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.”
John the Baptist was sent ahead of Jesus to let people know that the King was coming. His message in Matthew 3:2 was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” People were coming to be baptized by John in repentance and preparation for the coming King.
Baptism is an acknowledgment that my dependence is not on myself, my ways are broken, and my trust is in Jesus for forgiveness and new life. John becomes confused when Jesus arrives on the scene asking to be baptized. He asks Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?” Jesus had no reason to repent, as he was the Son of God without sin. Jesus answered him that “it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”
Let’s think through this a little more. Why would Jesus be baptized and what does that teach us about what we should do? Hebrews 4:15 teaches that Jesus is able to empathize with us even though he is without sin. Jesus understands us and his baptism identifies him with sinners like us. We don’t follow a God who is far off. We don’t serve a God who doesn’t understand. We serve a God whose name is “Immanuel” God with us (Matthew 1:23).
Baptism is an act that unites us with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We are saved when we put our trust in Jesus and what he accomplished in his life, death and resurrection. We are obedient when we acknowledge this by connecting ourselves to Jesus through baptism. This Lent, consider how much we need Jesus. How can you affirm your need for his life, death and resurrection?