Have you ever wondered why Jesus was baptized? Have you ever considered
that His obedience has lessons for us in it? Have you ever considered His
holy righteousness and need for "perfection" to bring Christians to
perfection? We hope to cover some of these points in this article.
We find the accounts of Jesus'
baptism in Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11 and Luke 3:21-22. Consider
Matthew's account: "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.'
"To Be Baptized"
Jesus had a purpose in mind in
seeking out John. He wanted to be baptized by him (Matthew 3:13). The
Greek word "baptizo" means "immersion." John was immersing people in the
waters of the Jordan River. He was not sprinkling a little water on them,
neither was he pouring water on them. In fact, even today the Greek
Orthodox church practices immersion because they, being Greek, know what
the word meant. It would not be appropriate to refer to John as "John the
This is exactly why John chose the
location he did to do his work. If he had been "John the Sprinkler" he
could have carried some water with him. But because he immersed, he had to
work in an area that had enough water. The Bible says, "And John also was
baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and
they were coming and were being baptized." (John 3:23). John selected this
place "because" of what? Because there was "much water there!"
We can see implications that immersion was involved from the language
used. John was baptizing "in" the Jordan River (Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:0)
and this involved going "down into" and "coming up out of" the water
Trying to Prevent Baptism
Often the world tries to prevent
people from being baptized, but not usually for the same reasons! (Matthew
3:14). Instead, sometimes a human religious creed/tradition stipulates
sprinkling. At other times, relatives/friends are against it. Today, in
some nations, it is a crime to teach people to be baptized! But John's
reason was very different!
John had been baptizing people "for
remission of sins" (Mark 1:4). Before being baptized, the people had been
coming and confessing their sins (Mark 1:5; Matthew 3:6). But Jesus had
no sins (Hebrews 4:15). For this reason, John did not think that baptizing
Jesus would be appropriate, and suggested a better way would be for Jesus
to baptize John.
Now even today there might be some
good reasons not to baptize someone. We should not baptize one who does
not believe or repent (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Neither should we baptize a
person who is ignorant of it's purpose - to receive the forgiveness of
sins (Acts 2:38). If one has not reached the maturity to accept the gospel
by faith, then he or she should not be baptized (Acts 8:12).
"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.' (Matthew 3:15) All John
thought about Jesus' perfect sinlessness was true. But Jesus calls upon
John to make this exception because it was "fitting" to do so.
Here's why: This Jesus was God in
human flesh obeying the commands of John, who was the prophet of God.
John's work had been prophesied in the Old Testament (see Matthew 3:3).
Jesus had come to do the will of the Father. He said, "I have come to do
thy will" (Hebrews. 10:7-8). John was God's prophet, and Jesus would be
obedient unto the Father by being baptized by the Father's prophet.
This is what is meant by "fulfill
all righteousness." Jesus intended on doing all that was God's will for
Him to do. That is how we "fulfill all righteousness" today as well. We
ought to have the same intention that Jesus did to do the Father's will.
Just as there is much controversy
in the religious world today about baptism, there was in Jesus' world as
well. (see Luke 7:29-30.) The people who understood their need as sinners
for God's grace accepted John's baptism and God's justification
(righteousness). Others, like the Pharisees, rejected John's baptism and
sought to prevent others from being baptized (see Matthew 21:23-28;
And today as well; just as certainly as rejecting John meant rejecting
God; so does rejecting the messages of Scripture concerning baptism today
(1 Peter 3:20,21).
Righteousness and Perfection
Jesus was baptized by John in the
River Jordan (Mark 1:9). Jesus was motivated by His reverence for the
Father's will (Hebrews 5:7-9). The word translated "fear" (KJV) or
"piety" (NASB) means to possess that careful and watchful reverence which
seeks to obey in every circumstance. Like Jesus, we should be careful to
obey God in everything.
The Hebrew writer also says that
Jesus was made "perfect." The word translated "perfect" means to
complete, to initiate, or to qualify. Jesus came to accomplish all that
God meant for Him to do, and His baptism was a part of that. Jesus would
leave nothing undone that God had appointed. That should be our attitude
Power After Baptism
"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"
(Matthew 3:16). This, too, had been prophesied (see Isaiah. 61:1-2a -
quoted as fulfilled in Luke 4:18). The Lord had told John that He would
identify His Son in this way (John 1:32-34).
The Father made it known that He
was "well pleased" with His Son (Matthew 3:17). It is a successful life
when it is lived to please God. It was Jesus' purpose, and it ought to be
ours as well.
As Christians, we have been
immersed into Christ (Romans 6:3-4). We did not let anything "prevent" us
from being baptized. It is God's command, and we revered Him in keeping
it. When we did so, He washed away our sins (Acts 22:16). It pleased the
Father to take away our sins and receive us into His house by His grace