Why Was Jesus Baptized?

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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,

Gen 12:1-3
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.’”

Genesis 22:15-18

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.

9 Responses

  1. I love this view of the story of Jesus. There is some interesting parallels with the 12 disciples and the sending of the 70 as well. Isn’t it amazing how reading the Bible as a story provides a deep and rich understanding of God? It is much better than viewing it as a giant puzzle full of pieces that we have to put in the right order. Thanks Matt

    1. Yes! There are many parallels with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and particularly the sending of the 12. I will make that my next post. Thank you Andrew!

    2. Dr. Michael Hiser, Unseen Realm, makes a great connection between the 70 sent out and the disinherited nations. I’ll not attempt to sketch that out, although I wish I could from memory. That’s a conversation starter right there.

    3. That’s right. 70 is a very important number. It has connections at Sinai, the table of nations and at Pentecost if my memory serves me well enough.

  2. John’s gospel is heavy on “Jesus as the new Moses” idea (more than the other gospels). Also, I had a wise professor answer your question with “The master is not above his servant.”

  3. Much is not said, and what is said is difficult at least for me, to understand as to “why” Jesus did what He did.
    John was calling all to come, repent and be immersed for remission of sins. Jesus had no sin. Didn’t need to be immersed for the same reason as others, so why do it?
    “Fulfilling all righteousness,” doing the right thing at the right time and for the right reason seems to me declarative of some things.
    1.) It was “proper” (NIV). What does that mean? It was what others did to “be right with God.”
    2.) It seems to mark the beginning of Jesus’ ministry
    3.) It was pleasing to His Father, so it certainly was not a wrong thing to do. His humility, willingness to be obedient, His love for God… all are seen in His being baptized.
    4.) He receives the Holy Spirit (or the Spirit in the form of a dove landed on Him. In Acts 2, the apostles experience the Holy Spirit coming on them and it was in the form of “fire” on their heads. Now it is hard for me to think that Jesus did not have the Spirit before He was baptized. So this is where I just have to say I don’t know. Perhaps someone can help me on this.
    Yes this was a special time, no one can deny this. The writer records that after this, “Jesus was lead up by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” So I think this was a very special event for Jesus.
    Grow in grace!

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