Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why did Jesus let John Baptize Him?

Matthew 3:13-17 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. (14) But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" (15) But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him. (16) After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, (17) and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

Why did Jesus let John Baptize Him?
John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. Jesus had no sin that He needed to repent of. John recognized Jesus' holiness. "I am not fit to remove His sandals". John actually tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized. If He is not a sinner then what is the point?

It seems that answer to these questions are found both in the immediate context and in the light of Jesus' overall missional purpose.
In the context we have religious leaders who are sinners but either refuse or are denied baptism because of the unwillingness to humble themselves and allow God to bring forth real fruit in their lives (Matthew 3:7-9). Jesus would later confront these leaders about John's baptism. Matt 21:25-26. "'The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men'? And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, 'If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Then why did you not believe him?' (26) 'But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet."
Instead of humbly admitting what they were (sinners), these leaders put themselves above other people. They missed the point of true spiritual leadership and they could not lead because in all actuality they feared men more than God.
In contrast, Jesus who was not a sinner identifies Himself with sinners. He doesn't fear people, He loves them. His motivation is to "fulfill all righteousness" (please the father).
overall missional purpose
Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Jesus set us free by His death on the cross. Jesus baptism is a metaphorical picture of His earthly ministry. In Romans we are told that our Baptism is an identification with Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Jesus came, identified Himself with the lowly, denied himself, and gave up His life. Paul put it this way.
Philippians 2:5-9 "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, (6) who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, (7) but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (8) Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (9) For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name"
The one who had no need of baptism submitted and was exulted. Those who were in desperate need of repentance exulted themselves and were brought low.
In your area of influence are you more like the religious leaders or Jesus?
When someone humbles themselves, is that a strength or weakness?
What does this mean for your own Baptism? How does the life you live reflect on your baptism?
Are there other issues in this text you would like to discuss?


  1. Great post! There is one commonality that unites all humanity in brotherhood and sisterhood, and that is sin. But for those who know Jesus we have a new bond, and that is forgiveness. Jesus' life was about laying the example for us to follw, which more than anything was a life of humility. In light of the forgiveness that John's Baptism supplied, where do we find such public acts of remorse and forgiveness today? Is it still in Baptism, or can the church provide something more?

  2. What the church can offer is the encouragement to live out a baptized life (dying with Christ and rising with Him). If a church is regularly baptizing people, the entire congregation can be asked to renew or reflect on their own baptismal vows.
    Perhaps communion is another place for this need to be met.