Why was Jesus baptised?
Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said…
Matthew 3:13-14 (NLT)
I know why I was baptised. I was the lowest of the low, rotten to the core, fit for nothing except landfill – too toxic even to be recycled. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but I had come to the point in my life where the Holy Spirit had convicted me of sin and I believed in Jesus’ promise that in him I could be reborn. I understood that baptism is an outward sign of the inward commitment I had made to follow Christ, and that it signified the death of my old sinning self and the rebirth of a new creation in Jesus.
But why was Jesus baptised? Matthew 3:13 tells us that he went out of his way to find John the Baptist at the river Jordan and request baptism. But John’s baptism was the baptism of repentance (Matthew 3:11), and John knew Jesus was sinless with nothing to repent of. So this made John uncomfortable and he tried to talk Jesus out of it. Jesus’s gentle but firm reply is instructive:’Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.’ (Matthew 3:15 NIVUK). Why was he baptised? The answer is, he was baptised for us.
- Jesus’s baptism ‘to fulfil all righteousness’ is an allusion to the cross, where he would shortly become a sin offering for us so that we ‘might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Cor 5:21).
- Jesus’s baptism affirms that the Son of God became one of us in order to represent all of us before God. So by taking all of our sins on himself, he bore the penalty in our place.
- Through Jesus’s baptism we understand that we are saved by Christ alone, not by anything we do or say. That’s why John the Baptist greeted him as ‘…the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29).
Jesus’s baptism has great significance for all Christians, in fact all of humanity. Its importance is affirmed by what happened when he came up out of the water – the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended on him like a dove. Then the Father spoke from above, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3:17). Here, in a wonderful Trinitarian event, we have all three members of the Trinity acting together in unity. And of course, they are all united in their approval of the forgiving, redeeming, grace-filled ministry of Christ.
Father in heaven, in the words of the hymn ‘Because He Lives’: God sent His son, they called Him Jesus; He came to love, heal and forgive; He lived and died to buy my pardon, an empty grave is there to prove my Saviour lives! Thank you for Jesus, in Jesus’s name, Amen.
Study by Peter Mill
About the writer:
Peter Mill is a minister in Grace Communion International and Regional Pastor for Scotland, Ireland and Northern England
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