Here’s a question for you – why was Jesus baptized? John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, and we know Jesus was without sin. So why would he offer himself to get baptized?
The life of every man has stages. We all have turning points in our life. One such turning point for Jesus was the age of twelve, when He stayed in Jerusalem following the Passover feast, talking with and learning from the leaders at the time. It was at this point that Jesus began to have His own self awareness that He was somehow, someway uniquely God’s own son. “And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”” Luke 2:48-49 ESV. His mother says your father and I have been searching for you. Jesus says Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? Mary refers to Joseph as His father, Jesus takes that title and gives it to God. Very subtle, but it’s there. Jesus is becoming aware of who He is.
His baptism is another turning point. It is eighteen years later. Eighteen years!! What’s Jesus been doing all these years since He began to understand his unique relationship with the God of the universe? The answer is we don’t know for sure…but then again we do know. He was living life, just as we live life. He was learning the small details of life. He learned the struggles of making a living. He learned the insecurity of life as a working man. He learned the grouchy, ticked off customer. He learned of the man who refused to pay his debts. He was learning and living all the issues and problems we live on a daily basis. He was being faithful over the responsibility He was given. Remember the parable of the talents – “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” Matthew 25:21-23 ESV. Jesus was teaching from His own experience. He lived out His teaching before He taught.
The emergence of John the Baptist was Jesus’ call to action. God was calling Him to His purpose. With John, there was a movement by many toward God – and Jesus would want to be identified with that movement.
But something happened when Jesus was baptized. God spoke. the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” I’ve always just read this as God speaking, being pleased and proud of His son, but He is actually giving Jesus a message here. In Psalm 2 it says “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”” Psalms 2:7-9 ESV. The entire psalm is a description of the coming Messiah, the Father is telling the Son (who was very well versed in the Old Testament) exactly who He is. And Isaiah 42 tells us “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” Isaiah 42:1 ESV. His servant with who His soul delights, in other words, with whom He is well pleased. This begins a description of the suffering Messiah that ends in Isaiah 53.
So, in His baptism Jesus realizes 1). He is Messiah, the anointed King and 2). This would not come with power and glory, but suffering and a cross. Before any ministry happened, before even His temptation occurred in the wilderness, Jesus knew what was coming. The cross was no surprise to Him. At His baptism He may have been looking for the approval of His Father, which He did receive. But He also received His destiny on the cross.
From this very point forward, Jesus was living out His instruction to us – “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 ESV
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,”
Luke 3:21-23 ESV