Matt 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23; John 1:29-34
Jesus is not one to do things as we might expect. The truth is there are some things Jesus says and does that are quite unexpected. One such thing is his coming to John to be baptized. We are told that men and women were coming to John to baptized by him in the Jordan. And his baptism was one of repentance. Those coming to John were seeking to return their hearts to God, to seek him in repentance. John had a very fruitful ministry and was no doubt very busy teaching on the kingdom of God and on repentance. Its not hard to image his surprise when he sees Jesus coming to him to be baptized. We might expect Jesus to come and approve. We might even expect Jesus to join John in teaching and baptizing. But what Jesus did was quite unexpected.
Jesus wanted to be baptized by John. Even John himself was perplexed by Jesus’ request. Why would the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world need to repent himself? Matthew tells us that John even tried to resist saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matt 3:14). But Jesus responded and said that he needed to be baptized in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was coming to be baptized because it was what God desired for him to do. It was to fulfill what is right or pleasing to God. But why would Jesus need to be baptized to please God? If he is not coming to repent of his own sin – which he by no means is – then what does his baptism mean?
First, Jesus’ baptism was a way of identifying with his people. He wasn’t baptized because he need to repent of his own sins. He was baptized as a way of joining with the people of Israel who were, as a corporate whole, turning to God. This was the purpose of John’s ministry – to prepare the hearts of Israel for the coming of the Lord. And Jesus, who is that coming Lord, joins his people and identifies himself with them.
Second, Jesus’ baptism was in a sense his coronation ceremony. All four gospels tell us that when Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit came upon him like a dove. What exactly this looked like is unclear. But what is clear is that Jesus was being anointed to do the work of God’s Messiah. This scene was pictured in the Old Testament. At the coronation of the king, the priest would anoint them with oil, an act that signifed the anointing of God’s Spirit upon them. Every anointed king in the Old Testament was pointing to the One who would come. And now the Spirit has come upon Jesus and the Father has testified to fact that Jesus is his beloved Son, the true King (Psalm 2). Jesus is now ready to do the work for which he was sent. The Christ is now ready for his ministry.