Sunday, 23 August 2009

Why was Jesus Baptized?

In or around December 26 AD, Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan river. (See, for example, Mark 1:9.)

But we know that Jesus was sinless. So why was he baptized – since baptism is a sign of repentance, a symbol of the need to be cleansed from sin? Here are six possible reasons:

1. To obey. He submitted himself in perfect obedience to God’s will. When John objected to baptizing Jesus, Jesus replied (Matthew 3:15) that it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness. That is, he was eager to do everything just as God the Father willed.

2. Because of sin. Jesus demonstrated his resolve to identify with those he came to save and to take their guilt upon him. Jesus did have sin — his people's — which is the reason he died. Isaiah 53:6, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

3. Because of John the Baptist. He validated John's ministry. By being baptized by John, Jesus publicly acknowledged that John’s ministry was from God, and encouraged John to continue in that ministry.

4. To fulfil prophecy. The promise that God had given John the Baptist had to be fulfilled so that John was able to proclaim Christ more clearly. John says (John 1:33), I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'

5. For revelation. When he was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove, and the Father spoke from heaven, publicly revealing him to be the Christ, the Son of God. John says (John 1:31), the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.

6. As an example. Christ has commanded the church to baptize believers as a public confession of their faith. It is appropriate for him, as head of the church, to be baptized ahead of his people.

Jesus came from heaven to lay down his life for his people. His baptism is part of the fulfilment of that task. At the same time he was publicly revealed for the first time as the Christ, and encouraged John in his ministry.