Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”
But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.
After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” (Matthew 3:13-17)
John baptized people as a sign that they had asked God to forgive their sins and had decided to live as he wanted them to live. Baptism was an outward sign of commitment. To be effective, it had to be accompanied by an inward change of attitude leading to a changed life—the work of the Holy Spirit.
John had been explaining that Jesus’ baptism would be much greater than his, when suddenly Jesus came to him and asked to be baptized! John felt unqualified. He wanted Jesus to baptize him. Why did Jesus ask to be baptized? It was not for repentance for sin because Jesus never sinned. But Jesus saw his baptism as advancing God’s work. He was baptized because (1) he confessed sin on behalf of the nation, as Nehemiah, Ezra, Moses, and Daniel had done; (2) he showed support for what John was doing; (3) he inaugurated his public ministry; (4) he identified with the penitent people of God, not with the critical Pharisees who were only watching. Jesus, the perfect man, didn’t need baptism because of sin, but he accepted baptism in obedient service to the Father, and God showed his approval.
John was markedly different from other religious leaders of his day. While many were greedy, selfish, and preoccupied with winning the praise of the people, John was concerned only with the praise of God. Having separated himself from the evil and hypocrisy of his day, John lived differently from other people to show that his message was new. John not only preached God’s law, he lived it. Do you practice what you preach? In what ways can people discover your beliefs and values by observing the way you live?