Christ’s Baptism

By Pastor David M. Choi

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John [the Baptist], 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. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. -Matthew 3:13-17

This Easter we will be celebrating six baptisms. Indeed, for Christians, there is no better way of celebrating Jesus’ resurrection victory over sin and death than by experiencing its redemptive action afresh through those who are being baptized. But whether as baptismal participant or baptismal observer, if we are to be attune to the work of God’s Spirit, we should not go into that day unprepared. And so, we turn our attention to Jesus’ baptism, to see how it sets the Spirit’s agenda for the baptism of every believer.

To be sure, Jesus does not submit to baptism for the same reasons you and I submit to it. He is sinless; we are not. This is made plain by John’s remark: “I need to be baptized by you [Jesus], and do you come to me?” Nonetheless, Jesus consents, so that by His baptism He would “fulfill all righteousness,” and confer upon every subsequent baptism the covenantal benefits of forgiveness and grace, that is, by way of saving faith. Disciples, therefore, may receive God’s forgiveness and grace through baptism because Jesus made the reception of such things possible through His baptism.

Christ’s baptism at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, California.

Notice then how Jesus demonstrates the manner in which we are to approach baptism. First, Jesus goes to where John is, instead of having John come to where He is. This prefigures what it would mean for His disciples to follow after Him. That is, if followers are to receive new life in Christ, they must categorically reject and leave behind their life of sin, and go out to where He is. For Jesus did not come to affirm us in our sin, but rather He came to bring us out of sin by condemning sin. Second, though He is without sin, Jesus does not baptize Himself. John is required to do it for Him. By this, Jesus reveals how utterly incapable we are of cleansing ourselves from sin. We can only be cleansed by receiving it from God at the hands of another. Baptism, therefore, is undoubtedly a humiliating act, since it destroys our sinful presumption that we are capable of saving ourselves. It humbles us into the bitter recognition that there is only One who can truly save.

Immediately after His baptism, the gospel writer tells us that “the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'” For those who unite themselves to Christ in this manner – namely, through baptism – they are promised a similar anointing of the Holy Spirit. That the Spirit will not only give them the ability to hear God the Father call them His own, but will give them the supernatural assurance of it also. As Rowan Williams puts it, “And that is why, as we come up out of the waters of baptism with Jesus, we hear what He hears: ‘This is my son, this is my daughter, this is the one who has the right to call me Father.’ The Spirit… is always giving us the power to call God Father…”

We see how Jesus sets for us the path we must follow, as His life and death mark the reality of what His baptism previously foreshadowed. Through baptism, we now join Him in death by dying to sin, and we now join Him in life as we are raised to God by the power of His resurrection. This is what Jesus meant by saying in Matthew 16:25 that “whoever loses his [or her] life for my sake will find it.”

Thus, as we approach Easter Sunday, let us prepare by praying for these things. First and foremost, let us thank God for giving us His Son – for His life, death, and resurrection – and for giving us the sacramental means to participate in Christ’s life. Second, let us thank God for His redemptive work in the lives of our current baptismal candidates. Praise God for His great mercy in allowing them to reject a life of sin for a life of eternal glory. Third, let us ask God to mightily use the witness of these impending baptisms to bless His church: that the baptized would be encouraged; that those about to be would be comforted; and that those not yet called would be moved and inspired.

10 thoughts on “Christ’s Baptism

    1. Thanks, Niki. I think they could specifically use prayers right now for the personal testimonies they are writing! (PD)

  1. I feel like this was touched on in the junior high class last Sunday. Yeah, I think that understanding the meaning of baptism is really important when considering baptism; baptism is a reminder of how Jesus washed away our sins and Jesus’s resurrection. Again; I think it’s crucial that we understand what we’re doing when we get baptized, and what the meaning behind the baptism is (and I guess that kind of goes for believing in Christ in general). I don’t think this applies to any of the baptismal candidates, but some people get baptized as soon as they are able to (I think it used to be at age 13 in our church; they might have bumped it down to 12), and I don’t particularly like that because it makes me uncertain about whether they understand what they’re doing or not, though of course it’s not my place to judge.
    I’m really happy for the baptismal candidates and that they’ve made this decision, and I look forward to watching the baptismal ceremony this Easter.

    1. Gabby, that’s a fair and valid point. We should not only seek to understand the deeper significance of baptism, but should also make sure that it is indeed a genuine response of faith to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (PD)

  2. I appreciate how Jesus sets an example for believers in all things, not only baptism. He gives us an idea about how Christians are supposed to act, so we may become like Jesus, and become “Christian” (little Christ).

  3. I appreciate that Jesus set an example for Christians (not just in baptism), so that we may be like Christ, or become “Christian” (little Christ).

    1. That’s right, Sophia! Jesus shows us how to live, as He lived the life we, sinners, never could, but are now called to. (PD)

  4. This helps reinforce what I’ve learned in Baptismal Classes. Baptism is not only a sacrament created by God to signify the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, but it’s also the adoption into God’s holy kingdom. If Jesus Christ Himself was baptized, how could I, a broken and sinful person, not be? I’ve recently been blessed to have an opportunity to get baptized, and because I have personally experienced God’s gift of love, there’s no reason to wait to get baptized. I also have reflected from the devotion that Baptism is the next step as a follower of Jesus. Baptism lets you have a closer relationship with Him, as you have rejected and have left your life of sin.

    1. Allen, your reflection is not only insightful, but it’s also very encouraging, that you have responded to God’s call on your life, and have chosen to know nothing else except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (PD)

  5. When Jesus was baptized in Mathew 3, there were many significances in this. First, Jesus didn’t baptize John, but instead, had John baptize him. Jesus wanted to make a few points by doing this. When we are baptized, it is usually because we have received faith, and are baptized so that our sins were forgiven, but in Jesus’ case, he never sinned, therefore, he needn’t be baptized for that reason. By being baptized by John, he set a path for other believers, but also that he joined with those who believed and were baptized by John in Israel. Second, by being baptized by John, he proved to others that John wasn’t making anything up, He confirmed the legitimacy of John’s ministry in the desert.

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