Why did Jesus get baptized? Have you ever wondered why the sinless Son of God, participated in John the Baptist’s baptism of repentance, if there was no need of repentance? When Jesus approaches John, he states, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John knew Jesus to be without sin, but as John 1:29-34 reveals, even John did not yet know Jesus as the Messiah for which he was preparing the people. Hear John again: “I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
So, we get some insight as to why Jesus was baptized; to be revealed to John as Messiah. We have another helpful understanding, too. John’s baptism of repentance helped to “reveal to Israel” that Jesus is Messiah. When many came seeking to repent, their hearts burned for a righteousness to fill that space that sin had taken in their lives. Perhaps some of them thought of Jeremiah 23:5-6, of the promised Messiah Who would be the righteous Branch, and who be the Lord [their] righteousness. Those who truly sought true Messiah sought a new righteousness, a righteousness that would come from God. And the apostle Paul gives us all hope when he declares in Romans 3:21 that a righteousness apart from the law has come through Jesus. In the next verse tells us how we receive this new righteousness; through faith in Jesus Christ. A new righteousness, the power to live a God-pleasing life, comes through Jesus.
But, back to Christ’s baptism. There is more that Christ explains. In Matthew 3:15, instructs John to baptize Him in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” The word there for “fulfill” means to completely fill up. Jesus, the obedient Son of God, will obey His Father’s will all the way to the Cross. In this, righteousness is filled up because the Sinless Son could be the only acceptable sacrifice for sin, extinguishing God’s wrath, and opening to door to “full” righteousness for all who believe on Him. When you and I believed on Jesus Messiah, we received not just some righteousness, but we had all our filthy rags erased in a new nature we received. How are we completely righteous before God? We follow by faith the Righteous One, Whose life made that righteousness accessible to us. We are acceptable to God (and the only way to be acceptable to holy God is in Christ’s righteousness) because Jesus Messiah made Himself acceptable to God.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21. And Isaiah 53:11, “by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous.”
So, that is why Jesus was baptized; to fulfill all righteousness, both as obedient Son, and sinless Savior. How do we respond? First, there is no acceptable state before God other than in Christ’s righteousness. Want to be acceptable to God? Receive Christ, the One who died, righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). Second, do you see the great hope in repentance? Why are we so stubborn about repentance if we know we can truly have the righteousness of God? Even 1 John 1:10 reminds us that we truly can be cleansed. Righteousness is not a chore- it is a free gift, offered by gracious God. Stop beating yourself up, stop trying to play make-up with God, and rest again in the perfect standing Christ offers all of us.
Finally, see the submission of our Savior. Christ, in His perfect righteousness, had a single-minded heart to please God and do His will. Remember what happens right after Jesus rises from the water? The heavens open up, and God declares, “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased!” We too, when we seek first God’s kingdom, His righteousness, are pleasing to our Heavenly Father.
Prayer- “Father, thank you for the example of Jesus in baptism. Thank you for righteousness, true righteousness, coming to all who repent and accept Christ as Savior. Thank you for the relational picture of the love You have for Your Son, Jesus, in His baptism. I too want to hear you, Father, say, ‘This is my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”