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At first glance, it seems that Jesus' baptism has no purpose at all. John's baptism was the baptism of repentance (Matthew 3:11), but Jesus was sinless and had no need of repentance. Even John was ...
Why should Jesus seek or receive a "baptism of repentance"? Jesus Himself puts it on the ground of fitness, suitability, propriety. "Allow it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (Mt 3:15). The Head was content to enter by the same gateway as the members to His specific vocation in the service of the kingdom. In submitting to the baptism, He formally identified Himself with the expectation of the kingdom and with its ethical demands; separated Himself from the evil of His nation, doubtless with confession of its sins; and devoted Himself to His life-task in bringing in the Messianic salvation. The significance of the rite as marking His consecration to, and entrance upon, His Messianic career, is seen in what follows. As He ascended from the water, while still "praying" (Lk 3:21), the heavens were opened, the Spirit of God descended like a dove upon Him, and a voice from heaven declared: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3:16,17). It is needless to inquire whether anyone besides John (compare Jn 1:33) and Jesus (Mt 3:16; Mk 1:10) received this vision or heard these words; it was for them, not for others, the vision was primarily intended. To Christ's consecration of Himself to His calling, there was now added the spiritual equipment necessary for the doing of His work. He went forward with the seal of the Father's acknowledgment upon Him. Also, Jesus' baptism provides an example for Christians to follow.
“But so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” This establishes the context for the purpose of the baptism of Jesus. John's baptism was for “repentance unto the remission of sin.” Since Jesus had no sin, and nothing of which to repent, why did he submit to John's baptism? The reason is two-fold. Jesus; baptism was an act of obedience – “To fulfill all righteousness.” Notice in Matthew 3:15, Jesus did not say it behooves ME to fulfill all righteousness but, “It behooves US to fulfill all righteousness.” The 'us' is all men. Baptism as an act of obedience to the will of God then is an act of righteousness. Jesus did it because God had sent John to teach and baptize the people of Israel. Jesus is a son of Israel and is thus bound to the divine laws imposed upon the people. He is fulfilling the Law of God. Also, it was done “That He might be manifested to Israel.” The testimony of God was then revealed in a three-fold theophonic manifestation - Jesus in the flesh, the Spirit descending as a dove and the voice from the Father declaring "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
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