This Tuesday, we are gathering to study the manifestations of Jesus as God continuing with the story of the Baptism of Jesus found in Mark 1:2-11, Matt. 3:1-17, Luke 3:1-22, and John 1:19-34. (We will focus on Matthew’s version on Tuesday.) As we sing in verse 2 of our hymn: “Manifest at Jordan’s stream/Prophet, Priest, and King supreme.”
John did not invent baptism. Ritual cleansing, similar to baptism, goes back to various places within Torah and within later Jewish tradition. This ritual cleansing is called a mikveh and is required from the most mundane, such as washing food utensils, to the deeply spiritual, such as undergoing conversion to Judaism.
On Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Jewish tradition is for a person to immerse themselves in a mikveh as both a means and a sign that they have repented of their sins and have become a new person. This tradition is very similar to what the Scriptures tell us about John. John was preaching that the people of Judea should repent of their sins, and he was washing them in the Jordan as both a means and a sign of their repentance. Even the Jewish religious leaders came to John to participate in his cleansing. Matt. 3:1-12
The question, however, is why does Jesus need to be baptized? As Christians, we believe that Jesus was without sin and was Divine. Why would Jesus need to repent and be ritually cleansed? According to Matthew, John asks the same question. Matt. 3:14. Jesus responds to John’s question (and ours) by stating “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” v.15. (This answer by Jesus is similar to his teaching soon thereafter in the Sermon on the Mount that “I have not come to abolish [the Law and the Prophets] but to fulfill them.” Matt. 5:17.)
First, we can see Jesus’ baptism as his fulfilling his role as the obedient Son of God by practicing the required righteousness of submitting to God’s will to repent. Throughout his ministry, Jesus practiced and taught that we all must be humble and obedient to God. This humility and obedience begins at the Baptism and it ends at the Cross. See, Phil. 2:8. Jesus is our example to follow.
Another way of looking at Jesus’ baptism is that, in a deep metaphysical sense, he also needed to be baptized. As Christians, we assert that Jesus was both fully Divine and fully Human. We believe that Jesus took on our human nature that had fallen through Adam. Rom. 6:12-21. Therefore, at his baptism, the Human is baptized so that all of humanity may participate in the Divinity. Jesus is baptized to save Adam and to all to whom the consequences of Adam’s sin had spread. As Paul writes, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Rom. 5:19. Therefore, when we read about Jesus’ baptism, we are reminded that through Christ, we too have been restored to a right relationship with God.
A third reason, that Jesus needed to be baptized was to fulfill John’s mission. John’s purpose was “to prepare the way of the Lord.” Matt. 3:3. The Baptism completes this mission. At the Baptism Jesus is recognized as the Son of God and his ministry begins. The Baptism must take place so that John’s mission can be completed.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is meatloaf. Discussion about 6:45. Compline at 8. Hope to see you here!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! first, cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, so that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity”Matthew 20:25-28