Jesus traveled from Galilee (the northern part of Palestine) to the Jordan (its most important river) to be baptized by John. No doubt, being baptized was an essential part of the beginning of His ministry. Why was Jesus baptized?
Since Jesus never committed sin (Hebrews 4:15), He was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (vs. 15)—Jesus was to fulfill Heaven’s requirements by submitting to baptism; John the Baptizer was to do it by administering the baptism. In His baptism, the will of the Father was fulfilled in: (1) the submission and obedience of the Son; (2) the Messianic identification with human sin and the means to access forgiveness; (3) the public declaration of Jesus’ Sonship and His royal anointment by the Holy Spirit; (4) the symbolic preview of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection; and (5) the sublime example for all future followers of the Messiah.
We can say, then, that Jesus was baptized for God (to do His will), for Him (to be confirmed), and for us (to give us an example). What are some of the lessons Jesus taught us through His baptism?
- Jesus did not despise, nor avoid, nor minimize baptism, but sought for and demand it; every believer should also do the same. Jesus Himself said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). The essentiality of baptism does not relate to some “power” in the water or the baptizer, but it relates to the fact that God has united it to salvation. From God’s part, baptism is an expression of His grace operating on behalf of man’s salvation (John 1:17); from man’s part, baptism is an expression of his faith to access the undeserving grace of God (Acts 16:30-34). Then, every believer should demand: “[H]ere is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36).
- Jesus was interested in fulfilling God’s will, not man’s; every believer should have the same attitude. Since Jesus did not have sins, He was in a more “justifiable” standing to object baptism than any man on Earth, but He did not. He knew it was “fitting” (vs. 15) because it was a part of God’s plan for Him. Baptism is still a part of God’s plan for us (1 Peter 3:21). Then, every believer should declare: “Behold, I have come…to do Your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7; cf. Luke 7:30).
- Jesus was declared Son of God after His baptism; every believer is also so. In the same way no one can become a son or daughter without a physical birth, no one can become God’s child without a spiritual birth (John 3:3-5). Those who have been baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27-29) have become a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and have received a new life (Romans 6:4). They are declared “children of God,” not because of the “power” of the water, but because of the “powerful working of God, who raised [Christ] from the dead” (Colossians 2:12, ESV). Then, all believers should desire the “adoption as sons by Jesus Christ…, according to the good pleasure of [God’s] will” (Ephesians 1:5; cf. Romans 8:15).
The Christian Leader submitted to baptism (vss. 13-17), ministered baptism (John 4:1), and taught baptism (Matthew 28:18-20). His faithful followers will do the same (Acts 2:38; 22:16).