As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:10-11)
John the Baptist protested when Jesus asked him to perform His baptism. How could the messenger who had been sent in the spirit of Elijah allow the Son of God to be baptized for “repentance?” And how could he, who was not fit to untie the Son’s sandals, do it?
It is important to recognize, while repentance and confession was a part of John the Baptist’s baptism, the point of His message was “prepare.”
Incidentally, if I might take a slight detour…the baptism of repentance performed by John the Baptist had the same form as the baptism practiced later in the church, but not the same purpose. The baptism that took place in the church was after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and was the point at which believers identified with Jesus in the same. In other words, as Jesus had died for sin and risen, Christian baptism represented the crucifying of one’s personal sins and one’s resurrection to a new life (Romans 6). The baptism of John the Baptist didn’t carry this significance.
Now, back to the message of “prepare”… John was preparing the hearts of those who came to confess and repent. He was making the path straight for the Savior to enter their lives.
While Jesus did not need to confess or repent, He did need to prepare. He had come to give His life as a substitute for sinful humanity, and His baptism was His announcement to the world that He was going to be faithful to His Father’s plan.
This is why the Spirit descended like a dove and God said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” We must not miss what Jesus was doing. He was putting aside all pride and completely surrendering self for our sakes. He didn’t have to do this, but He did so because of His undying love for us, and His commitment to seek and save the lost.
While Jesus didn’t need to repent, and while He never participated in what we call “Christian baptism” (though He did command it – Matthew 28:19-20/Acts 2:38), there is one way in which we can relate to what He did.
Jesus’ baptism was a demonstration of humility. I believe this is why He told John He was doing it to “fulfill all righteousness.” Being right with God involves submitting to His will, even when it leads down a path that will ultimately cause us pain.
Therefore, we are following the example of Jesus anytime we humble ourselves and do something He has commanded. The fact He has asked us to do it is enough. I am not saying we blindly follow His commands without trying to understand the “why” behind them. But ultimately, even when we don’t understand every “why”, we must obey. This goes for Christian baptism, or a number of other commands Jesus gave us (such as loving our enemies, settling disputes with others one-on-one, etc.).
What is standing in your way of doing what Christ has asked today?
Dear God, help me with my battle with pride. In Jesus’ name, Amen.