Why Was Jesus Baptized?

baptism-of-jesusThis Sunday, as part of my sermon series on the seven first words of Christ, I’m going to take a long, hard look at that moment in the Gospels when Jesus comes to be baptized. 

Why did he do that?

John can’t understand it.  What he’s offering is a “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”  In other words, you come confessing your sins, he washes them away, you go home dripping wet but feeling clean in a way you never have before.  Word spreads and soon everybody is coming to be baptized, even Jesus. 

Which raises a question.

We Christians believe that Jesus was sinless.  We get this idea from passages like 1 Peter 2:22 (“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth”), 1 John 3:5 (“…and in him was no sin”), and Hebrews 4:15 (“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin”).  So we might wonder why a sinless Jesus would come for a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins—he had nothing to repent from, and no sins to “remiss”!

John says to him, in essence, “Look, I need to be baptized by you.  I’m the sinner here!  Why are you coming to me?”  And Jesus answers with that enigmatic saying: “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”

What does that mean, exactly?  I’d like to know, and I’d like to know before this Sunday when I preach on Jesus’ baptism.  I have an idea, but if you have one I wish you would share it with me, and preferably before Saturday night!  Just click on the word “comments” below and tell me why Jesus was baptized.  The winner might be (could be, may be) mentioned in Sunday’s sermon.

19 thoughts on “Why Was Jesus Baptized?

  1. I am preaching this weekend on the same topic and had that question as well. I wonder if Jesus’ baptism was another way for Jesus to “step into our sandals” if you will – allowing the opportunity to connect on a human level with Jesus that we would not otherwise be able to do.

    If you see just before that, John the Baptist is quite humbled in the whole process and both he and Jesus, I hope are reminding us that NOBODY who is in the image of God, is without a humbled heart – including Jesus. (no ego trips allowed)

    I don’t know about you, but seeing that as well as hearing Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, (if you can take this cup from me) makes my heart grow even stronger for all that Christ suffered for us and to do so in human form, shows that he understands us more than we ever imagined.

  2. This is what I am working on: http://www.anglobaptist.org/blog/archives/2009/01/praegustatum_1.html

    And I am thinking around the idea of solidarity…of moving from Johns (very important) baptism of personal repentance to Jesus’ baptism of the renewal of all Creation. We move from individualism to lives lived for the other. Jesus’ suffering (that foretells our own) is for the other, for the world.

    Something along those lines will appear in my sermon…maybe.

  3. Dr. Frank Stagg’s comments on page 94 of Vol. 8 of The Broadman Commentary give some good thoughts about why Jesus was baptized by John. He says, “By taking his place among those who submitted to John’s baptism, Jesus did endorse John’s baptism and identify himself with those people who responded to John’s call. Although without sin, Jesus did identify with sinners whom he had come to save (cf. Isa. 53:12). He became one with those who needed to repent, though he was without sin (Heb. 2:17). Jesus’ baptism was also an open commitment to his mission.”

  4. Here are some ideas in no particular order: (a) To show solidarity/identify with sinners; (b) to set an example for us to follow; (c) to foreshadow his death, burial, and resurrection; (d) to receive the Holy Spirit to inaugurate his public ministry; (e) all of the above.

  5. Baptism was not new to some Jews. Jesus probably wished to have John the Baptist baptize HIm in order for for the people to have an example. More than that he was trying to show them that he had to go through the same path.

  6. Well – you had me thinking about this and I was a little puzzled.I never had really thought about why. So I read the passage and then ran for one of my favorite commentaries for some perspective – Ancient Commentary on Scripture (insight from Early Church Fathers) which ranged from familiar theologians such as:

    Chromatius – ” Indeed, it is only right that whatever someone instructs another to do, he should first do himself.” My comment – Being a great leader is leading by example

    Theodore of Heraclea – “when He who is perfect according to the law was baptized with the baptism of John, he became the first to achieve the perfection of the law.” (deep stuff)

    Others are quoted to say it was to sanctify the waters that all of us who are Christians would follow in.

    I tend to lean towards the idea of he showing his followers (then and now) the first step on a path to follow as disciples. I also think that this was his time to announce to the world he was here to share the world his message and his purpose. This scene also brings the Holy Spirit down to Jesus and announces to the world who Jesus is.

    I also looked at Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved which helped me to understand how we should live accepting and embracing God’s love.

    Well – hope my input helps. Good luck with your writing and I look forward to what your insight and thoughts on this passage. Have a great weekend.

  7. This is what you might call a “double epiphany”-the moment when God shone upon Jesus (You da Man!) and when Jesus perceived the purpose and meaning of his life’s work (Aha, I get it!). It reminds me of when Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. Jesus had to carry on in the tradition of his forefathers as well as open the way for a new understanding of who the “chosen” ones really are, and in that way, he would be fulfilling all righteousness!

  8. Guy Sayles writes in his bible study “Matthew: Living as Disciples of Jesus” the following:
    “…From the beginning of his public ministry, in the experience of baptism, to the ending of it on the cross, he (Jesus) identified deeply with his people’s sinfulness, taking it on himself and feeling with them the pain and sorrow it caused….Jesus stood in the company of sinners, acknowledging the righteousness of God, responding obediently with them to the requirement of repentance, and submitting with them to baptism.”

  9. What if he hadn’t?
    Think of the theological debates that would have initiated through the centuries. —–

    Jesus’ baptism was, at least in part, fulfilling the law. In order for one to be considered a “priest”, baptism was necessary. Although this sounds too legalistic for the Jesus we try to follow, He had abided by the other Jewish laws of the day. At this point in his life, this ritual was appropriate. More importantly for those around him and us today, his “ministry” seems to start directly following his baptism. It seems to be more of an anointing than a washing of sins.

    Mathew 3:16 Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

    As much as we think of Baptism “washing our sins away”, maybe we should also emphasize it being the beginning of our ministry… as it was for Jesus.

  10. I do not know the answer as to why Jesus made the choice to be Baptized – maybe to lead by example, as He was sent to live “among us”. Love is an action word – Jesus walked the walk. I SO look forward to your sermon on Sunday!

  11. Could it be “simply” a way for God the Father to announce to the (known) world that God’s plan of salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ, was about to have its beginning– a new beginning. An early glimpse of the “New Covenant.” The old Covenant was to be symbolically washed away (baptism) and replaced by the “New Covenant.” Just a thought.

  12. Is it too simplistic to believe that Jesus was trying to show us what to do and how to do it? I don’t think that is just “part of it” — I think that’s it! Baptism is not a “symbol” — it’s an instruction! Maybe we don’t have to “interpret” or “analyze” ?!

  13. Jesus was our sacrifice, once and for all. In the Old Testament the High Priest Aaron had to lay his hands on the head of the sacrifice to transfer the sins of the people on to the animal. Then the animal was killed, shedding blood. The O.T. was a shadow of the new, so Jesus was baptized(laying on of hands) by John the Baptist(adecendant of Aaron) and took the sins of the world upon him, carrying them to the cross to pay for the judgement of our sins, death. Then Jesus was resurrected by the Holy Spirit. These three are the witness of God, the water, blood, and The Spirit(1John 5:6-11). The gospel of the water and The Spirit(John 3:5). Born again!

  14. I have to agree with Claire.
    Mat 3:13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
    Mat 3:14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
    Mat 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
    Mat 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
    Mat 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

    2Pe 1:16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
    2Pe 1:17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

    Joh 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
    Joh 1:30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
    Joh 1:31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
    Joh 1:32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
    Joh 1:33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
    Joh 1:34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
    Joh 1:35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
    Joh 1:36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
    Joh 1:37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

    Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
    Rom 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

    Rom 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
    Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
    Rom 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
    Rom 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
    Rom 6:7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.

    Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
    Col 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
    Col 2:10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
    Col 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
    Col 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
    Col 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
    Col 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
    Col 2:15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
    Col 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
    Col 2:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

    Gal 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
    Gal 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
    Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
    Gal 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

    1Co 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
    1Co 1:31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

    Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

    Heb 10:5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
    Heb 10:6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
    Heb 10:7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
    Heb 10:8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
    Heb 10:9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
    Heb 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
    Heb 10:11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
    Heb 10:12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
    Heb 10:13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
    Heb 10:14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

    John the Baptist was of the tribe of Levi, a decendent of Arron, of the course of Abia.(Luk 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.Luk 1:57 Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
    Luk 1:58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
    Luk 1:59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
    Luk 1:60 And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
    Luk 1:61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
    Luk 1:62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
    Luk 1:63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.
    Luk 1:64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
    Luk 1:65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
    Luk 1:66 And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
    Luk 1:67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
    Luk 1:68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
    Luk 1:69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
    Luk 1:70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
    Luk 1:71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
    Luk 1:72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
    Luk 1:73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
    Luk 1:74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
    Luk 1:75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
    Luk 1:76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
    Luk 1:77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
    Luk 1:78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
    Luk 1:79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
    Luk 1:80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.)

    At His baptizm by John the Baptist, Jesus the High Priest from heaven, in accordance with His Fathers will, offered his body to God the Father as the true sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sin of the world and accepted the sins of the past, present and the future and suffered the universal death when he sacrificed his body and obtain the remission of our sins with his blood.

  15. My opinion and teachings that i have had concerning baptism is that, in a mans life, there are two main sin, these are the birth sin, which is also called the Adamic sin which adam and eve comitted in the garden of aden as we all aware, that God said to them that the very day that you eat of this fruit, is death that you will die, and because of that sin man was condemed to death.
    So when a man is born that adamic sin is attach to him, so for Jesus to come to world by means of a woman giving birth to him, that adamic sin was attached to him so he needed to be baptised to be cleansed off from that adamic sin so that all righeouseness will be fulfilled. come to think of this Jesus was accused by the pharasies of been mingled himsef with sinners, and jesus said to them he who is healthy needs no medication, is only those who are sick needs medical attension, with this makes it clear that Jesus himself did not commit any sin but that adamic sin needed to be cleansed off. this means that the purpose of baptism is to be cleased off from the birth or the adamic sin.
    And the other sin is those sin we ourselves commit in our daily lives, therefore after we are baptised we then therefore pass away from that death sentences which was metted to us through adamic sin into a new life through Christ Jesus and begin to live a Christ like life by working out own salvation with fear and trembling so that we can inherit the new life that Jesus has brought to us.

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