Summary: If Jesus is the perfect Son of God why did He need to respond to John the Baptist call for repentance and subsequent baptism in water?
Our Gospel reading this morning is from beginning of Mark’s Gospel and it is about John’s baptism of Jesus.
Mark’s Gospel starts with these words:
The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
And then goes on to tell us about Jesus baptism by John
The incarnation of Jesus was not some afterthought God had.
It was planned from the beginning of time.
The beginning of the Gospel is earthed in the Old Testament, where the coming of John the Baptist - the messenger or herald coming ahead of Jesus the Messiah - is predicted.
The first part of the quote attributed to Isaiah is in fact a quote from Malachi 3:1 which reads:
“See I will send my messenger who will prepare the way before me”
And second part from Isaiah 40:3:
A voice of one calling: “In the desert, prepare the way for the Lord, make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.”
It was quite usual in Hebrew writing that when two quotes are put together to attribute the whole to the more important prophet – in this case to Isaiah
The idea of a messenger going ahead is bit foreign to our 21st Century ears, but to Mark’s original audience it would not have been
Donald English the Bible Commentator in his commentary on Mark’s Gospel says this:
“In the Greek city-state the herald
(a) preceded the king, drawing attention to his coming and
(b) called the citizens to the assembly which determined the city’s life.”
Indeed when an important king was coming it was not unusual to send a herald ahead to tell the local population to fix the roads to receive the king in proper style.
John and his message are foretold in the Old Testament
And Mark starts his Gospel where Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament left off.
For with coming of John the Baptist, God breaks a three hundred year silence with his people, the Jews.
John the Baptist was Jesus’ forerunner or herald
But I would like to explore the question this morning/evening :
Have you ever wondered: Why did Jesus need to be baptised?”
Or put another way: If Jesus is the perfect Son of God why did he need to respond to John the Baptist call for repentance and subsequent baptism in water?
Does Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God need to repent?
After all John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance
Well before I am accused of heresy let me say no I don’t think Jesus needed to repent.
But I think when we read St. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism we get a clue why Jesus was baptised.
This is what Matthew records:
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.
14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
Then he consented. (Mt 3:13-15)
What did Jesus mean?
I think Michael Green hit the nail on the head when he said:
“By submitting to baptism, Jesus acknowledged God’s claim on him, as on others, for total consecration of life and holiness of character”
(The Message of Matthew – Michael Green p. 80).
I believe there are four reasons that Jesus was baptised.
1. The first reason was that it was a sign of his complete dedication to following the will of God.
For everyone else who came to John for baptism, this required a change in direction – hence the call for them to repent of their old ways and turn to God’s way of life.
But for Jesus baptism was simply a public declaration of
i) his love of God the Father and
ii) that He was following the will of God in His life.
Jesus’ baptism was a public declaration of his commitment to the Father
2. The second reason was that it announced the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Both John the Baptist and God the Father both confirmed Jesus unique calling publicly.
Remember in Jewish Law for a fact to be established you needed tww witnesses.
Here it was John the Baptist and God the Father.
Jesus baptism was a consecration for ministry.
3.The third reason that I think Jesus was baptised was as an example to us.
Jesus taught his followers to be baptised – and here he is giving a firm lead.
His baptism was an example that we do well to follow.
The Great Commission in Mt 28 reads as follows:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Mt. 28:19-20)