Matthew 3:13-17 ESV
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me? 15 But Jesus answered him, Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.
Okay so 2 things here I want to dissect within this passage. I'll deal first with the reason Jesus was baptized.
Now John baptized people to show they had repented of their sins. We know that Jesus had no sin (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15), so why in the world did he submit to John's baptism? Obviously it wasn't to show he had repented. He also didn't just try to identify himself with those to come after (as some preach).
Allow me to take you back to the Old Testament in Exodus 29:4 & Numbers 8:6-7.
Exodus 29:4 ESV
You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and wash them with water.
God told Moses that Aaron and his sons (a reference to future high priests) were to be baptized. Now in context, which I won't post to shorten this, God was telling Moses that before the high priest could serve in his presence he had to be baptized "wash them with water" among other things.
Before we say, "But that was the Old Covenant..." didn't Jesus come to fulfill the Law, not to destroy it? (Matthew 5:17) Jesus obviously knew about this command. He was the one that gave it to Moses, how could he not know about it? He also knew his office was to become the high priest of the new covenant. A high priest after Melchezidek (Hebrews 4:14-5:10; Hebrews 7-8; Hebrews 10:19-22)
So before Jesus could assume his role as High Priest and all the responsibilities that came with it, he had to be baptized. This is why he made the statement he did, "Thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."
Now what does that have to do with us?
Well the first obvious point to make is if Jesus was baptized, shouldn't we want to be baptized too? I mean we preach, Jesus was love, so we should be love. We preach, Jesus had humility, so we should have humility. We preach, Jesus healed the sick, so we should heal the sick. Why not preach, Jesus was baptized, so we should be baptized?
The second point and more to what I'm trying to speak of is this:
If Jesus as High Priest had to be baptized before he could serve God in his high priestly calling (Exodus 29:4), then in like manner we should be baptized before we assume our purpose as priests unto God.
1 Peter 2:5, 9 ESV
you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Revelation 1:5-6 ESV
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Now both Peter and John, the only two of Jesus' inner circle that survived long enough to write scripture state that all believer's are priests. Before you say, "Well we are believer's before baptism..." I agree, baptism doesn't make a person believe or a believer. But in scripture days, it was an accepted fact that all who believed were baptized because they were. They were baptized immediately (read Acts).
So when Peter and John wrote those scriptures, they had assumed that those they were writing to (and subsequent generations) would be baptized immediately. So what does God say about the priesthood in the Old Covenant?
Numbers 8:6-7 ESV
6 Take the Levites from among the people of Israel and cleanse them. 7 Thus you shall do to them to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of purification upon them, and let them go with a razor over all their body, and wash their clothes and cleanse themselves.
The Levites were the priestly tribe of ancient Israel. God was telling them that before they could serve as priests unto himself, they had to be cleansed with the waters of purification, just as Aaron and the high priests were. Now we know the high priest was over the entire priesthood. He was the man in charge. This doesn't change in our times. Jesus is our high priest. As he was baptized before he began his ministry and took on his office, so should we. It's not just a matter of convenience, but a matter of obedience. God commanded all priests be baptized before they serve him as such.
Now to the last point I want to make from Matthew 3.
Jesus was baptized. The Holy Spirit came (Acts 2:38, 19:1-6 anyone???). The Father voiced his approval from heaven.
All three figures of the God-head had a manifestation at the baptism of Jesus. It is one of the few times in the entire Bible that happens. Such a tremendous event! That all three persons of the Triune God appear or manifest themselves at a singular event. That event is Jesus' baptism. I believe (and you can disagree here) that God was showing his blessing not only on Jesus which is normally accepted, but also on the practice of baptism.
Jesus could have chosen any method he wanted to inaugerate himself into his high priestly role and office, but he chose water baptism. He showed his acceptance of John's ministry which was mainly done through baptism, hence the name John the Baptist.
So not only should we be baptized in order to take on our role as priests unto God, but we should be baptized because God has blessed water baptism and made something pure out of it. Why in the world would we want to withhold water from those who believe? (Acts 10:47; Acts 22:16)
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