Baptizing the spotless lamb of God and savior of the world seems like an odd sort of way to begin Jesus’ ministry. He didn’t need to be made righteous. He didn’t have any sins to repent of, which was part of John’s baptism. Jesus didn’t need to be baptized in the since that you and I need to be baptized. Jesus was baptized as Israel’s representative. He was the seed of Abraham who would fulfill the covenant promises that God said Abraham’s descendants would fulfill in this world.
A recap may be necessary on that just as a reminder,
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
‘I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.’”
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
God promised Abraham that it was through his descendants (the Hebrews or people of Israel) would bless the world. The problem with this was, Abraham’s descendants had failed to live into and up to this mission but God wasn’t done with them. Instead, God used a descendant of Abraham to fulfill these covenant promises made back in Genesis through Jesus Christ. That makes Jesus Christ the true Israelite. He fully recognizes with humanity by becoming human, in the flesh. He fully recognizes with the covenant promises by being born into Abraham’s family tree. In his birth he is fully identified with Israel religiously as his parents dedicate him, circumcise him and provide the offerings required of them by the Torah.
Why is Jesus baptized? It is not for repentance. It is not for salvation. It is not to have his sins washed away. Just as the Hebrews went through the waters and then through the wilderness, to Sinai and then to the promised land, Jesus lives out that same journey in his ministry:
Through the Red Sea – Jesus baptism (Matthew 3)
Through the wilderness – Jesus temptation (Matthew 4)
To Sinai – Sermon on the Mount which reflects the 10 commandments and re-envisions them (Matthew 5-7)
Through the wilderness to the Jordan – Jesus’ ministry where he demonstrates his authority over the evil forces of this world. He teaches with authority, does miracles with authority, etc. Jesus is also the rock in the wilderness that the living water flowed out, the living water itself and the mana as the bread of life (Matthew 8-26)
On to the promised land – Jesus’ passion through the resurrection (Matthew 27-28)
Jesus’ baptism is the introduction to the story of the making of a nation. Only this time it is not an ethnic nation. It is a nation that is comprised of all nations and peoples who have a common faith of the pre-circumcised Abraham (Rom 5:9-10).
Praise God for his faithfulness, his provision and his grace.