"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, 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 thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he consented." - Matthew 3:13-15, ESV
John the Baptist was at the Jordan River baptizing people with a baptism of repentance. So, when Jesus shows up to be baptized, John asks Him a very good question: "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” In other words, why would Jesus, the Sinless One, need to be baptized by John? He didn't need to repent, did he? No. Jesus did not say that He needed to repent, because He had never sinned and would never sin. So, why the baptism?
1. Jesus was baptized to fully identify with us. He was baptized for us, just as He did everything else for us. To be in our place as our substitute Savior, He needed to be baptized.
2. Jesus was baptized as a consecration for His earthly ministry as Messiah. Before He began His earthly ministry as the Messiah, Jesus had to be set apart for the work. Baptism with water was one way to consecrate, or set apart, someone for a ministry calling.
3. Jesus was baptized as an anointing to be the Messiah, or Christ. "Messiah" means "anointed One" and Jesus was and is our Messiah, our anointed Prophet, Priest and King. Each of these three offices in the Old Testament was an anointed office, and Jesus came as the perfect fulfillment of all three. While John baptized Him with water, God the Father baptized, or anointed, Him with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit descending on Him like a dove is the real key to understand what is happening. As Peter would teach Cornelius and his household later in Acts 10:37-38, "...you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him." (ESV, emphasis added)
In God's anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit, we get a wonderful picture of the Trinity: God the Father sends God the Holy Spirit to anoint God the Son. The Father is the Sender, the Son is the Sent, and the Holy Spirit is the Power.
Jason Van Bemmel is Senior Pastor of Forest Hill Presbyterian Church, and is the accompanying pastor for the 95.1 SHINE-FM Holy Land Tour.