Why Was Jesus Baptized? True Bible Meaning

Updated Feb 01, 2024
Why Was Jesus Baptized? True Bible Meaning

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Theories abound on the reason that Jesus submitted to baptism. After all, if He was sinless, as the New Testament states, then His baptism must have held some ulterior motive. Perhaps John and Jesus plotted or conspired together to gain attention for Jesus's ministry; perhaps Jesus came as a representative of the sinful human race; perhaps He submitted to baptism as foreshadowing His death and resurrection, or perhaps His baptism made the act of baptism work for everyone else.

Each of these theories, however, misses a few key elements. For example, we have no evidence that John or Jesus spoke prior to the time of the baptism, even though they were cousins. John lived in the wilderness and only knew what sign to look for. But most of all, John's baptism was not primarily a baptism of repentance (the turning away from sin). Instead, the submersion in water identified the person with the coming Messianic Kingdom.

Those whom John baptized had already repented and sought to be joined to the coming Messiah and His reign. John, in fact, would only accept true obedience—even from the spiritual leaders of Israel. His mission was to prepare the way for Jesus to come, not to take away sin.

In fact, no ulterior motive is required. Jesus asked John to baptize Him simply as an act of obedience to God's purposes. God had given John the promise of a coming Messiah and the way to identify Him. Jesus fulfilled that promise. His baptism was simply the right thing at the right time: the last act of His private life.

The Meaning of Jesus' Baptism

In the Bible, the baptism of Jesus is an event that is significant in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The account of Jesus' baptism is found in all four Gospels: Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, and John 1:29-34. The specific details may vary slightly between the Gospels, but the core message remains consistent.

Key elements of the baptism of Jesus include:

John the Baptist: Jesus went to the Jordan River, where John the Baptist was baptizing people as a symbol of repentance and preparation for the coming of the Messiah. John initially hesitated to baptize Jesus, recognizing Jesus' superiority and feeling unworthy to baptize him.

The Holy Spirit: As Jesus came out of the water, the Gospels describe the heavens opening and the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove. This event symbolizes the anointing or empowerment of Jesus for his earthly ministry.

The Voice from Heaven: A voice from heaven, identified as the voice of God the Father, spoke, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased." This declaration emphasizes Jesus' divine sonship and approval by God.

The baptism of Jesus is considered a significant moment for several reasons:

Identification with Humanity: Jesus, though sinless, participated in the baptism of repentance as a way of identifying with humanity and demonstrating solidarity with those he came to save.

Anointing for Ministry: The descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus is seen as the anointing for his public ministry. This event marks the beginning of Jesus' earthly work, symbolizing the power and authority he would have in carrying out God's plan of salvation.

Revelation of the Trinity: The baptism provides a rare glimpse into the triune nature of God, with the simultaneous presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Overall, the baptism of Jesus is a pivotal moment in the Gospels, serving as an inauguration of his public ministry and revealing essential aspects of his identity and mission.

Baptism of Jesus Bible Story

The Bible story of Jesus' Baptism is mentioned in the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In this story, we see that Jesus approaches John and asks to be baptized. John had been proclaiming the Gospel and baptizing those who repent of their sin, wanting to make right their relationship with God and awaiting the coming Messiah. John is astonished that Jesus, the sinless Son of God, is requesting to be baptized as John felt like he should be the one asking Jesus to baptize him! 

The Baptism of Jesus: Bible Text

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.”

Jesus tells John that His baptism is "fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Jesus is baptized as a symbol of giving His will up to His Father and the beginning of His earthly ministry. When Jesus comes up out of the water, John sees the Spirit of God descending like a dove upon Jesus, and they hear God's voice from heaven say, "This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved."  Read the full scripture text of the Baptism of Jesus.

Why Did Jesus Have to Be Baptized?

Jesus and Baptism in the Bible

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:5 ESV

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:21

We were buried, therefore, with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

Adapted from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim (Book II, Chapter XII) and from the lecture notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

Image: Unsplash/Linus Nylund


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