Today is the first Sunday after the Epiphany, the day when we remember and celebrate the baptism of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But have you ever asked yourself why was Jesus baptized? If John was proclaiming a baptism of repentance, why did Jesus allow Himself to be baptized by John, when Jesus was clearly not in need of any repentance, since He had never sinned? The answer to these questions we may never know but there are some possible reasons why Jesus submitted to ‘John’s baptism.’ First of all, Jesus likely wanted to show His approval of John the Baptist, his message and drive for repentance and moral purity. Secondly, at His baptism God declared Jesus to be His long awaited Son. Notice also that at Jesus’ baptism the Spirit descended on Him like a dove, and then a voice from heaven declares the approval of the Father. Thirdly, with His baptism, Jesus is the new King about to begin a new reign , and usher in the Kingdom of God in a new and decisive way. And the words spoken at His baptism are similar to those found in Isaiah 42, in the call of the Messianic Servant of God. Again, Jesus’ baptism had absolutely nothing to do with the washing away of personal sin, but rather it was an offering of Himself in obedience to God the Father for the work and ministry He had been called to.
Furthermore, Jesus’ baptism was a moment of decision. For about thirty years He had stayed at home carrying out His duties, and being obedient to His parents. He may have been conscious that the time for Him to go out and minister had come, but He may have been waiting for a sign that the time was right, and the appearance of John was that sign. John was ‘preparing the way’, hence the moment had arrived when He had to tackle His own mission. In everyone’s life there come moments of decision, which may be accepted or rejected. To accept is to succeed, to reject or to shrink back is to fail. In this Jesus was no different. It was also a moment of identification. It is true that Jesus did not need to repent from sin; but here was a movement of people back to God, and with this ‘Godward’ movement, He was determined to identify Himself with it. We also need at times to forget our comforts, our own situation, and identify with or join the fight to bring better things to the poor, down-trodden, the homeless, overworked and underpaid. The really great identification is when we identify ourselves with a positive movement, not for our own sake, but for the benefit of others. Jesus' home in Nazareth appeared to be quiet and sweet, yet He answered the summons and the challenge of God to be ‘a light to the nations.’
Equally important, Jesus’ baptism was a moment of approval. No one gets up and leave home just like that to go some place unknown. He/she must feel that t-he/she is right, or doing the right thing. Jesus also had decided on His course of action, and now He was looking for the seal of approval from God. And God’s approval came through the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and rested upon Him. Moreover, God’s voice came directly to Jesus. As Marks’ Gospel tells the story, this was a personal experience which Jesus had, and not in any sense a demonstration to the crowd. The voice did not say “this is my Beloved Son”, rather God spoke directly to Jesus and said, “You are my Beloved Son, with you I am well pleased”. At His baptism Jesus’ submitted His decision to God and this decision was unmistakably approved. Thus the heavens opened and the Spirit fell on Jesus with the Father’s approval, and to equip Him for the ministry which He was to fulfill. The one who was to baptize with the Holy Spirit, is first given the Holy Spirit for His own life and work. So Jesus was baptized in the waters of the Jordan River to wash away our sins; for He came into the world to serve and to suffer, and to save people from the sins in which they are living.