Mark 1:9-11, “And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”
Our Text – (Matthew 3; Mark 1:1-13; and John 1:19-34)
Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines the baptism of Christ this way … Christ had to be formally inaugurated into the public discharge of his offices. For this purpose he came to John, who was the representative of the law and the prophets, that by him he might be introduced into his offices, and thus be publicly recognized as the Messiah of whose coming the prophecies and types had for many ages borne witness. John refused at first to confer his baptism on Christ, for he understood not what he had to do with the “baptism of repentance.” But Christ said, “‘Suffer it to be so now,’ Now as suited to my state of humiliation, my state as a substitute in the room of sinners.” His reception of baptism was not necessary on his own account. It was a voluntary act, the same as His act of becoming incarnate.
Yet, if the work He had engaged to accomplish was to be completed, then it became him to take on the likeness of a sinner, and to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15). The official duty of Christ and the sinless person of Christ are to be distinguished. It was in his official capacity that he submitted to baptism. In coming to John our Lord effectively said, “Though sinless, and without any personal taint, yet in my public or official capacity as the Sent of God, I stand in the room of many, and bring with me the sin of the world, for which I am the propitiation.” Christ was not made under the law on his own account. It was as surety of his people, a position which he spontaneously assumed. The administration of the rite of baptism was also a symbol of the baptism of suffering before him in this official capacity (Luke 12:50). In presenting himself, he in effect, dedicated or consecrated himself to the work of fulfilling all righteousness.
WHY WAS JESUS BAPTIZED?
This is an excellent question, and one for which there is really no simple answer. While many answers have been proposed, not all are of equal worth, some are just plain wrong, and the few which remain can often leave us wanting more. However, let’s take a look at the Scriptures and see what can be found. The story of Jesus’ baptism can be found, in one form or another, in Matthew, Mark and John, but let’s take a look at it as found in Mark 1:7-11, [John] proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” The Gospel of Matthew and Mark generally depict John’s difficulty with performing the baptism. In Mark’s Gospel we see why … John knew he wasn’t worthy to Baptize Jesus. As Matthew records it, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14). John’s confusion is, indeed, very understandable. Some people tend to think that, in being baptized, Jesus was setting a pattern for the rest of us to follow. This is certainly possible because Jesus set many patterns for his Disciples, some of which were patterns for:
(4) Healing, and
(5) Many other acts of ministry.
So, why not here, as well? The biggest problem with this idea would be that it makes his baptism into a “let’s pretend” action. That is an action which doesn’t at all coordinate with Jesus’ own stated reason for being baptized, which is “… to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15)
THE PURPOSE OF HIS BAPTISM
In the days prior to Christ’s public revelation of Israel, God sent the prophet John the Baptist with a burning message of repentance. Throughout the land, he raised his voice against the mockery of the shallow religion that was deep-rooted among the people. His ministry was aimed toward one end, to prepare the hearts of the Israelites for the reception of their Messiah. Matthew declared, “For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (Matthew 3:3). John was willing to be just a voice for God.
The baptism of Jesus by John served a significant role in both of their ministries. It came at the height of John’s ministry, after which his began to decline. It also served as the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, which soon overtook the ministry of John. Christ’s baptism was a very public one and was recorded for all generations to know about and understand, and was to:
(1) Identify Himself with sinners …
John the Baptist was a stern prophet, an uncompromising foe of all falsehood and sham (Matthew 3:7, 8). He denounced sin, and the baptism he performed constituted a confession of sin (Matthew 3:6). Multitudes had come to be baptized at his hand. Sin brought them to the banks of the Jordan. The high and the low were there; the rich and poor were there. Sin is the universal disease, “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23). No one escapes its defilement; therefore, all are commanded to repent.
Believers in this age are often exhorted to “follow Christ in baptism” to emulate the Lord, Who was baptized. While it is certainly true that each believer should be baptized following his or her salvation, it is not true that when a person does so he or she “follows Christ in baptism.” Believer’s baptism is not an act of repentance but an expression of personal identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. By being baptized, those who are born again announce their severance from their former lives of sin and their possession of a new life in Christ.
But think a moment! Was repentance the declaration of Christ in His baptism? Was He being baptized to confess His sins? The answer to that is obviously no. Then why was the Son of God baptized? Christ was identifying Himself with sinners though He Himself was not a sinner. John the Baptizer recoiled from the task of baptizing Jesus. “I have need to be baptized of thee,” he said, confession his own sinfulness (Matthew 3:14). But the spotless Son of God was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15), to complete everything that was right for Him to do. Though without blemish (1 Peter 1:19), He was willing to identify Himself with those He came to save, sinners miserable and lost, and was to:
(2) Illustrates His baptism of suffering …
Christ was to be baptized in the waters of death. This was the main purpose of His coming. In challenging His disciples to the sacrifice expected of them, He asked, “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? And be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38). He spoke, not of the baptism in water, but of the overflowing sorrows and sufferings that would overwhelm Him at the cross. He was to be submerged in the sins of the world, in the sufferings of all the ages. It is this great baptism of suffering that was illustrated in Christ’s baptism by John. Christ stepped into the waters of sin and death for us. He braved the tempests of God’s wrath (Psalm 42:7). In His water baptism, the waters of Jordan typified the waters of suffering, and was to:
(3) Introduce Himself as Israel’s Messiah …
One of the principal purposes of the ministry of John the Baptist was to announce the presence of Israel’s Messiah. Those who were baptized were confessing their readiness to receive the King, since He, in His own Person, represented the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 3:2). Preparing a people for the King, this was the purpose of the prophet’s ministry by the river. When Jesus came to John to be baptized, John asked the same question. Why should he, a sinful man, baptize the Messiah? He tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized saying “I need to be baptized by You and You are coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14).
The baptism that John performed symbolized repentance, and he saw this as inappropriate for the One he knew to be the spotless Lamb of God. Jesus replied that it should be done because “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Christ was here, identifying Himself with sinners. He will ultimately bear their sins; His perfect righteousness will be imputed to them (2 Corinthians 5:21). Therefore, this act of baptism was a necessary part of the righteousness He secured for sinners. His was a perfect righteousness in that He fulfilled all the requirements of the Law which we, for whose sin He would exchange His righteousness, are not capable of fulfilling. He is our perfect substitute, our spotless Lamb.
THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS BAPTISM
In what manner was Christ baptized? This is an important question from the standpoint of the entire doctrine of baptism as revealed in the New Testament. Pedobaptists (those who baptize infants) have tried to prove that the baptism of John was not by immersion. One writer has said, “There is nothing essential to the meaning of John’s baptism to suggest immersion” (Dwight Small, The Biblical Basis for Infant Baptism). However, later the same author states concerning the Greek word for “baptize,” “The primary meaning in its literal sense is ‘to immerse.’ This cannot be denied, and this of course gives great weight to the actual practice of immersion”. We must consider also the testimonies of three non-Baptists who led the Protestant reformation.
John Calvin, founder of Presbyterianism, declared, “The word baptize itself signifies immerse, and it is certain that the rite of immersion was observed by the ancient church.” In commenting on Romans 6:3-5, John Wesley, founder of Methodism, said, “Buried with Him, alluding to the ancient manner of baptism by immersion.” In speaking of the meaning of baptism, Martin Luther, founder of Lutheranism, said, “They ought to be entirely immersed, and immediately drawn out. For this the etymology of the name seems to demand.” The misleading arguments of those who sprinkle infants with water and call that baptism cause us to ask, what do the Scriptures teach? The Greek word employed for the baptism of Jesus is baptidzo. The same word is used for baptism throughout the New Testament. Numerous authorities on the Greek language define the word baptidzo as “to immerse, submerge, and dip.” How was Jesus baptized? By immersion in water, just as believers today should be baptized.
Thus far we have examined from Scripture the following: (1) that Jesus was baptized to identify Himself with sinners; (2) it was an illustration of His suffering; (3) it was to fulfill all righteousness, and (4) to introduce Himself as Israel’s Messiah. We could also add to these the following areas:
(1) To identify the Lord, as the Son of God …
When the angel Gabriel came to the Virgin Mary, to give her the good news that she would conceive and give birth to a son, Mary was afraid, and the angel told her not to be afraid because she had found favor with God. She was to conceive and bring forth a son named Jesus. Gabriel told her that Jesus would be called the Son of the Highest and be so great that He’d be given the throne of his father, David. Mary was shocked at this pronouncement. She was a virgin, never having been with a man. Gabriel calmed her, however, assuring her that the Holy Spirit of Allah would overshadow her and give her a son who would be called the Son of God (Luke 1:34-36).
God Himself called Jesus by this unique name. If you recall, when Christ was baptized in the River Jordan the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and settled on Him. A voice came from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). This voice was none other than the voice of God, who has infinite power. God confirmed that Christ is His Son, by the Spirit.
(2) His obedience to the Father …
Christ said, “thus it becomes [or it is proper] to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Perhaps we cannot fathom the full depth of this abbreviated clause; however, one thing is certain … it is an affirmation of the submissive disposition of the Lord Jesus to the Father’s will. “Righteousness” is associated with the commands of God (Psalm 119:172). To fulfill righteousness, therefore, is to be obedient to Jehovah. The life of Jesus is a commentary on what obedience is about. In the 40th Psalm, which is clearly messianic in its import (cf. Hebrews 10:5-7), the submissive demeanor of Christ is prophetically set forth.
Jesus, through David, a thousand years before his own birth, affirms: “I delight to do thy will, O my God; Yea, thy law is in my heart” (40:8). It is one thing to begrudgingly go through a form of service; it is quite another to “delight” in doing the Father’s will. Again, while some may have the elements of divine “law” in their heads, the issue is: Do we have, as did Jesus, the law in our hearts? Christ demonstrated by his baptism, therefore, on the very first day of his public ministry, that he was committed to doing his Father’s will. In this regard, as in all others, he is our perfect model.
(3) The Spirit’s descent …
A unique phenomenon accompanied the baptism of Christ. As Christ stood in the water following His immersion by John, He saw “the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him” (Matthew 3:16). The descent of the Spirit was accompanied by the voice of the Father attesting to the person and work of the Son. The main emphasis of the account of Christ’s baptism in Luke 3:21 and 22 is upon the Holy Spirit. The descent of the Holy Spirit marked God’s approval upon Jesus’ baptism. The Holy Spirit would never descend upon one who was disobedient to God. The Spirit came on Christ to empower Him for His earthly ministry. “The heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended” (Luke 3:21, 22).
It is deeply significant that immediately following the descent of the Spirit upon the Lord, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested of the Devil for forty days (Luke 4:1, 2). Christ went in the power of the Spirit to the place of testing. Each believer is privileged to meet the testing’s of life in the same manner! What should we learn from this holy scene? Well, we ought to know that we cannot enter into an effective ministry for God apart from the filling of the Spirit. If our Lord depended on the Holy Spirit’s power for His life of fruitfulness and blessing, then how much more must we. He was the “Messiah” (the anointed One). God’s Spirit anointed Him with power.
THE PROCLAMATION OF HIS BAPTISM
(1) The Sonship of Christ …
The possibility that someone might misinterpret the baptism of Jesus as a confession of sin was quickly eliminated by the announcement from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Of whom could this be said but the sinless Lamb of God? All other people stand under God’s condemnation, “There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12). God the Father declared Christ to be the Son. As has been noted previously, this title does not imply any inferiority on the part of Christ. Rather, it expressed His eternal relationship to the Father. One of the few scenes in Scripture where the three Persons of the Trinity are associated together in some work that could be observed by humans is the baptism of Christ.
For this reason the baptism of the Son stands as an important event in defining the doctrine of the Trinity. Here are three; yet they are one. There was the Father who spoke words of praise; the Son, who won it; the Holy Spirit, who confirmed Christ’s righteous act by coming down upon him. Then there was John, the last Old Testament Prophet who looked forward to Christ. And there is, of course, us, who living in this New Testament Era, look back on the ministry of Christ. Here we see coming together heaven and earth, God and man, Old Testament and New Testament, all converging at one moment in time to witness the pleasure of God, the divine pleasure that grants everlasting life. Soon Jesus would undergo tremendous suffering and temptation, but the assurance is already made here of God’s approval.
(2)The satisfaction of God …
God’s complete satisfaction with the life of Christ is summarized in the words “in whom I am well pleased”. We have scant record of the childhood years of Jesus’ life, those years lived in the obscurity of Nazareth; but we know all that Christ did and said during this period was pleasing to His Heavenly Father. He is the only One who has ever perfectly and constantly pleased the Father. Since Christ’s baptism was a picture of His sacrificial death for us, it seems that God also was indicating His approval of this final and culminating act of redemption. Christ’s work on the cross was supremely pleasing to the Father, and He accepted it on behalf of sinners. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again” (John 10:17).
God was satisfied with Christ’s payment for sins. He was “delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). While yet in the waters of the Jordan, the blessed Christ was set forth as the only Savior of the world by the proclamation of the Father. The beautiful account of the Savior’s obedience to the will of His Heavenly Father should motivate every child of God to do the same. Our Head and Leader have pointed the way. Not our will, but the will of our Father in Heaven, this is the proper goal for every born-again believer. Let us learn of Him and His will.
So, my brethren, what can we learn from Christ’s example? We ought to know that we cannot enter into an effective ministry for God apart from the filling of the Spirit. If our Lord depended on the Holy Spirit’s power for His life of fruitfulness and blessing, then how much more must we. He was the Messiah, the Anointed One, and God’s Spirit anointed Him with power. Have you been trying to serve God in your own power? If so, confess your pride and lack of dependence on the Spirit. Humble yourself and ask for His power to enable you to serve Him. Too often we open God’s Word without being filled with the Holy Spirit. As a result, we know doctrine, but we remain cold, lifeless, and fruitless.
Have you felt that way? You have “had devotions,” but you still feel un-energized, powerless, and unhappy. Go back to the Word, asking the Spirit to reveal to you what He has for you from that passage. Keep reading. Finally, ask God to help you live whatever you read. The story of the obedience of the Savior to the will of His Heavenly Father though the power of the Spirit should motivate every child of God to do the same. Our Head and Leader have pointed the way for us. Not our will, but the will of our Father in Heaven, this is the proper goal for every person who has been redeemed and saved by the blood of the spotless Lamb of God. So, let us learn from Him.
MAKING IT PERSONAL
Why did Jesus die? My brethren, He died so that we could live. His death on Calvary’s cross was not an accident or a surprise to God. It was an absolute necessity in His perfect plan for our salvation. The Lord declared that death is the penalty for those who sin (Genesis 2:17), and every person since Adam and Eve has sinned (Romans 3:23). Yet, in love He longed to rescue us. God could not merely say, “I feel sorry for you. I love you. I will just save you, and overlook your sin, and forget about it.” No, an absolutely holy and just God couldn’t treat sin so lightly. The penalty for sin must be paid; guilt must be removed.
Here’s the marvel of it all. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, took our sin, carried it to Calvary, paid the penalty, and then rose on the third day. Jesus, the absolutely sinless One, bore the guilt of our sin, as predicted by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 53). His resurrection was the proof that the Father accepted His sacrifice and that justice was done. My brethren, that was 2,000 years ago, long before you and I were born. It was all prepared by God. It was all of grace. All we have to do is receive what He has prepared. God’s offer today is “that whoever believes in [Jesus] should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The questions that must be asked would be:
(1) Do you have everlasting life?
(2) Have you put your trust and faith in the finished work of Christ? That’s why Jesus died.
Our Heavenly Father, thank you for another day and another opportunity to serve and be obedient to You in such a dark world. Thank You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, who gave His life and shed His precious blood so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Thank You for Your enduring grace and mercy, which are new each day. Thank You for Your love that can never be fathomed, for peace that can never be understood, for joy that can never be diminished, for hope that can never be disappointed, for strength that can never be overcome and for Your resources that can never be exhausted. Lord, You are the delight of my heart and soul and You alone are my Strong Tower, my Deliverer, and Redeemer in whom I trust. I wait upon You this day for Your wisdom and Your guidance. Thank You Lord for saving my soul, for it’s in Your precious name that I pray, Amen.
God’s Justice and Mercy met at the Cross.