Fulfil All Righteousness

He was born to aged parents of the tribe of Levi. His Hebrew name was Yochanan ben-Zecharyahu. In the first century he was known as John the Baptizer because he immersed many Jewish people who had responded to his preaching, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matthew 3:1) Multitudes of Jewish people came showing that they had been preparing for the arrival of the Messiah.

Yochanan was raised as a Nazarite since birth. He ate locusts and honey, never cut his hair, nor drank strong drink, and was clothed in camel's skin. At that time, his appearance was not unusual for the Jewish community, because the mere sight of such a man indicated to everyone that he was a man dedicated to God. To everyone he was a man of God. But there was more.

The circumstances surrounding his birth were miraculous. Both his parents, Zecharyahu and Elisheva (Zacharias and Elizabeth), were elderly and had no children; yet "they were both righteous before God, walking blameless in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord." (Luke 1:6)

Then the messenger (angel) of the Lord, Gabriel, visited Zecharyahu while he was burning incense in the Temple, according to the duties of the priesthood, because " . . . he was of the division of Abijah." (Luke 1:5)

When Zecharyahu saw Gabriel he fell on his face. "But the angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, and you shall call his name John (Yochanan) ." (Luke 1:13)

Zecharyahu was struck dumb for not believing the messenger, and did not speak until after his son was born, which happened at the time of his circumcision, on the eighth day. All the relatives came to celebrate the boy's circumcision, as was the Hebrew custom. Moreover, many friends had come celebrating the joyous occasion because of this miraculous birth.

According to custom, the boy was also named at his circumcision, and in this too the relatives participated. Elisheva's relatives recommended that the boy be called Zecharyahu, after his father, but she said, "No; he shall be called John." (Luke 1:60)

The relatives protested, reasoning that there was no one among them who was called by this name. So they asked Zecharyahu to write down, because he was still mute, the name he would like his son to be called.

"And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, 'His name is John.' And they all marvelled. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God." (Luke 1:63, 64)

But there was more to this child than his miraculous conception and birth, and his distinctive name. The messenger, Gabriel, also revealed some specific aspects that would set this boy apart. Certain characteristics relating to the boy's development and role as an adult in the community and congregation of Israel would see him recorded as unique in the history of Israel, and salvation for mankind.

"And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.

"He will also go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.'" (Luke 1:14-17)

Yochanan had a specific role for which he would be prepared and for which his whole life would focus – the coming of the Messiah. He would be the Preparer of the way of the Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

When that day came, Yochanan was ready. He had immersed many who had responded willingly to his call. "In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!'" (Matthew 3:1)

Immersion by water was a common event in the congregation of Israel. Ritual baths, or mitzvoth, were visited daily in the first century, even as they are today. This however, was a demonstration of preparedness for the arrival of the Messiah. Many were orthodox, some were leaders, most were the common people – but all were Jewish.

Multitudes of people came because they understood that this man who was dressed in camel's hair, and whose life had been devoted to God since birth, could be trusted. He was a holy man of God, and he was of the tribe of Levi. He had been born in miraculous circumstances, confirmed with signs and wonders. He was one of them and God had set him apart to be a special envoy for them.

Then when he saw Yeshua he realized his job was done. He immediately responded by acknowledging Yeshua as the One with greater authority than he.

"Then Jesus (Yeshua) came from Galilee to John (Yochanan) at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent him, saying, 'I have need to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?'" (Matthew 3:13, 14)

Yochanan knew that he was the Preparer. At some time he would be required to handover, as it were, the reins to the Messiah. He had arrived, now was the time. Indeed, Yochanan was keen to be baptized by Him, because as he told his hearers, "I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I is coming, whose sandal-strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Luke 3:16)

However, when Yeshua came to be baptized, Yochanan wondered, "I have need to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?" (Matthew 3:14) Yochanan knew his water baptism could not redeem those who had been immersed from the judgement of their sin. It merely spoke of their repentance and readiness. Whilst his baptism prepared them for the Messiah, the Messiah's baptism would fill them with " . . . the Holy Spirit and with fire."

And so Yochanan was anticipating with great excitement, his baptism by the Messiah. "But Jesus answered and said to him, 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.' Then he allowed him." (Matthew 3:15)

Yochanan was prepared to step aside for his Messiah. Indeed this was the Messiah. There was none greater. All should worship at His feet. Yet we see his Messiah humbling Himself and acknowledging His servant, and the very important role he had performed. The Messiah came as a servant and to fulfil all righteousness.

When the Messiah was immersed, the importance of Yochanan's baptizing was confirmed. What people had done – being prepared for the Messiah's arrival – was right. Repentance and a demonstration of one's readiness to follow the Messiah when He arrived, were depicted through water baptism.

When the Messiah came and was baptized, the next phase of God's plan of redemption began: He was then anointed to fulfil His calling.

"Then Jesus, when he had been baptized, came up immediately from the waters; and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'" (Matthew 3:16-18)

The Messiah willingly humbled Himself to the righteousness of God, and thereby showed that He came to fulfil it, not to destroy it. As the Messiah He was not afraid of the righteousness of God but willingly submitted to its authority and consequence. He came to fulfil all righteousness.

In this the Scripture has declared, " . . . who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:6-11)

Yeshua is the Righteous One and all who follow Him will not be disappointed.