The Baptism of Jesus
Jesus declares His intention to die in our place.
Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well–pleased.”
– Matthew 3:13–17
Proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was near, John called the people to live according to the ways of God. When people accepted John’s challenge to live for God, they participated in a practice called baptism, in which they were covered with water. This was done to express purification and commitment to live according to God’s laws. And so it was one day, that Jesus came to John. Knowing who Jesus was, John asked to be baptized by Him. But the time for baptism in the name of Jesus had not yet come, and Jesus was baptized by John. And when Jesus came up from the water, the Spirit of God descended upon Him. And a voice came from Heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
– The HOPE, Chapter 8
Observe & Consider
The practice of baptism1 as observed in this lesson had its roots in the washings that God instructed the Hebrew people to do for the purpose of purification (Leviticus 16:26, Leviticus 28, Leviticus 22:6, Numbers 19:7 and Numbers 19). Jesus, however, did not need to be purified. Perhaps this is why John, who knew Jesus from childhood, tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized and said to Him, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” (Matthew 3:14).
So if purification was unnecessary, what was the purpose of this baptism in the life of Jesus?
Most theologians agree that at least three things were accomplished by this event: identification, anointing and confirmation.2 In regard to identification, many believe that Jesus, the One who came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17), was identifying with John’s call to righteousness – to live according to the ways of God. Some, however, see yet another identification taking place in this event.
As Bible teacher Dr. H. A. Ironside put it, “We are like paupers who have accumulated so many debts that we cannot pay them. These are our sins. These tremendous claims are made against us, and we cannot possibly meet them. But when Jesus came, he took all these mortgages and notes and agreements we could not meet and endorsed them with His own name, thereby saying that He intended to pay them, He would meet them. This is what His baptism signifies and is why Jesus said to John the Baptist, ‘...it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15). He declared His intention to meet the righteous demands of God by undertaking Himself to pay the debts of men.”3
In baptism, Jesus was not only identifying with God in regard to His righteousness, He was identifying with you and me in our need for righteousness. Jesus came to offer Himself as our substitute in fulfilling the righteous requirements of God. This substitution began with His baptism and was completed at the cross.
The anointing in this event comes as the Spirit descends upon Jesus as a dove (Matthew 3:16). An anointing is an empowering from God to accomplish a specific mission. Jesus is about to step into three years of public ministry, culminating in an unparalleled act of suffering and sacrifice in order to conquer Satan, sin, and death. Jesus was anointed for this very purpose.
The confirmation of Jesus was manifested in the Father’s voice from heaven above: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well–pleased” (Matthew 3:17). As we saw in the previous lesson, this confirmation was not the result of all the miraculous works that Jesus had performed up to this point because there were none. This confirmation was the result of who He was (or whose He was), and His willingness to walk in that relationship.
Ask & Reflect
- Is baptism something that you are familiar with? If so, then how? If not, what do you think about it?
- Have you ever been baptized? What did it mean to you at the time?
- What are your thoughts about Jesus identifying with you through baptism? What does it mean to you personally that He would do such a thing?
Decide & Do
In this lesson, you have seen that Jesus identified with you in His baptism. Have you identified with Him? You should not limit your interpretation of this question to baptism. Baptism is an important public expression of your personal identification with Jesus. But have you personally identified with Jesus, His purpose in your life, and the world around you? If not, that is where you need to start.
When you identify with Jesus by committing and entrusting your life to Him, then the Father will empower you to do exactly what He has created and is calling you to do. And as He empowers you, He will also confirm to you that He is pleased you are walking in a right relationship with Him. His confirmation may only come as a still small voice in your heart, rather than an audible voice from heaven, but it will come.
Remember, following Jesus begins with identification. Have you identified yourself with Him? If not, then don’t delay. Go immediately to the Knowing God section at the end of this study, and carefully consider the Father’s great invitation to you to be His son or daughter.
1What is baptism? The process of baptism is very simple. The one to be baptized begins by standing, sitting, or kneeling in some water. Another Christian then lowers him/her under the water and then brings him/her back up out of the water. Some literally call this “immersion.” Some faiths sprinkle water on people instead of immersing them.
2Ray C. Stedman, The Servant Who Rules. Exploring the Gospel of Mark. Volume One: Mark 1–8. (Discovery House Publishers, © 2002 by Elaine Stedman). (http://www.raystedman.org/mark/mark1.html). Retrieved October 27, 2006.
3Dr. H.A. Ironside, as quoted by Ray C. Stedman in his book, The Servant Who Rules. Exploring the Gospel of Mark. Volume One: Mark 1–8. (Discovery House Publishers, © 2002 by Elaine Stedman). (http://www.raystedman.org/mark/mark1.html). Retrieved October 27, 2006.