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Why was Jesus baptized?

August 30, 2023

Daily Scripture

Matthew 3:13-17

13 At that time Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River so that John would baptize him. 14 John tried to stop him and said, “I need to be baptized by you, yet you come to me?”
15 Jesus answered, “Allow me to be baptized now. This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.”
So John agreed to baptize Jesus. 16 When Jesus was baptized, he immediately came up out of the water. Heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on him. 17 A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

John had been preaching, “The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11). Then Jesus appeared. Instead of saying, “Stand aside, John—the main act is here with strength and fire,” Jesus joined the line of people waiting for baptism. “John, of course, is horrified…. Surely if anything he, John, needs to be baptized by Jesus himself?” * What can we learn from these four verses?

  • There was a practical reason for baptizing Jesus. In his church (cf. Matthew 16:18), baptism wasn’t only for “outsiders” (Gentiles), but for all of his followers. Why let anyone say, “Why should I be baptized? Jesus wasn’t.” In loftier words, “The baptism of Jesus identifies Jesus as the messianic servant who stands in solidarity with his people. As their representative he came ‘to fulfill all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15).” ** How did Jesus’ example add depth to every baptism?
  • There was more. Jesus came to relaunch God’s kingship, including God’s judgment on evil and rescue for God’s people. But Jesus’ way was “by humbly identifying himself with God’s people, by taking their place, sharing their penitence, living their life and ultimately dying their death…. The dove… showed that the coming judgment will not be achieved through a warlike or vindictive spirit, but will mean the making of peace.” *** How did Jesus in the river show how differently God’s power works?

Lord Jesus, your world-changing impact came about, not bullying or intimidating people, but by humbly exercising God’s love among us. Keep teaching me what it means to live out your power. Amen.

GPS Insights

Amy Oden

Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

Jesus’ own baptism sets the pattern for all of us. The Spirit proclaims, “This is my beloved!”

Belovedness. That’s what baptism is about. In baptism we are named as beloved.  This is the most true thing about us, even before we become who we will become over our lifetimes.

Through our lifetime, we will be pummeled with worldly messages that tell us otherwise.  That tell us we are failures or not good enough or don’t count.  We will internalize those voices and tell ourselves these things. We will project them onto others, causing harm. 

So Jesus gives us this foundational practice that stands as a witness to the most true thing about us: our belovedness, the belovedness of all. In baptism, God calls forth our belovedness. We as participate in baptism, we embrace who God says we are.

How might you walk through this day, embracing the most true thing about you–your belovedness?

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Wright, N. T., Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 21). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
** D. S. Dockery, article “Baptism” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL., InterVarsity Press, 1992, p. 58.
*** Wright, N. T., Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 22). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.