Saturday, January 12, 2013

What Happened When Jesus Was Baptized?

Many churches take this time after Epiphany to celebrate the baptism of Jesus.  All four gospels refer to our Lord’s baptism, but I would like to use the account found in Matthew 3:13-17.

Jesus' Baptism
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.  But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”  Then John consented.

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 lighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Several important things happened when Jesus was baptized.  First, God announced to everyone that Jesus is his son, that he loves Jesus, and that he is pleased with him.  Included is the fact that the Spirit of God descended from heaven and landed on Jesus.

Second, John the Baptist announced to everyone that Jesus is the Messiah and that his ministry is beginning.  John 1:31-34 supports this when John says, “I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”  Then John gave this testimony:  “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.  I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’  I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

Third, through baptism Jesus identified completely with our sin and failure, even though he was pure and did not need to repent.  This is how he became our substitute.  This gift to us from God is reemphasized in 2 Corinthians 5:21; God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Finally, through his baptism Jesus set an example for all his followers:  that we should repent and be baptized.

As each of us remembers our own baptism, we should also remember that Jesus, who was without sin, became our substitute and took on the pain that is rightfully ours, so that we can stand sinless before God and live with him throughout eternity.