Why was Jesus Baptized?

October 30 was a special day for me: I am performed my first baptism. In fact, I am baptized three amazing ladies. As I prepared for that day, I spent some time studying the baptism of Jesus. It is reported in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and alluded to in John’s gospel. An often-asked question is: “Why did Jesus need to be baptized?” It’s a great question. Before we look at possible answers, let’s look at how the event is reported.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11 (NIV)

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  Luke 3: 21-23 (NIV)

We find the most complete report in Matthew:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, 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, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17 (NIV)

Matthew reports that even John the Baptist was puzzled by Jesus’ request to be baptized. John logically assumed Jesus would baptize him. We who have accepted Christ into our lives are to be baptized as a public acknowledgment of that acceptance, acknowledging we need His forgiveness for our sins. Jesus needs to accept Himself or be forgiven of any sin. Here are three theories I found in my research:

  1. To relate to sinful humanity. He came to save (us). Jesus could have stood on the shore and commanded people to repent and be baptized. Instead, He is baptized as a kind of “He’s one of us” display.
  2. John is legit. Jesus’ baptism confirmed legitimacy upon John’s ministry.
  3. The anointing of the Spirit inaugurates Jesus into public ministry. Jesus experienced manifestations of God the Father and the Holy Spirit. All three members of the Trinity manifest at an event gives a lot of credibility to this theory.

Baptism Sunday was an amazing day. The Holy Spirit was active. I will write about it in the next edition of this blog.

I will be blessed to perform a baptism in a county jail thismonth. As I meet and discuss this with the inmate, the room lights up as though it were struck by lightning. While the Spirit “alighted” on Jesus at His baptism, He certainly didn’t need to receive the Spirit. It is a blessing beyond measure to see four people who have received the Spirit bursting with excitement to let everyone know about it.

— Pastor Jerry Bader

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