ABOUT six months after John begins preaching, Jesus, who is now 30 years old, comes to him at the Jordan. For what reason? To pay a social visit? Is Jesus simply interested in how John’s work is progressing? No, Jesus asks John to baptize him.
Right away John objects: “I am the one needing to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?” John knows that his cousin Jesus is God’s special Son. Why, John had jumped with gladness in his mother’s belly when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, visited them! John’s mother, Elizabeth, no doubt later told him about this. And she would also have told him about the angel’s announcement of Jesus’ birth and about the appearance of angels to shepherds the night Jesus was born.
So Jesus is no stranger to John. And John knows that his baptism is not for Jesus. It is for those repenting of their sins, but Jesus is without sin. Yet, despite John’s objection, Jesus insists: “Let it be, this time, for in that way it is suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous.”
Why is it right for Jesus to be baptized? Because Jesus’ baptism is a symbol, not of repentance for sins, but of his presenting himself to do the will of his Father. Jesus has been a carpenter, but now the time has come for him to begin the ministry that Jehovah God sent him to earth to perform. Do you think John expects anything unusual to happen when he baptizes Jesus?
Well, John later reports: “The very One who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘Whoever it is upon whom you see the spirit coming down and remaining, this is the one that baptizes in holy spirit.’” So John is expecting God’s spirit to come upon someone he baptizes. Perhaps, therefore, he is not really surprised when, as Jesus comes up from the water, John sees “like a dove God’s spirit coming upon him.”
But more than that happens as Jesus is baptized. ‘The heavens are opened up’ to him. What does this mean? Evidently it means that while he is being baptized, the memory of his prehuman life in heaven returns to him. Thus, Jesus now fully recalls his life as a spirit son of Jehovah God, including all the things that God spoke to him in heaven during his prehuman existence.
In addition, at the time of his baptism, a voice from heaven proclaims: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” Whose voice is that? Jesus’ own voice? Of course not! It is God’s. Clearly, Jesus is God’s Son, not God himself, as some people claim.
However, Jesus is a human son of God, even as was the first man, Adam. The disciple Luke, after describing Jesus’ baptism, writes: “Jesus himself, when he commenced his work, was about thirty years old, being the son, as the opinion was, of Joseph, son of Heli, . . . son of David, . . . son of Abraham, . . . son of Noah, . . . son of Adam, son of God.”
As Adam was a human “son of God,” so is Jesus. Jesus is the greatest man who ever lived, which becomes evident when we examine Jesus’ life. However, at his baptism, Jesus enters into a new relationship with God, becoming also God’s spiritual Son. God now calls him back to heaven, as it were, by starting him off on a course that will lead to his laying down his human life forever in sacrifice in behalf of condemned humankind. Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-38; 1:34-36, 44; 2:10-14; John 1:32-34; Hebrews 10:5-9.
▪ Why is Jesus no stranger to John?
▪ Since he has committed no sins, why is Jesus baptized?
▪ In view of what John knows about Jesus, why might he not be surprised when God’s spirit comes upon Jesus?