Jesus declares His intention to die in our place.
Lesson 44 from The HOPE Study Guide
Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well–pleased.”
– Matthew 3:13–17
Proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was near, John called the people to live according to the ways of God. When people accepted John’s challenge to live for God, they participated in a practice called baptism, in which they were covered with water. This was done to express purification and commitment to live according to God’s laws. And so it was one day, that Jesus came to John. Knowing who Jesus was, John asked to be baptized by Him. But the time for baptism in the name of Jesus had not yet come, and Jesus was baptized by John. And when Jesus came up from the water, the Spirit of God descended upon Him. And a voice came from Heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
– The HOPE, Chapter 8
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
The practice of baptism1 as observed in this lesson had its roots in the washings that God instructed the Hebrew people to do for the purpose of purification (Leviticus 16:26, Leviticus 28, Leviticus 22:6,Numbers 19:7 and Numbers 19). Jesus, however, did not need to be purified. Perhaps this is why John, who knew Jesus from childhood, tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized and said to Him, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” (Matthew 3:14).
So if purification was unnecessary, what was the purpose of this baptism in the life of Jesus?
Most theologians agree that at least three things were accomplished by this event: identification, anointing and confirmation.2 In regard to identification, many believe that Jesus, the One who came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17), was identifying with John’s call to righteousness – to live according to the ways of God. Some, however, see yet another identification taking place in this event.
As Bible teacher Dr. H. A. Ironside put it, “We are like paupers who have accumulated so many debts that we cannot pay them. These are our sins. These tremendous claims are made against us, and we cannot possibly meet them. But when Jesus came, he took all these mortgages and notes and agreements we could not meet and endorsed them with His own name, thereby saying that He intended to pay them, He would meet them. This is what His baptism signifies, and is why Jesus said to John the Baptist, ‘…it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15). He declared His intention to meet the righteous demands of God by undertaking Himself to pay the debts of men.”3 Continue reading