Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:1-9-11; Luke 3:21-22; Exodus 14:1-15:21
The Baptism of Our Lord
The first Sunday after Epiphany is given to the baptism of our Lord. Luke records a few things from Jesus’ childhood which we covered during Christmas; however, the Scriptures give us precious little about that time. This is because the purpose of Scripture is to teach us how to come to the knowledge of salvation and how to live according to the will of God. God did not give us the Scriptures to satisfy our curiosities.
Our Lord’s baptism is recorded in three gospels and hinted at in John’s. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are largely in agreement, with Matthew giving the greater record. The question is why did Jesus do this in the first place? Scripture clearly states that John proclaimed “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). Scripture also clearly states that Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). John the Baptist “would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’” Then Jesus answers, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” And, as usual, though we would not have thought of it ourselves, when we hear this, we think, “Yes, that’s how we have learned Christ – humble.” In the words of Matthew Henry, Jesus doesn’t just do what behooves him, he does what becomes him, not just what is necessary, but what is lovely (Commentary, p. 1621).
But there is more to it than that. Jesus came to take our place, which is why John called him “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus did not need to be baptized; he was baptized for us. Everything he did, he did on behalf of his people. He is baptized not as a sinner, but as the One who would take the sins of his people upon himself. From the beginning, he identifies with us, and is not ashamed to call us brethren (Hebrews 2:10-18). And then there is the wonderful descent of the Holy Spirit upon him in the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father’s approval. Here is the most beautiful picture of the Holy Trinity in all the Bible: the Father whose love designed the plan to save a people, the Son who graciously gave his life for that people as Sacrifice and Mediator, and the Spirit who applies the salvation to that people purchased by the Son.
I added the passage above from the Old Testament about the crossing of the Red Sea. The early Church saw this as a “type” of baptism from 1 Corinthians 10:2. Baptism is where we leave our sins behind, because our Lord has saved us from them, overthrowing them in the sea.