Summary: Why was Jesus baptized? Christ’s baptism is an example of his commitment to God and God’s commitment to him and to us.
“And the Heavens Were Opened”
March 9, 2003
Why was Jesus baptized? Our Christian faith tells us that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God and that he lived a life without sin. Baptism is a call to the confession and repentance of sins. This was especially true of the baptism called for by John the Baptist. John was a wild and wooly evangelist who continually stoked the fires of damnation in the absence of repentance. This is why John is so surprised when Jesus comes to him asking for baptism. John is thinking, along with the rest of us, “What sin are you confessing?” This is why John hesitates and says, “No, I need to be baptized by you,” but Jesus responds, “It is proper for us in this way.”
Matthew’s Gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus. He tells us of his birth, his flight to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod, and his subsequent return after Herod’s death. He then fast forwards over 25 years to the ministry of John the Baptist, and Jesus’ request for baptism. No information about his life as a young boy or even a young man, for Jesus is about 30 years old when he requests baptism. Why? Why now? What brought Jesus to the point that he sought out his cousin, John, and requested baptism? Why did Jesus need to be baptized?
For thirty years Jesus has been in Nazareth, faithfully performing the duties of the home and of the carpenter’s shop. All the time he knew that a world was waiting for him. All the time he grew increasingly conscious of his waiting task. The success of any undertaking is determined by the wisdom with which the moment to embark upon it is chosen. Jesus waited for the hour to strike, for the moment to come, for the summons to sound, and when John emerged, Jesus knew that the time had arrived. We’ve heard it said, “Timing is everything,” and the time was now for Jesus to come forth for the task that awaited him.
The same can be said for the three who were baptized this morning that the time has now come for them to come forth for the task that awaits them. They may or may not know exactly what that task is, but that’s the beauty of being part of a faith community. Coming to this place, being part of this fellowship isn’t a proclamation of having all the answers or a statement that one’s life is completely together. Coming to this place and being a part of this fellowship indicates a desire to join fellow-believers in determining the task to which we’ve been called.
Jesus knew the task to which he had been called. His task was to show the unyielding love of God, personified in His life and ministry, and exemplified through his sacrificial death on a cross. Jesus was 30 years old when his moment arrived. Our challenge is to recognize the moment in which God calls us forth, and once we step forth, to seek out and fulfill the task to which we’ve been called.
So why was Jesus baptized? Jesus was baptized to show that God calls each of us forth. Jesus was baptized to show that a task lies in front of each of us. Jesus was baptized to show that there comes a moment when we each have to step forth to accept the task to which we have been called, but we must remember that there is more than that singular moment of being called forth in baptism. If we ever quit asking, “To what task have I been called?” we’ve quit stepping forth, and when we quit stepping forth, we’ve separated ourselves from God.