Today we celebrate the baptism of the Lord, when Jesus went down to the Jordan river and asked John to baptized him. Many of us wonder why Jesus felt it was necessary to receive baptism in the Jordan. The answer might surprise you.
To understand this passage we have to recall the ancient Jewish rituals regarding purification. In those days it was essential that any object used for eating and drinking be washed with clean water and purified in a prescribed fashion. Bathing was also performed in a ritual fashion. These rituals, it was believed, would be pleasing to God. On the other hand, if the ritual was not followed, one would remain unclean and therefore displeasing to God.
The teaching of the baptist turned the rituals of the Jewish people upside down. No longer was ritual required to become clean. Instead, the only thing that one could do to be pleasing to God was to repent and turn away from sin.
So why did Jesus need to be baptized by John? Because Jesus wanted the people, especially his disciples to understand that John was right, that it is not ritual that makes us clean but rather it is in turning away from sin that we are cleansed.
Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan
to be baptized by him.
John tried to prevent him, saying,
“I need to be baptized by you,
and yet you are coming to me?”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us
to fulfill all righteousness.”
Then he allowed him.
After Jesus was baptized,
he came up from the water and behold,
the heavens were opened for him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove
and coming upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Turn away from sin and believe in the gospel!