The Baptism of Jesus

INTRODUCTION: All four gospels have some manner of detail about the baptism of Christ. By considering a composite view from them, we may increase our appreciation of that event which marked the beginning of the Lord's public ministry on earth. Luke's record of the baptism is not in chronological order in the text, as it immediately follows a statement that John was put into prison. The account in John's gospel is a brief review by John the Baptist after he had already baptized Christ. The one detail common to all four gospels is that the Spirit of God came upon Jesus as a dove. Based on Matthew, Mark, and Luke, The temptation of Christ began immediately after his baptism.

NOTE: Bible passages are from the World English Bible.


A - THE BAPTISM OF JESUS RECORDED IN MATTHEW

Matthew 3 ""11 I indeed baptize you in water for repentance, but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire." 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John would have hindered him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?" 15 But Jesus, answering, said to him, "Allow it now, for this is the fitting way for us to fulfil all righteousness." Then he allowed him. 16 Jesus, when he was baptized, went up directly from the water: and behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him. 17 Behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.""

COMMENTS: John the Baptist used metaphoric language to describe the far superior work that Jesus would perform, compared with the water baptism he administered. The baptism in the Holy Spirit by Jesus sets apart the "wheat" that will be gathered into the barn from the "chaff" that will be burned with unquenchable fire. This is a vivid word picture of eternal blessing in God's presence versus eternal punishment in separation. When Jesus came to be baptized by John in water for repentance, John was very hesitant because he recognized that Jesus was the very Son of God. The verse from Mark makes it clear that the water baptism of John was for those who were repenting of their sin (having regret and remorse for their past, and desiring to change) so they would be forgiven. Mark 1 "4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching the baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins." Jesus had no sin to be forgiven, but he assured John that his baptism was a necessary step to complete all righteousness. Though we may not have a full understanding of this act in our behalf to impart righteousness to us, Paul later made this statement about the redemptive work of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5 "21 For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." There were two confirming signs from heaven about the identity of Jesus: the Spirit of God came upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and the voice from heaven declared Jesus to be the Son of God in whom God is well pleased.


B - THE BAPTISM OF JESUS AS RECORDED BY MARK

Mark 1 "9 It happened in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Immediately coming up from the water, he saw the heavens parting, and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 A voice came out of the sky, "You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

COMMENTS: Mark's gospel opens very directly with a few details about John the Baptist in the first eight verses of chapter 1, then continues with his brief account of the baptism of Jesus. Mark is very specific to state that Jesus came from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As with Matthew's account, Mark includes the Spirit descending like a dove. In the records by Matthew and Mark, the text said that he (applying to John) saw the Spirit descend like a dove. There is no indication whether or not anyone else witnessed this event. In Mark's gospel A Personal pronoun is used to refer to Jesus, indicating a direct address to him; and stating that he is the beloved son who is well pleasing to the one speaking from heaven. Nazareth was the town where Joseph and Mary lived with their family, and Jesus willingly submitted to the authority of his parents throughout his early years. Luke 2 "46 It happened after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When they saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I were anxiously looking for you." 49 He said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Didn't you know that I must be in my Father's house?" 50 They didn't understand the saying which he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth. He was subject to them, and his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men."


C - THE BAPTISM OF JESUS AS RECORDED BY LUKE

Luke 3 "19 but Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias, his brother's wife, and for all the evil things which Herod had done, 20 added this also to them all, that he shut up John in prison. 21 Now it happened, when all the people were baptized, Jesus also had been baptized, and was praying. The sky was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form as a dove on him; and a voice came out of the sky, saying "You are my beloved Son. In you I am well pleased.""

COMMENTS: Luke does not give ANY preparatory details LIKE Matthew and Mark for the arrival of Jesus at the Jordan River. However, there is a very distinctive aspect in his description of the baptism. After Jesus had been baptized, he was praying, and the Holy Spirit came upon him in the form of a dove. Then personal pronouns were used for Jesus in Luke's account as the voice from heaven declared the beloved relationship between the Father and the Son, who is well pleasing to the Father. The time of baptism is the first recorded instance of prayer in the life of Jesus, and the first observable direct communication between God the Son and God the Father. . There is no detail at all in Luke's account about who observed the Spirit descending like a dove.


D - JOHN THE BAPTIST DESCRIBED HIS BAPTISM OF JESUS

John 1 "19 This is John's testimony, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20 He declared, and didn't deny, but he declared, "I am not the Christ." 21 They asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." 22 They said therefore to him, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23 He said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as Isaiah the prophet said." 24 The ones who had been sent were from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, "Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" 26 John answered them, "I baptize in water, but among you stands one whom you don't know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, who is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I'm not worthy to loosen." 28 These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. 29 The next day, he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for he was before me.' 31 I didn't know him, but for this reason I came baptizing in water: that he would be revealed to Israel." 32 John testified, saying, "I have seen the Spirit descending like a dove out of heaven, and it remained on him. 33 I didn't recognize him, but he who sent me to baptize in water, he said to me, 'On whomever you will see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' 34 I have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God."

COMMENTS: In verses 19 through 28 John the Baptist explained that his purpose was to prepare the way for the far greater one than himself as written in the prophecy of Isaiah. The religious sect of the Pharisees had sent priests and Levites to investigate what they knew could be a very important development as John the Baptist was becoming widely known as he baptized. All four gospel records include the importance of the one who would prepare the way for Messiah as in verse 23 above, with the other three references being Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, and Luke 3:4. But later it became very clear that the formal religious leadership of the Jews failed to recognize the coming of their long awaited Messiah. They did not accept by faith the further proof that was openly displayed as Jesus continued his public ministry for several years.

The apostle John in his gospel does not detail the baptism of Jesus when it occurred, or the subsequent temptation in the wilderness. None of the four gospels specify who was present at the baptism of Jesus other than John the Baptist. We also do not know how much time elapsed after the temptation of Jesus before he returned to John at the Jordan. The day after John the Baptist had given his answer to those who questioned him, Jesus returned to the Jordan where John the Baptist repeated his declarations about Jesus. This return of Jesus to John at the Jordan River in verses 29 through 34 appears only in the gospel of John. When John saw Jesus approaching he directed attention to him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

For Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world certainly attributes to him the unique ability not limited to any time in history, or to any location anywhere around the globe. John declared that Jesus existed before him, when he said "for he was before me," even though in the flesh John was born about six months prior to when Jesus was physically born of Mary. John began baptizing in water in anticipation of the one who would be revealed to Israel. He declared that the one who sent him to baptize in water had also given him a confirming sign for positive identification of the one who would baptize in the Holy Spirit. So his declaration about Jesus was not of his own doing in any way. The Holy Spirit descended out of heaven and remained on Jesus, just as John had been told beforehand. The other three gospels have John's testimony about baptism in the Holy Spirit as found in Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, and Luke 3:16. John left no doubt about the full identity of Jesus as he made a closing statement to this account as he declared that Jesus is the Son of God. John was appointed by God to be "the voice of one crying in the wilderness," and he made many declarations to "Make straight the way of the Lord." When Jesus was baptized, he openly began to show the way for us to receive his removal of sin for us. Each person must take that first step of faith to confess and repent of sin before God, to be prepared for Jesus to baptize with the Holy Spirit.


--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, I thank you for coming into the world in the form of man through a series of events that had been promised throughout the Old Testament. When you submitted to a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sin, you did this because it was necessary to complete the righteousness of God that we cannot achieve on our own merit. Though you had no sin to be forgiven, you underwent a baptism of repentance, and received the approval of God the Father. I now more fully understand that when I realized my need of a Savior and asked you to take control of my life, that you were ready to forgive my sin because you had fulfilled all righteousness for me. John the Baptist was faithful to the role you had given him to prepare the way that we might recognize the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist also told us that you, Jesus, came to be the Lamb of God for that perfect sacrifice that takes away sin for all who have the faith to accept it in their behalf. I thank you My Savior that you have made me part of the "wheat" that you will gather into your barn, and that you have saved me from the unquenchable fire. I praise you Lord Jesus for the unsurpassed love you demonstrated from the very beginning of your ministry on earth. Hallelujah and Amen!

Published 11 January 2014