Summary: You have no need! Can you believe it?
“Jesus 101: No Need”
It must have been quite the scene. First, consider the location: the Desert. It’s not where an up and coming preacher should try to build his new church! Second, there was John the Baptist who was quite a sight! “John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” He was certainly no candidate for a fashion or cultural magazine! Third, there was the issue of his fiery demeanor and speech (7-10): “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” This is certainly not the way to win friends and influence people! Fourth, his message was blunt (2): “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This was no way to appeal to his Jewish audience! No good Jew would be baptized! Gentiles could be – after all, they were dirty and unclean so to become a Christian the Jews knew they were in need of cleansing. But not the Jews themselves; they did not need it – they were of Abraham! They were secure. Yet, fifth, the people were responding in droves (5-6): “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” Finally, in the midst of all this strangeness, Jesus came to be baptized by John. And that just didn’t make sense to this radical, faithful prophet.
After all, JESUS HAD NO NEED TO BE BAPTIZED: “But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" Baptism was for those who needed to repent, those who sinned. Since Jesus was the Messiah, the one from God, certainly he was not a sinner! He did not need to be baptized. Additionally, according to John (11): Jesus would be the giver of the real, true baptism: “"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.””
So WHY WAS HE BAPTIZED? The key to the answer is in verse 15: “Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.” Jesus was baptized in order to fulfill all righteousness - in order TO PUT THINGS RIGHT WITH GOD. Jesus was baptized to identify with our humanity so He could be the sacrifice to pay the price for our redemption – to purchase our salvation. This was a voluntary, deliberate act of self-identification with sinful people – Jesus, who gave up His glory to come to earth, now stoops even lower to take the full shame and guilt of humanity upon Himself. He was emphatically declaring His oneness with us, even in our sin and weakness. Here’s what it means: HE BECAME WHAT WE ARE. At His birth Jesus showed us that God was no longer ‘out there’, totally other, radically different from humankind; He took up our flesh. Now at His baptism Jesus showed us that God loved us so much that He was willing to be like us at our lowest point of existence, in our lostness, under the weight of sin, separated from the divine blessings.
Certainly this was significant for Jesus. Think for a moment – how readily do you associate with “weird” or “different” people or ‘unclean’ people? There was once an elementary-aged girl who knew someone just like that. She even called this boy, a classmate, ‘the ugliest kid in class.’ She said his teeth were often unbrushed, his hair usually messy, and his odor always unfavorable. She added, “No one in the class can stand him.” She was asked, “What if you became his friend?” “Oh no. Then everyone would gag at me, too.” This little gal knew the world’s philosophy: it’s hard to fly with the eagles if we waddle with the ducks! But, praise God, Jesus did not buy into that philosophy. He did not distance Himself from us – He stood with us; He was willing to waddle with the ducks! It was a sign of complete solidarity with us. He became what we are.