The Baptism of the One Who Baptizes

Reading Time: 8 Minutes

Paul described the humility of Jesus with this hymn of praise,

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.”
(Philippians 2.5-8)

From the beginning of his ministry to the very end, Jesus was the perfect example of humility. After walking 28 miles from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John, the two men had this conversation.

Matthew 3.13-15Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, 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 it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

If John didn’t feel worthy to carry Jesus’ sandals, he certainly didn’t feel worthy to baptize him. He would have been quite right to have said to Jesus, “I need your Spirit-and-fire baptism, but you don’t need my water-baptism.”

Jesus’ response so impressed John that he relented and baptized the One who came to baptize people with the Holy Spirit and fire.

What was in Jesus’ words, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness” (verse 15) that so convinced John? I think the phrase, “to fulfill all righteousness,” means “this is the right thing to do.” That was all it took for John to agree to baptize him.

Why was it “the right thing to do” for the only sinless Being on earth to be baptized in a ceremony that pictured a new beginning through the cleansing of sin?

Jesus’ baptism was a dramatic picture of his entire life and ministry.

For example, when Jesus concluded the Sermon on the Mount, he traveled the countryside healing people and setting them free from demonic powers. Matthew summarized Jesus’ ministry, “This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.'” (Matthew 8.17).

Jesus not only identified with sinful people in his baptism, he took our infirmities and diseases into his body on the cross, so that he could be our healer.

While Jesus’ closest friends and followers were quarreling over which one of them was the most important, Jesus silenced them by saying, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20.28).

Jesus began his ministry with a servant’s baptism. He ended his ministry on a cross as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah (Isaiah 53), giving his life to set us free from bondage to sin and guilt.

As water poured from the head of Jesus, following his baptism, blood poured from his body on the cross. When he instituted the rite of Communion, he said, “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

The most authentic person to walk the face of the earth lived from beginning to end to “do the right thing.” No wonder Paul began his great hymn in Philippians by encouraging us to imitate him. He said, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2.5).

Let’s learn from Jesus to do the next right thing led by the Holy Spirit.

The Son of God Revealed

Jesus’ baptism was the beginning of his public ministry. As you read the next two verses, look for three important ways that God revealed Jesus as his Son.

Matthew 3.16-17And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Heavens Opened

Isaiah prayed fervently for the heavens to be opened.

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence.”
(Isaiah 64:1)

At Jesus’ baptism the heavens were opened and God was present through his Son. The Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel, experienced an open heaven (Ezekiel 1.1) and he was given insight into the plans and purposes of God.

John states that Jesus came from heaven to reveal the nature and character of God. He wrote, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1.18).

If you are wondering who God is and what he is like, look to Jesus. God has opened the heavens and has revealed every aspect of his nature through Jesus.

The Spirit Descended

It is interesting that the One who would baptize the people with the Spirit and fire, first had to be baptized and to receive the Holy Spirit. Why is that so?

The words of Paul at the beginning of this article give us some insight into that question? Notice what Paul wrote about Jesus.

Though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself”
(Philippians 2.6-7).

Jesus needed the Holy Spirit because he “emptied himself” of his life of being “in the form of God.” Jesus’ identity with human beings was 100% real. When he performed miracles, he didn’t just turn on his “God side”. Instead, everything Jesus did was accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit in his life.

When Paul tells us in Philippians to “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2.5), he is encouraging us to think like Jesus. If Jesus did his mighty works in a relationship with the Holy Spirit, we should live with the Spirit just as Jesus did.

“My Beloved Son”

The Father declared with a voice out of heaven, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (verse 17).

In the next chapter of Matthew, we will see how the devil attacked Jesus and tried to corrupt his understand of being God’s Beloved Son. When we turn to the Sermon on the Mount, we need to remember that the teaching is from no one less than the Beloved Son of God.

Think About It

Let’s think back over Jesus’ baptism and apply it to our lives.

(1) Paul understood the humility of Jesus and did two things.

First, he praised Jesus for such humility that caused him to “empty himself” of self-centered striving that is so much a part of our lives.

Second, Paul called us to imitate Jesus’ humility and willingness to follow the Father’s direction.

(2) I in my reading I found a paraphrase of “fulfill all righteousness” that put it as “do the right thing.”

Many of my friends use the phrase, “do the next right thing,” to describe actions they must take to live a full and abundant life free from addiction. We literally cannot lose by doing the next right thing that the Holy Spirit shows us to do.

(3) If Jesus needed the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill his ministry, what does that say about us?

Let’s move off of the throne of our little self-made kingdom and invite the Holy Spirit to direct us as we “do the next right thing.”

(4) The Father spoke from heaven and declared Jesus to be his Beloved Son.

If you are following Jesus, God, also, calls you his beloved daughter or son. Paul makes this clear, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Romans 8.14).

Today’s Prayer

Dear Jesus, we live in awe of who you are. You are the Beloved Son of God and are our Beloved Savior. You always did the right thing. Please help us all to do the next right thing, as your Spirit leads us.


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