Why did Jesus get baptized?

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Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:13-17 (NRSV)

Last week I came across a blog that listed out dozens of controversies regarding the truth of the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). It was written by a non-believer pointing out anything and everything he did not understand. As usual, the questions he posed were often very legitimate but the conclusions he came up with often not well thought out. For example, his question about why Jesus was baptized is a very legitmate one. Unfortunately, he discounted the reason provided in the text itself simply because he did not understand it, and then tried to use that as some kind of evidence against believing in the existence of Jesus.

So, instead of dismissing the reason Jesus gives in Matthew’s account, let’s look try to see what we can glean from it.

“Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”

The purpose, as Jesus states it, is to fulfill all righteousness. What does this mean?

N.T. Wright explains:

Ulrich Luz, disagrees and chooses to focus just on this verse itself. He writes:

To Luz, this baptism is a teaching by example, a teaching, which has far less to do with how much water was used or how it was applied and far more to do with the humility with which Jesus received it. It is Jesus showing us that He started His ministry with humble obedience and we should as well.

What do I think? I think it could be both. Matthew gives us this as the first words of Jesus in his gospel, not the last words. But they do reflect his last words when He commands the disciples to go and baptize, teaching everything that He had taught them. Both scholars, and I suspect the majority of them out there see this act of humble obedience as central to any interpretation we take from this passage. Is our baptism going to be the same as the one that Jesus experienced? Probably not, but we have been given the same Spirit from Him and we should walk in that same Spirit, not just in our baptism experience, but in our daily lives.

  • Have you humbled yourself enough to follow God in obedience, whether you think you need it or not… whether you fully understand it or not?
  • Are you teaching others, by your example, to follow God in obedience?

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