Bible and notebook

Why was Jesus baptized?

That's the question we'll answer in this post.

Welcome to part 5 of my Biblical Baptism series. These posts build on each other. If you need to catch up, here are links to the previous posts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Is Scripture Descriptive or Prescriptive?
  3. Defining 'baptism'
  4. The Baptism of John

...

Okay, let's see what the Scriptures say about Jesus' baptism.

As I discussed in the introductory post, I originally wrote this series in an effort to address some of the key disagreements I have with Jeremy Myers' series on the subject.

In Jeremy's post entitled "Why Did Jesus Get Baptized?" he says:

"When John the Baptist came preaching and teaching about baptism, he was calling such a remnant to make a public declaration of their desire to follow God in righteousness and faithfulness. Those who came to be baptized by John publicly declared in front of the entire crowd that when they entered the water they were part of the corrupt Judaism, but when they came back up out of the water they ... were now part of the new order of God which would follow and obey Him in righteousness and justice. ... When Jesus came to be baptized by John in the Jordan, He was making a public declaration about which type of Judaism He thought was best. ...through baptism, Jesus was rejecting the corruption that had entered the religious and political spheres of Judaism, and was choosing to side with those who sought generosity, honesty, peace, and grace. ... Jesus wanted to be fully immersed and identified in the values of the Kingdom of God that John was preaching."

I agree with some of this.

The Jews of John's day were full of sin and had strayed far from the Law of Moses which governed their personal, spiritual and civil relationships.

As I noted in the previous post on John the Baptist's Baptism, Scripture plainly tells us that John's baptism was of repentance and forgiveness of sins, and that it came from GOD and not human origin.

So yes, when the repentant Jew was immersed into the water they were full of sin—though I won't go so far as to say they were part of any "corrupt form of Judaism"—and when they arose, they were washed clean.

Additionally, we need to be cautious when describing John's intentions, for he was not seeking to implement something new but rather to restore that which had been defaced.

I completely agree with Jeremy's description of John's purpose when he said:

"The baptism of John was not for the purpose of calling people away from Judaism... No, the baptism of John was a call to Jews to return to true and proper Judaism..."

Whether Jesus' purpose in being baptized was to make "a public declaration," I don't think we can be certain, because Scripture doesn't say this.

Likewise, while Jesus certainly supported and taught the "values of the Kingdom of God"—He is, after all, the very King of that kingdom—to state that this was Jesus' purpose in being baptized is complete speculation.

So, what does the Bible say about the reason for Jesus' baptism?

Not much, really.

Only Matthew gives us a few details prior to Jesus' baptism.

Mark and Luke simply record that Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit's descent upon Him as He arose from the water, and John doesn't discuss it at all.

Matthew wrote:

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 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. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
(Matt. 3:13-17 NIV)

From these verses, I believe we can definitively conclude three things regarding the reason for Jesus' baptism:

  1. It was the righteous choice for Jesus to be baptized.

    As we noted in "Baptism Series Part 4 - John's Baptism," Luke 7:30 says that the religious leaders "rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John."

  2. It was the Father's will for Jesus to be baptized by John.

    The Father and Holy Spirit both showed Their approval of Jesus' decision to be baptized by John. The Father spoke His loving approval of His Son. The Spirit showed His approval by descending upon Jesus. Jesus would later say that He only did those things that the Father commanded Him (John 7:16-18; 8:28; 14:24).

  3. As a fellow Jew—albeit One without sin—it was essential that Jesus completely obey GOD's instructions given to the Jews.

    GOD's purpose for the Jews was for them to obey the teachings of John the Baptist.

As tempting as it may be, we must resist the urge to go further than what Scripture tells us regarding the purpose of Jesus' baptism.

Instead, let's just accept what we've been given.

When it comes to understanding the Bible, it really is often that simple.

Download the series as a PDF ⬇️

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Read Part 6 here:

Continue to part 6 entitled "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit."

Tim Harris
Author: Tim Harris

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