The account of baptism of Jesus is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and referenced to in the Gospel of John. That the event was mentioned in all 4 Gospels speaks of its importance. Therefore we should pay attention to it.
The baptism of Jesus seems to be an entirely unnecessary undertaking, given that it was John the Baptist himself who said that his baptism was one of “repentance”(Matt 3:11). We know that Jesus was without sin, so why should He be baptised by John since there was nothing for Him to repent for. Indeed why was Jesus baptised, and in the same vein, why should we be baptised?
The act of baptism, at its core, is a wholly symbolic act. The baptism of Jesus showed that He identified Himself with sinners. His baptism symbolised the sinners’ baptism into His righteousness, dying with Him, rising up in a new life, free from the burden and penalty of sin. In fact, this symbolic act of baptism makes the Brethren practice of baptism by immersion much more meaningful. Jesus was baptised to “fulfil all righteousness”(Matt 3:15). This righteousness is that which He provides to all who come to Him, and exchange their sinful lives for His righteous redemption.
Perhaps more importantly, the public nature of Jesus’ baptism also exhibits the perfect embodiment of the Triune God at work. In Matt 3:16-17, when Jesus, the Son, came out of the water after being baptised, the heavens opened, and the Spirit of God descended upon Him. God the Father, in a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I loved. With Him I am well pleased.
This same Triune God is at work in the act of our salvation. God the Father so loved the world (John 3:16), and He sent Jesus the Son to be the propitiation or substitute for us because of our sins (1 John 2:2). It is the Holy Spirit that convicts us of our sins (John 16:8) and draws us to the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. All the glorious truth of the Triune God’s mercy for us is displayed by the symbolic act of Jesus’ baptism.
The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Gospels to record and referenced the account of the baptism of Jesus for our benefit today. Jesus set us an example by going through with the public act of baptism. For those of us who are not baptised, would you follow His lead and go through the waters of baptism? Baptism is not meant to be a burden or something we are forced to do when we don’t want to. In fact, baptism is a gift of God. It is an opportunity for us to share about the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, and to publicly testify of our faith – the death of our old self, and the raising up into new life in Christ.
Baptism is a symbolic act. We are not baptised so that we can be saved. On the contrary, because we are saved, we want to be baptised so that we can make a faith commitment, in the presence of witnesses, and identify ourselves with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Deacon Michael Teo