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. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
– Matt 3.13-17
Have you ever thought about how peculiar it is that we get baptized when we become Christians? Before John the Baptist came on the scene, Jews would dunk people under the water (baptize them) who were not Jews but wanted to become a part of the people of God; they wanted to become Jewish in religion. Then when John began his ministry of preparing the way for Jesus, he took the act of baptism and utilized it for everyone (Jews and non-Jews), calling them to repentance. For a Jew to be baptized unto repentance was an extremely humiliating act, as it confessed that he had been living outward religion only. People were repenting of their sins and coming to love God as the Law had commanded, with their hearts, souls and might (Deut 6.5). John baptized people unto repentance and in anticipation of the savior.
God was moving so dynamically that even the Pharisees and Sadducees – the religious elite of the day – were coming to be baptized! John sternly warned them that if they were baptized unto repentance that they must bear the fruit of repentance. Their hearts must be changed and tenderized towards God (Matt 3.8).
Baptism today is our symbolic, obedient outward testimony of our submission and relationship with God through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We testify to the onlooking world that as we lay down beneath the water, we are dying to ourselves – dying to our flesh and our sin – and when we are raised up from the water, we are uniting with Christ in Spiritual life.
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
– Rom 6.3-7
But Jesus came to be baptized by John. We know clearly that Jesus never sinned and therefore did not need to repent. But He told John to baptize Him and thus they would “fulfill all righteousness”. For years that puzzled me, until finally one day I realized that in the same way we symbolically unite with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection in our baptism, He symbolized his association with us in His! And He foreshadowed His redeeming work on the cross.
There is a two way exchange that occurred at the cross. When Jesus died and went to Hell, He took upon Himself the sins of all who would believe. He took the punishment for every single sin I will ever do, and you as well if you trust Him for forgiveness and salvation. And when He “became sin”, he gave His righteousness to us. To me. To all who would repent and believe.
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
– 2 Cor 5.21
Jesus began His ministry here on Earth by publicly identifying Himself with us. With sinners. He defined and illustrated the intention of His life on Earth and God the Father poured out the Spirit on Him in front of all who were present in the form of a dove and lightning, and spoke verbally from Heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt 3.17).
Have you repented? Have you given your guilt to Christ and received His righteousness? Have you associated with Him in death and life? His death is strong enough to cover your sin, and His righteousness is wide enough to cover you and make you pure before Him. Trust Him today. Die to your sin. Live by the power of the Spirit at work within you. Honor Him in all that you say and do. Love Him.