Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.

17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

fulfill all righteousness (v.15) — Jesus observed all the rightful Jewish religious observances. (Matthew 5:17; Galatians 4:4-5)

Spirit … alighting upon Him (v.16) — in fulfillment of John 1:33 and Isaiah 11:2.

In Isaiah 42 is recorded the beginning of the new movement, “Behold My Servant,” and from there onwards, the Servant of the Lord is presented. In chapter 53, we see the Servant of the Lord rejected, bruised, cast out; the suffering Messiah, the King that men will not have. Towards its close we have the story of His Person, and of His ultimate victory, and in verse 11 we find these words, “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied. By the knowledge of Himself shall my righteous Servant justify many; and He shall bear their iniquities.”

These words, “My righteous Servant shall justify many,” are the explanation of the meaning 0f Jesus when He said to John, “thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” By identification with them in sin and suffering “He bare the sin of many.” He identified Himself with them in their sins, and “was numbered with the transgressors;” and therefore “by the knowledge of Himself shall My righteous Servant justify many.” His knowledge of Himself is His first-hand knowledge (see John 2:24-25), and so is knowledge of the need knowledge of the remedy, and consent to all such knowledge is involved. “He shall bear their iniquities.” The King was facing the problem of obtaining His Kingdom, and He faced first the sin of man. He submitted to the baptism of John, indicating by this symbolic action His identification of Himself with His people in their sin, in order that He may put that sin away, and build and establish the Kingdom of God, and so fulfill all righteousness. — Morgan, page 26.

One reason for Christ’s baptism is given in John 1:33-34: “I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The Man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'” John recognized Jesus as the Messiah when He presented Himself for baptism, but John was not permitted to reveal to Israel what he by the Spirit understood. It was only after the Spirit descended that John could make a public announcement that the One whom he had promised had now arrived and had begun His ministry. The baptism, then, was to release John to make a public announcement concerning the coming of Christ.

The baptism of Jesus was that He might identify Himself with the believing remnant in Israel. John’s ministry had brought men to faith in his word and in the promise of God. This believing remnant was bound together by the sign of John’s baptism. When Jesus Christ came, He came not to identify Himself with the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, and the Zealots, but rather to identify Himself with that believing remnant who were expecting the fulfillment of God’s promises. 

Further, Jesus was baptized to identify Himself with sinners. Sinners were coming to John to confess their sin, to confess their need of a Savior, and to give an outward sign of their faith that the Savior would come who would redeem them from sin. Jesus Christ came to identify Himself with sinners so that through that identification He might become their substitute. Paul stated this in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Just as it was necessary for Israel to be identified with the scapegoat and the scapegoat to be identified with Israel through the laying on of hands, so Jesus Christ identified Himself with sinners to that they might be identified with Him when He gave Himself as a substitute for their sins. — Pentecost, page 94

At this time God confirmed to John and others present who witnessed this baptism that Jesus was what John had introduced Him to be — the Messiah, the Savior, the King. “The Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:22). All present could see this visible sign. In addition, there was an audible sign, for a voice from heaven said, “You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.”

God vocally confirmed John’s introduction of Jesus. At the baptism Jesus the Son was officially recognized by God the Father as Israel’s King. Jesus was anointed by the Spirit for the work that He had come to perform. The Father bore witness of the relationship between the Son and Himself, saying, “You are My Son, whom I love.” There was a witness of the Father as to the life of the Son: “With You I am well pleased,” In the prayer we see a relationship of Christ to the Father. Christ was dedicating Himself to the Father’s will and work. We see a relationship of Christ to the Holy Spirit; the Spirit descended on Him to empower Him in the work He was to do. — Pentecost, page 95.

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