13Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And 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. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
I am told by those who have gone to Israel et. al. to see the places mentioned in the Bible that the site of Jesus’ Baptism is just that, a site in the River where people think Jesus was baptized by John 2000+ years ago. It probably has much more commercial appeal now than it did then but is certainly a holy site for Christians.
The baptism of Jesus always raises many questions. Most of the questions aren’t really about Jesus’ specific baptism but about the implications of that baptism for us. So questions arise of baptism; “Since Jesus was baptized, we should be too,” or the more philosophical “If Jesus was sinless, why was he baptized” and “Did Jesus not know who he was or what his mission was until his baptism?” Then there is the question of the mode of baptism which really builds on the first question; “Since Jesus was (supposedly) immersed, shouldn’t we also be immersed (NOOOO!).” These questions miss the point though. As Fred Craddock says, “this is the stuff of novels, not gospels.” Matthew does not intend for us to “psychologize” Jesus’ thoughts as he is baptized. Jesus’ baptism surely had implications for us but not in the way most of our questions (see above) indicate.
Why does Jesus submit to baptism? In short, it’s the same reason Jesus submits to the cross – for our sakes! Of course Jesus does not need to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, but he willfully submits because this seals his solidarity with those whom he came to save: us sinners. With his first step into the Jordan River, Jesus also takes his first step towards the cross at Calvary. The Son is consecrating himself to the task of saving humanity at the will of the Father.
In this season of Epiphany, thats one worth having!
Blessings on the journey,