Summary: Jesus' baptism teaches us about the importance of Biblical baptism in the life of a Christ follower.
This week I read about a small country church that had just concluded a revival meeting and was conducting a baptism service in the local river on a cold January day. After baptizing the first person, the pastor turned to the man and asked him if the water was cold. “Naw,” the man replied. One of the deacons who was there shouted, “Dip him again, preacher. He’s still lying.”
That story illustrates just how much confusion there often is, even within the church, when it comes to baptism. So this morning, as we continue examining the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, we’ll see if we can’t clear up some of those misconceptions as we focus on the account of the baptism of Jesus. Although all four of the gospel writers provide us with some information on that important event, we’re going to use the most complete account we have, which is found in Matthew 3:
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. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV)
As we read this account, the first question that comes to mind is this:
Why was Jesus baptized?
That’s a good question, one that John asked as well. Earlier in the chapter we see that John is calling people to repentances and that as people were begin baptized they were confessing their sins. Since we know that Jesus was completely sinless, He certainly didn’t need to be baptized for that reason.
This week I read o lot of commentaries and people’s ideas about why Jesus was baptized, but we really don’t have to wonder why Jesus took part in that event because His own words give us the answer.
The last time we saw the words of Jesus recorded in any of the gospel accounts was when He was 12 years old in Jerusalem for the Passover. You’ll remember that when we looked at that account a couple of weeks ago, when Mary and Joseph ask Jesus where He’s been, Jesus answers with these words:
Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?”
Luke 2:49 (ESV)
Now, 18 years later, in the next recorded words of Jesus, He tells John exactly why He wants John to baptize Him:
• to fulfill all righteousness
But we need to dig a little deeper this morning to find out exactly what Jesus meant by those words. From the text, we can identify three ways in which Jesus fulfilled all righteousness through His baptism.
How did Jesus “fulfill all righteousness” at His baptism?
1. He submitted to His Father’s will
Jesus’ answer to His parents at age 12 revealed that He was totally committed to submitting to His Father’s will, and nothing has changed in the intervening 18 years. We see clearly by the audible response of God the Father to the baptism of Jesus that Jesus was fulfilling the Father’s will for His life by being baptized by John. That is why, at least in part, that the Father proclaims that He is “well-pleased” with His Son.
And this was not something that Jesus just did because it was convenient. Verse 13 seems pretty straight forward: Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. But when we consider what Matthew records there carefully, we begin to see the effort that was required for Jesus to submit to His Father’s will. We don’t know exactly where on the Jordan River Jesus was baptized, but it would have probably been between 60 and 70 miles from Jesus’ home in Nazareth and it would have required a difficult journey of several days on foot for Jesus to come to John.
When Jesus submitted to the baptism by John, He was giving the people who witnessed that event a visual picture of His submission to the will of His Father. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, that submission to His Father’s will that was already well established by the time He was 12 became the driving force behind Jesus’ earthly ministry, all the way to the cross.
These words of Jesus, as He spoke to the Jewish religious leaders in the Temple one day, confirm that which Jesus pictured through His baptism: