Why Was Jesus Baptized?


Question: If Jesus was born and lived without sin, as we can see from these scriptures:

2 Corinthians 5:21: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

Hebrews 4:15:For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

1 Peter 2:21-22: “…because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.”

1John 3:5: “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.”

And his cousin John baptized those seeking repentance and forgiveness of sin:

Acts 19: 4 “….Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance.”

Mark 1:4 “And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a for the forgiveness of sins…

Then why did Jesus come to the Jordan to be baptized?

Mark 1:9 “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”


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  1. #1 by +Michael on January 7, 2009 - 9:11 pm

    Actually what I wrote is an extrapolation of that which has been taught for many centuries by the Eastern Orthodox.

    Baptism was practiced in antiquity for different purification rituals. The Israelites practiced this as evidence by John the Baptist ministry towards repentance and forgiveness of sins. All this changed dramatically when Christ came to be baptized by John in the Jordan River.

    On one hand we have the revelation of the Holy Trinity (Father as the voice from heaven, Holy Spirit descending as a dove, and Christ as the beloved Son).

    On the other hand, the meaning of baptism changes for when Jesus was baptized, He was in no need of cleansing because He was without sin. However, by Jesus’ divine nature He purified the waters of the Jordan and through them the whole creation.

    And by stepping into the unclean waters of baptism He was also stepping into this world of sin and the beginning of His ministry of salvation and sacrifice on the cross.

  2. #2 by Deb on January 9, 2009 - 12:39 pm

    I think:

    1) Jesus wanted to rub elbows with all the sinners on the Jordan so we would understand he identifies with us.

    2) That Jesus might have had a “Really? Me, God?” kind of moment when God said “You are my son, my Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” If anyone teaches us about humility and servant leadership, it’s Jesus. Even if he didn’t sin, he might not have considered himself worthy to be God’s Son. Hard to know with only one narrative of his childhood in the Scripture who Jesus really considered himself growing up. When he was a teen and his parents ordered him to sweep up the shop, was he thinking, “Someday you’ll find out who I really am, and then you’ll be sorry?” (I have teenagers. I know how the really human ones think.)

    And maybe he really was sorry–that people wouldn’t catch the vision God has for the world. When we confess our sins in church, we’re not just confessing our personal transgressions, but those of a broken society, as well. (I’m Presbyterian–other faiths have different takes on this.)

    3) If you compare the Mark 1:9-11 text with the other lectionary text for Sunday, Acts 19:1-6, the act of getting wet doesn’t really mean much if you don’t get Jesus. I don’t think John really knew what he was doing when he baptized, either, other than giving people a mechanical means to focus on God.

    Interesting discussion.

  3. #3 by Christian Beyer on January 9, 2009 - 4:36 pm

    Deb, welcome a aboard!

    I really like your take on Jesus’ baptism. You’ve done an amazing job of articulating pretty much how I see it as well. I think this is very balanced view of his humanity and divinity.

    Some of us have been talking of the troubles with how some interpret Acts 19 1-6. I’ve heard people use this verse to question the authenticity of a different style of baptism; immersion, sprinkling, dunking, infant vs. adult. And of course there is the currently very popular idea that unless we begin to speak in tongues then it was not a true ‘baptism’. Your spin on this reminds me of Paul (in Romans?) saying that circumcision is meaningless unless the heart has been circumcised as well. Not to split hairs, but I would think this inward change often occurs before the outward act.

    Thanks for adding to the discussion and please keep coming back. Meanwhile, everyone should visit Deb’s site. It’s worth checking out.

  4. #4 by netprophet on January 10, 2009 - 1:54 pm

    We might also look at the fact that John the Baptist was a prophet. He had a rather large following of Jews who also did not respect the religion of the Pharisees. He foretold of both the dove descending on Jesus and in mat. 3:11 and Luke 3:16 “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and [with] fire.” (Possibly a precursor of Pentecost?)

    Now this in context with the times, was an affirmation announcing the CHRIST, who all the Jews where waiting to come and bring their promised salvation (establish His kingdom and rule), Has arrived on earth and is coming to John to be baptized as prophesied.

    Mat. Chapter 3 is short and to the point and I think it says it all pretty clear, at least for the Jews of the time. Those that understood the prophets such as Esaias and Isaiah, who foretold of John himself and the Christ. Jesus actually needed to be baptized, both to fulfill Prophesy and to be identified as the Christ.

    Just something to consider… makes sense to me.

  5. #5 by rltjs on January 10, 2009 - 3:50 pm

    Because Christ during his time was in fact a religious dissident in the eyes of the established religion which was Judaism. Apparently people everywhere he went were awed by should we say progressive religious teachings he gave.

    He viewed the pharisees as statics and degenerates and they hated him.

    There was no fuss when John baptised him at the river. No crowd like that around pop and rock stars today.

  6. #6 by Deb on January 10, 2009 - 7:29 pm

    Paul says that no one can proclaim Jesus as Lord except by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is great comfort to us Frozen Chosen, who would like some kind of warning, thank you very much, if you feel a bout of speaking in tongues coming on. :-). Speaking in tongues, by the way, is in a list of many gifts Paul lists–not all of us have the same gifts.

    I think it’s interesting to note that Quakers, for instance, don’t practice the “external” rite of baptism because they believe it’s an inward change that’s important.

    I’ve always been a bit disturbed by people who believe baptism is a kind of a hex against hell–as long as you’re sprinkled, you’re good to go. That turns our salvation into something WE do, instead of something God does for us through Christ. If baptism doesn’t mean any more than that, then let’s just line everyone up at the water fountain and splash them as they go by, just to be safe.

    I tend to agree that it’s the inward change (our baptism by the Holy Spirit?) that leads us to want to our faith public by baptism. Baptism is only the beginning of our spiritual life, not it’s completion. (In the really olden days, I’ve read no one was baptized until on their death bed. You’d sure hope you had a little warning of when you were going to die.)

    Thanks for your nice comment on my blog. I have gotten behind on posting after being blindsided by Christmas and Advent and spending this week wrangling with very unruly sermon on Jesus’s baptism (which is how I found your blog, googling the question of whether Jesus really baptized anyone himself. Scripture is not very clear on that.) There are not a lot of forums out there where you might feel comfortable (if not down right flirting with heresy) wrestling with some of these questions. I’m glad to meet you.

  7. #7 by Christian Beyer on January 10, 2009 - 8:07 pm

    Net, makes sense to me as well. It is amazing how God can consistently be firing on all cylinders, isn’t it. The key is to make sure our timing isn’t off. (I know…that was awful, but I couldn’t resist 😉 )

    “Because Christ during his time was in fact a religious dissident in the eyes of the established religion which was Judaism

    I agree, rltjs – up to a point. Those religious leaders who he argued with did not represent all of the devout (of which he was one) nor did they represent all of the Jewish leadership of the time. There was not quite the differences of theological opinion that Christianity experiences today but there were more than just the Pharisees, Sadducee, Essenes and Zealots that we are familiar with. They were, however, the ones who were using God to prop up their own complicity in a domination system that ‘prospered’ them quite nicely.

  8. #8 by Christian Beyer on January 10, 2009 - 8:26 pm

    “Speaking in tongues, by the way, is in a list of many gifts Paul lists–not all of us have the same gifts.’

    True. Personally I don’t see the gift of tongues in the same way that the Pentecostals have come to see it. My daughter’s future mother in law has this gift; she speaks about 11 languages. I don’t think, however, she was gifted with this at her baptism. Just as I don’t think that the gift of prophecy is the ability to foretell the future (or read the prophetic biblical signs that some see around us). In keeping with the Old Testament traditions (as well as that of Jesus) , Martin Luther King Jr. was a prophet, William Wilberforce was a prophet and (to me) Jim Wallace is a prophet. Someone who stands athwart history and pisses off the “powers that be” by pointing out where they are wrong. Not all prophets are Jews or Christians either.

    “There are not a lot of forums out there where you might feel comfortable (if not down right flirting with heresy) wrestling with some of these questions.”

    I agree. I have come to proudly (perhaps a little perversely) wear the mantle of heretic, so many have accused me of this. I am sure that I am not even close to being correct in all the ways that I look at things – Lord knows I have changed my mind many times over the years. Some say that this merely a lack of conviction. Of course, I disagree. I think this is the result of allowing myself the freedom to question what has been fed me by ‘authority’ and to discover my own way towards the truth. I am glad that you and others like you are willing to do the same, even if we do not always agree.

    I firmly believe that unless we are all willing to engage in addressing the questions of faith with an open mind and within the context of our times, then Christianity will become about as relevant to the world as the myths of Greece and Rome.

    Nice to meet you as well.

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