The Baptism of Jesus

The Baptism of Jesus

The Baptism of Jesus.

“One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy!” (Mark 1:9-11; also refer to Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22; and John 1:29-34).

The big question is why? Why would Jesus the sinless One submit to a baptism which is intended for the repentance of sins?

  1. To receive the Father’s blessing to begin His ministry. In His words of affirmation, God gave the heavenly seal of approval to inaugurate Jesus’ mission as Messiah. God’s words were, “You are my dearly beloved Son, and you bring me great joy! With you I am well pleased!” These words are a combination of Psalm 2:7, which is messianic, and Isaiah 42:1, which coronates the role of Suffering Servant, and Genesis 22:2, which brings to mind Isaac and the sacrifice and the fact that God is saying that He is the Father who has a Son who will truly die. God’s affirmation to Jesus confirms that the Messiah King would travel the road of the Suffering Servant.
  2. To confess the sins of His people, in the tradition of Nehemiah (1:6), Ezra (9:10), Daniel (9:4-6), and others in biblical history who bore the burdens of the sins of the people. In submitting to baptism, Jesus shouldered the responsibility of Israel’s sinfulness, and acknowledged that Israel needs to be purified and forgiven. Jesus’ baptism was an act of repentance, but for His people, not for Him.
  3. To identify with all of humanity and their fallen nature. Jesus is giving a nod to His human identity, wanting to be in solidarity with all people. All people need to be purified, He is a fellow human being, therefore He will identify Himself with humanity out of love and humility.
  4. To show an example to believers, to be a pioneer in the baptismal way of turning to God. Jesus did nothing that requires repentance, but He wanted to show the way for those followers who are penitent.
  5. To show support for John the Baptist, the “greatest prophet,” in his calling of preparing the way for the Lord. Jesus wanted to show the people that John was following a divinely inspired calling, and so He submitted to John’s baptism to affirm John’s prophetic work, and to confirm that John is preparing the way for Jesus the Messiah.
  6. To declare publically that He was beginning His mission to the world. Jesus is announcing that He will now begin to bring His message of salvation to His people and to the world. It’s interesting that, “In His first pubic declaration of His ministry, instead of going to Jerusalem and identifying with the established religious leaders, Jesus went to a river and identified with those who are repenting of sin.” (NLT notes).
  7. To become ordained in His role as Messianic Savior. Jesus was thirty years old at the time of His baptism, which was when rabbis were dedicated to teach and priests were ordained and declared fit to serve in the Temple. Some scholars believe that His baptism was the established time to receive a formal dedication to serve Yahweh, that John dedicated the temple of Jesus’ body, much like Solomon once dedicated the Temple.
  8. To symbolize death and resurrection. When Jesus was immersed in baptism, He was symbolically buried in death. And when He rose out of the water, He gave us a picture of how He would minister in the way of new life in the power of the Holy Spirit. In His baptism, Jesus foreshadowed His own death and Resurrection, and He revealed the meaning behind the future sacrament of Christian baptism.
  9. To be recognized as the divine Messiah. In a moment of inspiration at the baptismal site, John the Baptist called Jesus “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). John is referencing the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:3) that was slain to save the enslaved people of Israel from certain death. The Baptist is saying that Jesus is the Passover Lamb that is to be sacrificed to save the people from certain spiritual death. One Bible translator suggests that John’s baptizing of Jesus publically washed the sacrificial Lamb and fulfilled the requirements of the Law, confirming to Israel that the Lamb was spotless and without blemish. At the baptism, John confirmed that the untainted Lamb was now ready to be sacrificed for the life of the people. (Dr. Brian Simmons, Passion Translation notes).
  10. To become the Big Fish. Because of Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy 18 about a messianic figure called the Teacher, the Jewish people during Jesus’ time were expecting a new Moses to guide and save them, like the old Moses did. They believed that the second Moses would duplicate the teachings and miracles of the first Moses, and would be a mediator between God and the people. Moses was an Egyptian name which meant “taken out of the water,” and when pronounced sounded like swish-swish. So Moses was called the big fish in many rabbinic circles. Jesus in many ways did have many parallels with Moses during His ministry, with some scholar saying there were at least 50 different similarities between Jesus and Moses. Because of the prophecy in Deuteronomy, many rabbinic authorities explored the idea of the Messiah being another Big Fish. And sure enough, here is Jesus, being taken out of the water and revealing to all that He indeed was the Big Fish so often discussed in Judaism.

The Dove. The Holy Spirit descended from the Father to rest on the Son for His coming ministry. The dove is a symbol of peace, of gentleness, of purity, which are all reminders of the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was seen to come in the bodily form of a dove to light on the Lord. This was a spiritual anointing by God for Jesus’ mission as Messiah, the “Anointed One.” Just as the Spirit hovered over the waters at the first creation, the Spirit once again hovered over the waters of Jesus’ baptism, this time for the new creation as brought about by the life and ministry of Jesus.

The Trinity. This is the first time in the Gospels that the Holy Trinity is simultaneously present at a recorded event. There is no greater mystery in the Christian Faith than the Trinity, the Three-in-One, the One-in-Three. Every attempt at illustrating the Trinity in nature comes up short, and every time human logic and reason is used to understand the Trinity, it is not up to the task. Some Scriptures that refer to the Trinity are:

Matthew 28:19: “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

John 15:26: “But I will send you the Paraclete – the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me.” 

1 Corinthians 12:4-6: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. 

2 Corinthians 13:14: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 

Ephesians 2:18: “Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” 

1 Thessalonians 1:2-5: “We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ. We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true.” 

1 Peter 1:2: “God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.”