Summary: Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. It was fitting that He take this step of obedience and become an illustration of what all believers are to do.
What a surprise it would be to see a fish climbing a tree. Yet such a sight is possible because of the
climbing perch of India. These three to eight inch fish have movable spines on their gills, and by
thrusting with their tails and front fins they can scoot up a slanting tree by the water and catch
insects. Some have been seen as high as five feet up the trunk.
There are a lot of surprising things in this world of infinite variety, and one of the most surprising
is the Son of God coming to John the Baptist to be baptized. To John this was like a fish out of
water, or even worse, up a tree. It just did not fit, and Matthew tells us he resisted the request.
After all, his was a baptism of repentance where people were confessing their sins. For the Lamb
of God that taken away the sin of the world to come for a sinners baptism was out of line, he felt,
and many Christians through the ages have felt the same. It seems incompatible for the sinless
Savior to be seeking this symbol of the sinners surrender to God. From the earliest Christian
writings to the latest life of Christ the question every author has to deal with is why would Jesus be
In the early church this act of Jesus led to a debate over his sinlessness. Jerome, back in the
300's, tells of the Gospel used by the Nazarenes in which this conversation is recorded. "The mother
of the Lord and his brethren said to Him, John the Baptist baptizes unto the remission of sins, let us
go and be baptized by him. But he said to them, in what have I sinned, that I should go and be
baptized by him? Unless, by chance, this very thing which I have said is the sin of ignorance." The
hint here is that Jesus may have been guilty of the sin of ignorance, or of omission. The apocryphal
book called The Preaching Of Paul, has Jesus making confession of His sin at His baptism.
Others suggest that Jesus was not yet aware of His sinlessness, and so was just doing what He felt
was right for all Godly Jews to do. The point is Jesus created a problem for a lot of people by His
coming to John for baptism. Our task this morning will be to eliminate the burden of this act and
expound the blessings of it. We will begin by seeing the baptism of Jesus as
I. AN ACT OF IDENTIFICATION.
G. Campbell Morgan, The prince of expositors, says of this act of Jesus, "In that hour he
repented. He confessed sin. But the repentance was not for Himself, the sin was not His own. In
that hour He identified Himself with the multitude who had been thronging out to baptism." In other
words, Jesus did not wait to take the place of the sinner on the cross, but He began His public
ministry by taking the place of the sinner in baptism. He started as one with the masses of repentant
This identification with the least, the lowly, and the last, confirms the conviction of many, who
like Howard Marshall says, "The evangelical wing of Christianity has a strong temptation to
concentrate its attention on the crucified and risen Lord Jesus, and to ignore His earthly life." He
says we tend to have a Christmas and Easter Christology. We go from the manager to the cross, and
the rest is just filler. But this is a denial of God's revelation.
What Jesus does here at the very start of His ministry is recorded by Matthew Mark and Luke,
and is a vital part of our understanding of our Lord. His baptism, of course, was not His first act of
identification with man. His birth was first, and then He was dedicated in the temple, and He lived
a life of identification with the common man. He labored as a carpenter; attended the synagogue
every Sabbath; went to the temple to worship and sacrifice. He paid his tax, and just lived a life for
30 years that was not enough different than anyone else's life, so that neither His family nor His
community noticed anything highly unusual about Him. He so identified with man that He was one
with His time and culture.
Now, at His baptism, Jesus goes one step further in His identification. This is a first sign that
Jesus was going to identify with man as a sinner. We know Jesus in His first 30 years did not run
with a wild bunch and break laws or defile Himself with wine, women, and song. He did not do
anything that would be considered a sin.