Summary: Have you ever wondered why Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God needed to be baptised?
Sharrington/Swanton Novers 09-03-03
Story: In the fifth Century AD St. Patrick baptised King Aengus by full immersion.
During the baptismal ceremony, so the story goes St. Patrick leaned on his sharp-pointed staff and inadvertently stabbed the king’s foot.
After the baptism was over, St. Patrick looked down at all the blood, realized what he had done, and begged the king’s forgiveness.
“Why did you suffer this pain in silence” St Patrick asked.
The king replied, "I thought it was part of the ritual."
There may be more truth in that than meets the eye.
This morning’s Gospel reading is all about the Baptism of Jesus. This is one of the events that all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) describe and so was obviously an event that the Early Church saw as of great importance.
St. Mark’s Gospel gives us the briefest details. Surprising the historian St. Luke doesn’t give us much more, but St. Matthew fills out the story a little bit more:
13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
14But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
15Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness." Then John consented.
16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.
17And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (Mt. 3:13-17)
The story is well known.
John the Baptist has been summoning people everywhere to repent and Jesus, amongst others, responds by being baptised.
But have you ever wondered
Why did Jesus need to be baptised?”
Does Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God need to repent? Well before I am accused of heresy let me say no I don’t think Jesus needed to repent.
But I think St. Matthew’s account gives us a clue why Jesus was baptised. In that account we read that John the Baptist at first refused baptise him, because John felt unworthy. However Jesus said:
"Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness."
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 three reasons that Jesus was baptised.
1. The first reason that I believe Jesus was baptised is that for Jesus baptism 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.
And you will recall Jesus words in the Garden
of Gethsemane, when he knew that he was going to die on the Cross, he prayed:
“Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42)
It was the ultimate submission to the Father’s will – to go to the Cross for our sakes – to reconcile us to the Father. But following the Father’s will was painful.
Jesus’ baptism was a public declaration of his commitment to the Father
But Jesus baptism was more:
2. The second reason that I think Jesus was baptised was it announced the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Both John the Baptist and God the Father both confirmed Jesus unique calling publicly.
Jesus baptism was a consecration for ministry.
And perhaps you will remember the Father saying something similar at the Transfiguration in the Gospel last Sunday
7Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" (Mk 9:7)
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)