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Why did Jesus have to be baptised?

By Chris Teague

BAPTISM     Readings Isaiah 42 v 1-9                Matthew 2 v 13 – 17

  1. Why did Jesus need to be baptised?

From reading the passage from Matthew, for me one question comes up :

Why did Jesus need to be baptised? I

f he is the Son of God, if he is without sin, why does he need to undertake a ritual that is designed to “Wash away sin”?

Even John tried to forbid Jesus saying “I have need to be baptised by you, and YOU come to me?”

So, why did Jesus receive baptism?

There are 4 reasons involved:

Why was Jesus baptised? To show His readiness to comply with all God’s righteous precepts(or rules).

Righteousness is a synonym for the Christian life. It is viewed as a relationship with God that is focused in obedience.

Baptism was a symbolic way of dedication to the ideas and demands of a new life of righteousness. Jesus identified himself with baptism’s aspirations for a better and holier life, and to dedicate himself publicly to his great life task. In doing so, he felt that he was fulfilling a divine demand and obligation.

Jesus acknowledged that the standard of life that John the Baptist demanded was also correct for himself and His followers, so He submitted to baptism.

Jesus regards His baptism among repentant Israel as a necessary step in His accomplishment of God’s purpose of salvation.

Jamieson, Faucett & Brown’s Bible commentary states that it is as if Jesus said “Thus I do pledge myself to the whole righteousness of the law, thus symbolically do I enter on and engage to fulfil it all.”

What is the result of being righteous? Isaiah – God will hold your hand and keep you, will give you for a covenant of the people, a light to the Gentiles. Matthew “I am well pleased.”

  • To identify with sinners:

Jesus consented to baptism. Though He needed no repentance and had no sins to confess, Jesus, by submitting to baptism took the sinners’ place. The symbolic act was an illustration of the greater baptism which he was to undergo at Calvary where He was to fulfil God’s purpose in sending Him into the world, by representing the sinner.

Though sinless, Jesus came to identify Himself with sinners. As Paul wrote to the Galatians : Chapter 4 v 4,5 :He(Jesus) would be “under the law that He might redeem those who were under the law”. If He could identify with sinners, he could help them. In consenting to baptism, Jesus was able to identify with those who fell short of God’s standards and needed forgiveness and become a model for others to follow.

  • Servanthood

Jesus was called of God , He learned obedience to the will of God, and preached it, and laid out himself into the service of God.

In our Old Testament reading from Isaiah 42 we see the characteristics and functions of Israel as the ideal servant of Jehovah. The servant’s office is to teach the world religion. V2,3 He will not be ostentatious nor unduly severe

V4 The servant’s work will be accompanied with difficulty which he will face and overcome.

Some have seen here the influence of the servant figure in Isaiah, who represents his people and bears their sins in Isaiah 53 v 11 “He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”

V16 The vision is spelt out in 3 key concepts – He is the Davidic Messiah, the Son of God, and the servant whose mission is to bear the sins of the people.

  • Revelation of His mission

All great things have a starting point. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”; William Webb Ellis picked up the ball in the game of soccer and ran with it, and that’s how the game of rugby began; Sir Elton John was destined to be a classical pianist until his mother brought home some rock ‘n roll records. In 1517, Martin Luther published his Ninety –Five Theses and this started Protestantism. All great things have a starting point.

Isaiah Chapter 42 Verse 1 – I have put my Spirit upon him.

Jesus ministry didn’t start with a block of teaching, or a spate of miracles, but with a simple act of humiliation; that of receiving baptism.

Baptism was a pivotal experience, not in that it made Jesus anything which He was not already, but in fact it launched Him on the mission for which He had long prepared, and defined that mission in terms of Old Testament expectation.

The vision of the baptism (Mt 3 v 16,17) was intended for Jesus Himself and neither for John nor the multitudes who were present. It was to Jesus that the heavens were opened, Jesus who saw the Spirit descending as a dove, and Jesus who the words were spoken to. “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”

The commentator Dummellow says “The baptism marked the point in His career when there first awoke in Him the complete consciousness of His divine Sonship and all the tremendous consequences which this unique relationship to God and man involved. There must have been a time when this consciousness first became fully explicit. He cannot have had it in unconscious infancy, or as a young child. Even as a boy He cannot have possessed it completely. He grew in knowledge of things human and divine and one of the things in knowledge of which He grew was the awful mystery of His own divine – human personality. He must have always been aware of the difference between Himself and other men, of His unique character and His communion with God, and of the greatness of the mission which lay before Him, but need not have known it all. At baptism, the mystery of His nature was drawn aside by an inward revelation, and soon the outward testimony of miracles confirmed the inward voice had declared.”

Jesus chose to identify Himself with the revival movement it had created, to enrol as a member of the purified and prepared people of God rather than for any need for forgiveness.

Those are the reasons for Jesus to accept baptism  Righteousness, Identifying with sinners, servanthood, and the start to his mission.

  1. What does that mean for us today?
  2. We are called to be righteous

Righteousness involves humbling ourselves before God.

Humility – Christ abased Himself to be baptised by John. We too are called to be humble. We are called to recognise that we aren’t perfect, that we are human, that we commit sin and fall short of God’s standards. We are called to throw ourselves at the feet of a merciful God.

  • We are called to identify with others in the community.  

Illustration – C40 God’s email

That way we don’t become self-righteous as did the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. We see ourselves as just the same as others in that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness from God.

John said he needed to be baptised by Jesus. He recognised his own sin and with humility stated his need for forgiveness. We too must humble ourselves and recognise our humanity when serving others.

  • We are called to be servants

Jesus had to travel from Galillee to Jordan to be baptised – a fair distance ( about 80km -Christchurch to Ashburton – no cars in those days, walking only). He had to make an effort – toil and pain. We should not expect to not suffer in choosing to be a servant or choosing righteousness.

  • Starting our mission: What is our mission? Our call to be servants in the community

Crossway mission statement last sentence “to serve others with love, compassion and understanding.”

Baptism was a launching pad for Jesus ministry

Our new building should be a launching pad for our ministry to the community

The Church represents her Lord, and in particular, men and women of true faith could be ministers in the name of Jehovah to the world in its blindness and need, to bring love and enlightenment. Illustration – A8 Mother Teresa quote

(Spread love everywhere you go; first in your own home. Give LOVE to your children, to your wife, to your husband, to your next- door neighbour. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better or happier. Be the living expression of God’s love. Show kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile.)

Thirty years spent were in privacy at Nazareth for Jesus, and now with baptism, He launches His public career. Crossway Community Church now after nine years in the “wilderness” are at the stage of launching our outreach.

“It is not what you are or what you have been that God looks at with His merciful eyes, but what you desire to be.” (from the Cloud of the unknowing – an anonymous work of Christian mysticism 14th century.)

Galatians 6 v 10  – As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all people, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Charity begins at home)

Missionary Nancy Cockrell writes “It was God’s plan all along to bring you here to serve him, by using your gifts to minister to others – for such a time as this. He has given you the grace to reflect the love and character of Christ, to be a light in a darkened world – for such a time as this. You have a unique place of service in God’s Kingdom, touching lives as only you can do – for such a time as this.” So here’s the question : is God telling you today – your time has come? (Word for Today Fr 6 Dec 2019)

Thanks to Vera for pointing me to a book called How to be a Bad Christian and a better human being” written by David Tomlinson.

Bad Christian – see scanned pages!(Pages 177 “The way that Jesus went about…” to 179 plus hand written notes)

Note that the butterfly effect is what the prophet Isaiah prophesied in Jesus in verses 2 and 3 of our reading “ He shall not cry, nor lift up nor cause his voice to be heard in the street, a bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench, “. He shall be humble and un-assuming.

We are called to be and do the same.

Beat your wings my friends, this is a quiet revolution.