“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’
But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him.
When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; 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 3:13-17 (NKJV)
I’ve heard and read debates on why Jesus went to be baptized. We know that He wasn’t repenting of anything, so what was the point?
“Jesus sometimes also fulfilled the prophetic Scriptures by identifying with Israel’s history and completing its mission (Matthew 2:15, 18). This baptism hence probably represents Jesus’ ultimate identification with Israel at the climactic stage in its history: confessing its sins to prepare for the kingdom (Matthew 3:2, 6).
If this suggestion is correct, then Jesus’ baptism, like His impending death (compare Mark 10:38-39 with Mark 14:23-24, 36), is vicarious, embraced on behalf of others with whom the Father has called Him to identify (Lampe 1951:39). This text declares the marvelous love of God for an undeserving world-especially for us who by undeserved grace have become His disciples.” (IVP Commentary, found under the “Study This” tab).
Just as Jesus did nothing to deserve death but willingly went to it, so here He has done nothing to require repentance and the act of baptism, but He goes willingly. From start to finish, He identifies with and takes up for humanity. He inaugurated His earthly ministry by providing an example of turning from the old to the new. (Not that Jesus rejected the Law; no, He came to fulfill it, per Matthew 5:17). He is moving from His life as the carpenter’s son and into the three turbulent, amazing years that would culminate in Resurrection.
But that’s not what arrests me in this little scene.
I love John’s reaction. He’s like, “Jesus, what? What are you doing? You need to do this for me. I’m not worthy to tie your shoes.” Can you imagine how his arms must have been shaking as he lowered Jesus into the water? Despite being filled with the Holy Spirit all his life (Luke 1:15), maybe John told himself, “Don’t mess up. DO NOT mess this up!”
I love that. I love how God comes onto the scene and invites people to take part in the action.
For all entries in the Jesus: 31 Days with the Savior series, go here.