a new face upon the church, by instituting another sacrament of initiation. It is therefore both just and equal that I should be baptized (though not for those ends for which others, that are my members, are baptized, not for remission of sins, but) for the fulfilling of all righteousness, in obeying my Father’s will.

Then he suffered him: he that erreth through ignorance will correct his error upon better information. We may learn from this example of Christ, that being baptized with the Holy Ghost will excuse none for contempt or neglect of baptism by water, because it is the revealed will of God, that all the members of his church should come under that ordinance; so as there is a fulfilling of righteousness in our case, as well as in Christ’s, though in a different measure.

And Jesus answering, said unto him,.... This is an Hebrew way of speaking, often used in the Old Testament, and answers to see Job 3:1. He replied to John, who had made use of very forbidding words, after this manner,

suffer it to be so now; let me have my request; do not go on to object, but comply with my desire; let it be done now, immediately, directly, at this present time; do not put me off with any excuse; it is a proper season for it, even "now", since the time is not yet come that I am to baptize with the Holy Ghost; and besides, thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. It became John to administer the ordinance of baptism to Christ, as he was his forerunner, and the only administrator of it, and that he might fulfil the ministry which he had received; and as it became Christ to fulfil all righteousness, moral and ceremonial, and baptism being a part of his Father's will, which he came to do, it became him to fulfil this also. And since it became Christ, it cannot be unbecoming us to submit to this ordinance; and since he looked upon it as a part of righteousness to be fulfilled by him, it ought to be attended to by all those who would be accounted followers of him. Christ having strongly urged the conveniency and equity of the administration of baptism to him, which showed his eager desire after it, and the lowliness of his mind; and John being convinced, and overcome by the force of his reasoning, agrees to his baptism;

then he suffered him, i.e. to be baptized in water by him, as he had requested, and accordingly did administer it to him.

And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil {n} all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

(n) All such things as it has appointed for us to keep.

Matthew 3:15. Ἄρτι] now, suffer it just now. The antithesis of time is here not that of the past (see on Galatians 1:9), but of the future, as in John 13:37; 1 Corinthians 13:12. Chrysostom: οὐ διηνεκῶς ταῦτα ἔσται. ἀλλʼ ὄψει με ἐν τούτοις οἷς ἐπιθυμεῖς· ἄρτι μέντοι ὑπόμεινον τοῦτο.

The meaning: “sine paulisper” (Fritzsche), comp. de Wette: “let it be for once,” is not sufficient. Schneckenburger, p. 122, regards the ἄφες as having been inappropriately transferred from the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Erroneously, as it there belongs (in the sense: let it remain) to the apocryphal addition, according to which John, after the baptism of Jesus, prays the latter to baptize him; and Jesus answers: ἄφες, ὅτι οὕτως ἐστὶ πρέπον πληρωθῆναι πάντα (Epiphanius, Haer. xxx. 13). This apocryphal outgrowth is manifestly a farther spinning out of the tradition, as recorded in Matthew. Several of the Fathers likewise inferred from ἄρτι, in our verse, that John was afterwards baptized by Jesus.

ἡμῖν] to thee and to me. To refer it merely to Jesus (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Glöckler), or, in the first place to Jesus (de Wette, Bleek), is opposed to the context. See Matthew 3:14.

πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην] all righteousness, all which as duty it is obligatory on us to do. Ch. F. Fritzsche in Fritzschior. Opusc. p. 81. Comp. πληρ. εὐσέβειαν, 4Ma 14:15. If I do not allow myself to be baptized, and thou dost not baptize me, there remains something unfulfilled (therefore, οὕτω) which ought to be done by us, in accordance with the divine will; then satisfaction is not made by us to all righteousness. Comp. on πᾶσαν the plural expression δικαιοσύναι in Sir 44:10; Job 2:13.

Matthew 3:15. The reasoning with which Jesus replies to John’s scruples is characteristic. His answer is gentle, respectful, dignified, simple, yet deep.—Ἄφες ἄρτι—deferential, half-yielding, yet strong in its very gentleness. Does ἄρτι imply a tacit acceptance of the high position assigned to Him by John (Weiss-Meyer)? We may read that into it, but I doubt if the suggestion does justice to the feeling of Jesus.—οὕτω γὰρ πρέπον: a mild word when a stronger might have been used, because it refers to John as well as Jesus: fitting, becoming, congruous; vide Hebrews 2:10, where the same word is used in reference to the relation of God to Christ’s sufferings. “It became Him.”—πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην: this means more than meets the ear, more than could be explained to a man like John. The Baptist had a passion for righteousness, yet his conception of righteousness was narrow, severe, legal. Their ideas of righteousness separated the two men by a wide gulf which is covered over by this general, almost evasive, phrase: all righteousness or every form of it. The special form meant is not the mere compliance with the ordinance of baptism as administered by an accredited servant of God, but something far deeper, which the new era will unfold. John did not understand that love is the fulfilling of the law. But he saw that under the mild words of Jesus a very earnest purpose was hid. So at length he yielded—τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτόν.

15. righteousness] Here = the requirements of the law.

Matthew 3:15. Ἄφες, permit) He courteously reduces John to silence. The word ἀφίησιν, he permits, at the end of the verse, refers to this.—ἄρτι, now) sc. without delay, this once.—οὕτω, thus) as I have come to thee.—πρέπον, becoming) That, which did not to John appear becoming, was in reality especially so, because it was righteous. The propriety which is manifested in all the counsels and works of God, claims our attention and admiration. See Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 7:26. The discourses and actions of Christ are pre-eminently conspicuous for that propriety, which, so well expressed by the Evangelists, affords a proof that they wrote under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, since it could not have been the product of human genius, however exalted.—ἡμῖν, to us) Our Lord speaks as if He were not yet fully known by John. It becomes Me, as the principal; thee, as the minister. In the mind of Jesus it might also have this sense, “It becomes Me and My Father that I should fulfil all righteousness.” See Matthew 5:17, and cf. Hebrews 2:10.—πληρῶσαι, to fulfil) all righteousness. This is effected, not by John and Jesus, but by Jesus alone, who undertook that very thing in His baptism; whence the appellation, “baptism,” is transferred also to His passion, Luke 12:50.—πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην, all righteousness) i.e. all the component parts of righteousness; and therefore this part also, the earnest of the other greater parts. In accordance with the particular view of righteousness, it would seem that John should be baptized by Jesus: in accordance with the universal compass of righteousness, the matter was inverted. Jesus uttered the words here recorded, instead of that which others who were baptized, being sinners, confessed concerning their sins. Such a speech suited none save the Messiah Himself. In matters even the most humble, the Son of God watches over the right of His own majesty. See John 13:7, seqq., John 14:30, John 18:5, John 20:36.—τότε, then) sc. forthwith.

Verse 15. - Suffer it to be so now; suffer it now (Revised Version); "suffer me now" (Revised Version margin); ἄφες ἄρτι, only here (apparently) in the New Testament quite absolutely, but Matthew 7:4 slightly favours the Revised Version margin. Now; at this special season (ἄρτι); in contrast to the more permanent relation which shall be recognized later. Our Lord thus slightly removes the trial to John's faith, which a mere refusal might have aggravated. Observe the implied consciousness of his Messiah-ship, even before the baptism. Several of the Fathers (vide Meyer) infer from these words that John was afterwards baptized by Jesus; but this is to completely miss the point of the expression. For thus. Not exactly "by this baptism," but" by the spirit of submission in us both, which in this case will issue in my baptism." It becometh (τρέπον ἐστὶν). Not a matter of absolute necessity (δεῖ, Matthew 16:21; Matthew 26:54), nor of absolute duty (ὀφείλω, John 13:14), but of moral fitness (Hebrews 2:10). It befits us, in our respective characters, to perform this symbolical act. Compare Melchizedek and Abraham; the representative of the older blesses the representative of the coming age (Luke 16:16). Us; thee and me. To fulfil; here only with "righteousness" (cf. Matthew 5:17). All righteousness (πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην). Not the whole circle of righteousness (πᾶσαν τὴν δικαιοσύνην), but every part of righteous ness, as each is presented to us (similarly, Acts 13:10; cf. also δικαιοσύναι in Ecclus. 44:10; Tobit 2:14, where, although Neubauer and Fuller explain it as "alms." this is improbable after the preceding ἐλεημοσύναι), and that not merely every part of the righteousness included under the Mosaic, Law (cf. Alford, "requirements of the Law' and especially Lowe. 'Pesach Fragm.,' p. 100: 1879), but of that wider righteousness of which that was itself only a part and a type. "Let me be baptized by thee now," our Lord says to John, "for it is fitting for us, in this spirit of submission, to fill up every part of righteousness." Our Lord thus pleads for the absolute submission of John and himself to every portion of righteousness as it may be proposed to them by God to perform; his words thus somewhat resembling those to St. Peter, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me" (John 13:8). Thy duty is to baptize, mine to be baptized. It has generally been thought that in this verse our Lord implies that his baptism was to constitute his own formal recognition and acceptance of his distinctly Messianic duties - an act which involved the complete leaving of his past life and the giving himself up to a new and public life (cf. Weiss, 'Life,' 1:322). But have we any evidence that our Lord came to the baptism with this self-consciousness? May he not very well have known that he was to be the Messiah, and yet not have known that his official life was to begin now? May he not have come to the baptism merely as an individual, feeling the deepest interest in this consecration to the cause of the kingdom, notwithstanding the unique position in which he knew himself to stand with regard to that kingdom? But his voluntary consecration of himself for whatever he might be guided to, was the opportunity taken by the Father for the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, which had as its immediate consequence the retirement into the wilderness and the decision there come to. May not, in other words, our Lord's descent into Jordan have been, not the first act of his public life, but the last act of his private life - the former then being the withdrawal into the wilderness, in order there to have uninterrupted communion with his Father, and to meet in his official character his great adversary (cf. especially Edersheim, 'Life,' 1:279, etc.)? Matthew 3:15
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