Matthew 3; Isaiah 53
Introduction: Probably everyone in this room today at least has a good of idea of the significance of water baptism.
Two good articles for your research / consideration: Got Questions – https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-baptized.html
And John Piper – https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/why-was-jesus-baptized
At first glance, it seems that Jesus’ baptism has no purpose at all. John’s baptism was the baptism of repentance (Matthew 3:11), but Jesus was sinless and had no need of repentance. Even John was taken aback at Jesus’ coming to him.
John recognized his own sin and was aware that he, a sinful man in need of repentance himself, was unfit to baptize the spotless Lamb of God: “I need to be baptized by You and You are coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14). Jesus replied that it should be done because “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).
For a brief synopsis of why Jesus was baptized here we go:
- Jesus had read Isaiah 53. Indeed, Isaiah 53 was his life mission. There are seven major references from the Book of Isaiah in the NT.
And here is what he read in 53:11. Isaiah 53:11, “By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous.” The righteous one will cause many to be counted righteous.
- Now, Jesus comes into that situation and John says to him: Whoa. “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me [to be baptized]?” (Matthew 3:14). In other words, he makes crystal clear that Jesus does not need this baptism. He does not need to repent. He does not need to confess any sins. So why are you here?
“All the righteousness that would be required of men before the court of God Jesus performed.”
- Jesus gives one sentence in answer, and it is massively important. He says, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). It is fitting. That is why he is doing it. It is fitting. Well, what is fitting? Fulfilling all righteousness is fitting.
- Evidently, Jesus saw his life as the fulfillment of all righteousness. The fact that participating in a baptism of repentance even though he had no sins to repent of is part of that shows that the righteousness he wanted to fulfill was the righteousness required not of himself, but of every sinful man.
3. Jesus insisted on being baptized is that this new people who were being gathered by John the Baptist on the basis of repentance and faith, not on the basis of Jewishness, would need to be justified. They are not, like the Pharisees, depending on their ethnicity or their religious pedigree by saying, “We have Abraham as our father.”
4. Jesus insisted on being baptized is that this new people who were being gathered by John the Baptist on the basis of repentance and faith, not on the basis of Jewishness, would need to be justified.
Question: But have you ever wondered why “Why Jesus was baptized? Why was Jesus’ baptism important?” – [Got Questions article]
There are several reasons why it was fitting for John to baptize Jesus at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
- Jesus was about to embark on His great work, and it was appropriate that He be recognized publicly by His forerunner. John was the “voice crying in the wilderness” prophesied by Isaiah, calling people to repentance in preparation for their Messiah (Isaiah 40:3). By baptizing Him, John was declaring to all that here was the One they had been waiting for, the Son of God, the One he had predicted would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).
2. Jesus’ baptism by John takes on an added dimension when we consider that John was of the tribe of Levi and a direct descendant of Aaron. Luke specifies that both of John’s parents were of the Aaronic priestly line (Luke 1:5). One of the duties of the priests in the Old Testament was to present the sacrifices before the Lord. John the Baptist’s baptism of Jesus could be seen as a priestly presentation of the Ultimate Sacrifice. John’s words the day after the baptism have a decidedly priestly air: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
3. Jesus’ baptism also showed that He identified with sinners. His baptism symbolized the sinners’ baptism into the righteousness of Christ, dying with Him and rising free from sin and able to walk in the newness of life. His perfect righteousness would fulfill all the requirements of the Law for sinners who could never hope to do so on their own. When John hesitated to baptize the sinless Son of God, Jesus replied that it was proper to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). By this He alluded to the righteousness that He provides to all who come to Him to exchange their sin for His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
4. In addition, Jesus’ coming to John showed His approval of John’s baptism, bearing witness to it, that it was from heaven and approved by God. This would be important in the future when others would begin to doubt John’s authority, particularly after his arrest by Herod (Matthew 14:3-11).
5. Perhaps most importantly, the occasion of the public baptism recorded for all future generations the perfect embodiment of the triune God revealed in glory from heaven. The testimony directly from heaven of the Father’s pleasure with the Son and the descending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus (Matthew 3:16-17) is a beautiful picture of the trinitarian nature of God. It also depicts the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit in the salvation of those Jesus came to save. The Father loves the elect from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4); He sends His Son to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10); and the Spirit convicts of sin (John 16:8) and draws the believer to the Father through the Son. All the glorious truth of the mercy of God through Jesus Christ is on display at His baptism.
The fullest description of the baptism of Jesus is given in Matthew 3. So let’s let Matthew guide us in answering the question: Why did Jesus insist on being baptized by John? There are at least two things that Matthew makes plain about John’s baptism which are relevant for why Jesus would insist on submitting to this baptism.
First, Matthew 3:6 says that people were coming to be baptized confessing their sins. And then he quotes John in Matthew 3:11: “I baptize you with water for repentance.” So Matthew was making plain that the purpose of John’s baptism was to provide an occasion for Jewish people to confess their sins and repent and get right with God. That is the first thing.
Second, John makes clear that his baptism of repentance is bringing into being a people of God for the coming Messiah, and that he is bringing this people into being with an identity that is not identical with their Jewishness, but with their repentance.
We see it in Matthew 3:9. He says to the Pharisees who had come out to the river, “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” What does that mean? It means there is no salvation and no security in claiming your lineage from Abraham.
God is free in choosing who will be in his people. He can make saints of his own, out of rocks if he wanted to. So the new people of God that are being gathered by this baptism being prepared for the coming Messiah, Jesus, are marked by repentance and the fruit that comes from repentance.
Jesus had read Isaiah 53. Indeed, Isaiah 53 was his life mission. And here is what he read in verse 11: “By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous.” The righteous one will cause many to be counted righteous.
My answer to the question of why Jesus insisted on being baptized is that this new people who were being gathered by John the Baptist on the basis of repentance and faith, not on the basis of Jewishness, would need to be justified.
They would need to be counted righteous, because they weren’t righteous. They would need to have a righteousness not their own, as Paul said in Philippians 3:8–9.
That righteousness included the fulfillment of all righteousness in life, the life of Jesus. All the righteousness that would be required of men before the court of God, Jesus performed. So he joined fallen humanity, for whom he was providing righteousness by sharing their baptism.