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Why was Jesus baptized?

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Epiphany was January 6th.  It marked the end of the Christmas season.  Between Christmas day and Epiphany are the 12 days of Christmas, which most know these days through the English carol.

The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek; it means “manifestation” or “appearance.”  It was used primarily in religious texts to describe the appearance of a god. Essentially, Epiphany as a holy-day is the celebration that God has become a human being in Jesus of Nazareth.  In the west the holiday is commonly associated with the arrival of the wise men to see the baby Jesus. In the east Christians link Epiphany to the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John the Immerser.  You may recall the heavenly voice said as Jesus came up from the water, “This is my Son whom I love, with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  In baptism God’s Son is revealed to the world.Jesus' baptism

When you read the Gospels, it is clear that John’s baptism is about repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  So the question arises: Why did Jesus need to repent?  Or what sin was Jesus guilty of that he needed to be forgiven?  In Matthew ‘s account of Jesus’ baptism we are told that John finds Jesus’ request to be baptized puzzling for he demurs and says “I need to be cleansed by You.  Why do You come to me?” (Matthew 3:13-14).   But Jesus convinces John to superintend his baptism.

So why was Jesus’ baptized?  The rest of the New Testament and Christian tradition claim that Jesus was without sin so he had no need to repent—in the traditional sense of the word—and be forgiven.

Let me suggest several reasons why Jesus went to John and insisted that the prophet dip him in the Jordan River.  First, Jesus wanted to identify with John.   When Jesus heard what John was doing in the desert—calling  people to change their ways and announcing the arrival of the kingdom of God—the Nazarene wanted to be there, to drink it all in,  for he sensed in his spirit that it may be his time.  Second, Jesus wanted to identify with the women and men who were coming to John in repentance and faith.  These were the “poor in spirit” Jesus would declared “blessed” in his Sermon on the Mount.  Put another way, Jesus wanted to identify with sinners.  Later, as controversies increase around him, he will be criticized for being a friend of sinners.  Third, Jesus’ baptism marks a turning point in his life.  The word translated “repentance” in most Bible translations means “a change of mind” (metanoia).  Now a true change of mind is always accompanied by a corresponding change of behavior.  After his baptism everything changes for Jesus.  He will leave behind the carpenter shop to become an itinerant preacher and healer.  He will leave behind his home in Nazareth to set up his headquarters in Capernaum.  He will leave behind a private life and become a most public person.  Jesus’ baptism is the turning point of his life.  Fourth, Jesus’ baptism foreshadows his coming death, burial, and resurrection.  Now I must admit that this last reason is more speculative, but it is certainly consistent with the story as it unfolds in the Gospel.  When Jesus submits to John’s baptism, because of who he is—God’s Son, the Anointed One–he gives baptism an entirely new focus.  Those who follow Jesus in baptism will do so as an act of initiation into the Christian faith; through baptism they participate in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection (Roman 6).  For Christ-believers baptism is the start of their new life; it is the turning point of their lives just as it was for Jesus.

There could be no better way to close out the Christmas season than with the baptism of new believers.  I know many churches wait until Easter to baptize, but it makes sense for churches to follow the rhythm of the Church calendar and celebrate Jesus’ baptism and his revelation to the world by participating in the events celebrated at Epiphany.

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4 Comments

  1. Jenny says:

    On a similar note: Do you think (for the same reasons you state here as to why Jesus was baptized) that he offered sacrifices?

  2. Mitch Brown says:

    Matthew 3:13-15

    John Baptizes Jesus

    13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

    15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

    Jesus declaration to his baptism is to fulfill “all righteousness”, Jesus is consecrating himself to do all the will of God. Jesus permitted himself to be baptized of John to fulfill all righteousness.

    Immediately after his baptism, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, to be tempted, to prove out, to test his obedience unto God and whether His consecration was going to stand.

    Jesus encountered a temptation that was peculiar to all three areas of His being, spirit, soul and body Had Jesus responded any other way that what He did, He would had been exercising His own authority in His own behalf, and He had committed Himself unto “All Righteousness”. He only lived to express the Father.

    After three years of being tempted, through sorrows and trials, He was able to present Himself as the sinless sacrifice to God at the cross. If there had been one incident where He failed to express God, He could had never been the Savior of the world.

  3. THE BAPTISM OF JOHN VERSUS CHRISTIAN BAPTISM BY STEVE FINNELL
    POINT: Those who reject the Scriptures concerning the purpose of Christian baptism, readily accepts the Biblical account as to the purpose of water baptism performed by John the Baptist.

    Christian Baptism: Men are told to believe in Jesus Christ, repent, and be baptized in water for the forgiveness of their sins and they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Mark 16:16 He who has believed and who has been baptized shall be saved..
    Acts 2:38…”Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    In Christian baptism men are clothed with Christ.
    Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

    John’s Baptism: Men are told to repent and be baptized in water for the forgiveness of their sins and to believe in Jesus who was to come. (The Holy Spirit had yet been given).

    Luke 3:3 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
    Acts 19:4 Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”

    Christian baptism follows believing in Jesus, and repentance, (repentance means to make the commitment to turn away from sin and turn toward God).

    The baptism of John followed repentance, (resolving to sin no more).

    Luke 7:30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.

    If the Pharisees and lawyers rejected God’s purpose by failing to be baptized by John the Baptist; what will be the consequences for those who reject the baptism commanded by Jesus?

    Did you ever notice that the proponents of the “faith only” doctrine no not say that “for” in Luke 3:3 means “because of”?

    John’s baptism was not because their sin were already forgiven. Christian baptism preached on the Day of Pentecost was not because their sins were already forgiven. (Acts 2:38)

    Luke 3:7 So he began saying to the crowds who were going to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come.

    John’s baptism in water was essential to spare them of the wrath to come.

    Christian baptism in water is essential to spare us all, of the wrath to come.(Mark 16:16…baptized shall be saved….)

    The baptism of John became obsolete on the Day of Pentecost.

    CHRISTIAN BAPTISM IS AVAILABLE UNTIL JESUS RETURNS.

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

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