John clearly invited all people to be baptized as a sign of repentance from sin. In our lives, it is an acknowledgment that Jesus Christ is our Lord, and that we put off our old way of living for the new filled with the Holy Spirit.
Baptism throughout the ages has signified a repentance from sin, and John taught on this baptizing many. However, Jesus was without sin… so what did He have to repent for?
Why Get Baptized, Then?
John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”Matthew 3:14
In John 1:29, we see John recognizing Jesus as Savior, and someone who came for the remission of sins. It was a surprise to John when Jesus requests to be baptized because Jesus was without sin. Yet Jesus went ahead with it.
One of the theories was that it was to fulfill the prophesy in Isaiah 40:3 which is mentioned again in Matthew 3:3 which references John the Baptist as “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness”, and who prepared the way of the Lord. It was through the baptism that Jesus began his ministry.
Another thought is that since Jesus was fully man and fully spirit, He experienced emotions just as everyone else does. Since He commanded His disciples to “go out to the nations and baptize them in the name of Father, of the Son, and the Holy Spirit”, it would make sense for Him to be baptized as well.
But What Do We Really Know? Most Of This Is Speculation?
It is interesting to note that John baptized for the remission on sins, but mentions Jesus as the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. So up until Jesus’ death, baptism was only for the remission of sins. The only other place we see the Holy Spirit descend on anyone is in the Upper Room after Jesus is taken into Heaven. This is when the Holy Spirit is given to all- not just a few.
It is interesting to examine what precedes Jesus’ baptism. We read in Matthew 3 that he admonishes the Pharisees and Sadducees who he says soothe themselves of their salvation by claiming that Abraham as their father assures them of salvation- of which it does not. He calls out their sense of false assurance of their salvation.
He also says that repentance is turning from the former lifestyle of sin and having a change of heart- of which they were not prepared to do.
Additionally, John in his anger tells the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus will ” clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12) implying that Jesus will sift through those around Him and gathering His people to Him. Those such as the Pharisees and Sadducees will be burned up in Hell (unquenchable fire) because God has judged their heart.
When it comes to John baptizing Jesus, as mentioned, he protests until Jesus says, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15).
When Jesus is baptized, we see Heaven open up, a dove (Holy Spirit) descend on Jesus, and God’s voice saying that He is well pleased. It is the first time that the trinity is actually seen in one place.
Why Was God Well Pleased?
We see in later chapters the importance of baptism not only for the remission of sins, but for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus experienced this marking the way for the beginning of His ministry. Up until then, we hear him telling Mary that His time had not yet come (during the wedding in Cana). We see only one miracle up until then.
However, when the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus, we see the start of the ministry wherein Jesus does nothing apart from the Father. Previous to the baptism, we see Jesus engaged in scriptural discussions referencing God as His Father, but this time period appears to be more of a training ground.
God was well pleased probably because Jesus obeyed. Jesus was lead of God to partake in baptism- an exercise He brought to His disciples. Jesus could have refused as it wasn’t necessary for Him to ask forgiveness for His sins as He didn’t have any. But the outward display of baptism is a celebration wherein you formally announce that you belong to God.
So why was Jesus baptized? You can’t urge others of the importance of baptism unless you, yourself have been baptized. Even though it wasn’t for the remission of sins, it was so that the Holy Spirit could descend on Jesus so that He could begin His ministry. We know that miracles are performed through the Holy Spirit and through the name of Jesus. Perhaps the reason that Jesus’ ministry began at that time was because it was at that moment that He was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Or maybe it’s a little bit of all the theories combined.