Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Matthew 3:14-15
But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness."
Then John consented.

Although I have read this scripture countless times in the past, I never understood why Jesus insisted upon the baptism of repentance by John. After all, He was without sin and had no need, as we do, for confession of our iniquities and being washed clean of them. I accepted Jesus' doing so according to His words, "to fulfill all righteousness". That was sufficient until today. Knowing how, and when, and by whom had been fine, but I suddenly, urgently, wanted to know why. Why was it necessary for Jesus to be baptized?

When I typed this question into that old reliable, Google Search, I discovered a wonderfully informative, yet concise article explaining why the baptism of Jesus was crucial to His ministry. I will provide you with the link at the end of this devotion if you would like to read in more detail, but I have paraphrased the commentary here:
  • Public Recognition - John has been proclaiming Jesus' coming for quite some time. When he sees Him, he immediately knows who He is and acknowledges this before the crowds gathered there. "Here is the One I told you would come!"
  • Identifying with Sinners - "His baptism symbolized the sinners' baptism into the righteousness of Christ, dying with Him and rising free from sin and able to walk in the newness of life." This is, ultimately, the fulfillment of all righteousness.
  • Confirming John's Authority - By coming to John for baptism, Jesus is showing approval of him and his actions and confirming that he has God's blessing.
  • Revelation of the Trinity - Matthew 3:16-17 - As 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 alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
Wow! So much importance in one simple act of submission! Knowing these reasons why have certainly enhanced my understanding of this scripture and I hope they have enlightened you, too. This inquiry reminds me of something Pastor Wallace is fond of saying: "God likes questions and we should never be afraid to ask!"

Psalms 55 or 138, 139:1-17 (18-23)
1 Kings 18:41-19:8
Philippians 3:17-4:7
Matthew 3:13-17



  1. So many reasons! I like it as an image or "the first must be last". It could also be a metaphor for the ancient practice of adoption or like a coranation-- that God is choosing Jesus!

    I love all the metaphors and reasons for baptism!y way we can touch and feel God!

  2. That is a great question, Martha! And I had to look this up to get it exactly right. But in addition to the good reasons you give, Jesus had to be baptized to enter into the priesthood. That was the law of Moses. Since even Jesus lived under the law, by being baptized, Jesus fulfilled that measure of the law, which is what He tells us is His mission on earth, to fulfill the law, not abolish it, or in any way circumvent it.

    From what I understand, according to the law, to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek, one had to be 30 years old, baptized and anointed with oil. Anointing with oil is an earthly act, the intent of which is to pour the Holy Spirit on flesh. But in Jesus' case, God poured the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, fulfilling that requirement of the law and symbolizing to all present that His Son came to earth in peace and with goodwill toward men. I expect that the dove was important so that men, and indeed those who witnessed the proceedings at the Jordan that day, need not be afraid. So I think that Jesus' baptism authorized Him into the priesthood.

    Now according to the law, the high priest is he who administers the sacrificial sacraments, representing the people to God. All sacrifices prior to Jesus had been imperfect, meaning that once another sin occurred, another animal sacrifice had to be offered to cover it.

    But in Jesus' case, because He was sinless, and in the type of mankind, Jesus could voluntarily sacrifice himself and cover the sins of mankind for all time.

    Jesus' sinless life, and sacrificial death, and resurrection entitled Him to receive all authority on earth and in Heaven. And because Jesus owns all authority, Jesus decides who comes to the Father to be given eternal life.

    Jesus is the gatekeeper. He earned that position fulfilling the Law of Moses. So empowered with the authority to do so, Jesus decided to enact a covenant with man, Whom He represented in His death. That covenant requires only one thing, that men truly believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and the He died for their sins, and that He was resurrected. Anyone who truly believes that will naturally obey Jesus' other specific commands. But the covenant between Jesus and mankind only requires belief. Faith in that belief is demonstrated by works, that is, living according to Jesus' commands. It all ties together and it began with Jesus' baptism.

    A great question to wake up and read this morning. Thank you for that.

    Here is a good reference for anyone who is interested:

  3. Wow! Thanks KUMC and Hank for your wonderful comments! I love how you took the time, Hank, to delve even deeper into the reasons for the baptism of Jesus; I knew about the priesthood of Melchizedek, but never knew about the age 30 - now, all makes perfect sense!


  4. Martha this is a good one. I've never even pondered this question before. Enlightening!

  5. Great post Martha! Some interesting points you raise behind the reason for Jesus' baptism. I enjoyed reading them :)

  6. Thank you, Debra and Jessica! I'm finding in really delving into scripture to prepare for devotions, that I have more questions than ever before. God did give us inquiring hearts and minds, and I believe, with all sincerity, that He welcomes doubts, questions, and every type of ponder!

    So glad you stopped by!


  7. Thanks for an interesting post!! You provided me with food for thought on this topic and I feel the most important reason for Jesus to be bapitized is to be one with sinners. This act showed the world that even though he was sinless he was always with the people and could relate. Blessings :)

  8. Thank you, David! I'm glad the info was meaningful to you and I agree with you - to be one with sinners is the most important to me. What a blessing we have in our precious Savior!

    God bless!


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