John the Baptist was a prophet who is trying to prepare the nation of Israel from the long awaited and promised Messiah. He is calling for the nation to repent of the sins and to be baptized to have them washed away. People from all over Judea are coming to see John and be baptized. In Matthew 3:13-17, Jesus shows up to be baptized and John intends to prevent this from happening. He recognizes who Jesus is and knows he does not need to be baptized but Jesus insist that he must do this to fulfill all righteousness. So what does all this mean and why does Jesus get baptized?
When we read the Old Testament, God has created a good world and it has his blessing. By chapter 3 man has rebelled and chapter 4-11 shows how man rebel against God corrupting his good world. God makes a covenant with Abraham and promises to once again bless the whole world through his descendants. God enters into a covenant renewing this promise to Israel at Mt. Saini, and to David promising that on of his descendants would always be on the throne. Th problem is that just like the people of Genesis 3-11, Abraham and his descendants don’t live a life fully committed to God but God is faithful to them. Finally after centuries of rebellion God allows his people to be carried away to a foreign land and their home and the temple is destroyed. The prophets however encourage Israel that the day will come when a Savior or Messiah would come and a new covenant would be established.
Matthew introduces us to Jesus in his gospel as the descendant of David, Abraham, and Adam. His life mirrors that of the Israelites in Egypt all the way up to the time that they enter the promise land. He is revealed to be the Messiah the one who will bring about a new covenant that will restore God’s blessing to the earth. Jesus goes out to be baptized by John to fulfill all righteousness. His baptism will accomplish four things:
Jesus identifies with all of Israel and participates in a communal repentance. Jesus is the one who will keep man’s commitment made in the covenants between Abraham, Israel, and David.
Jesus is anointed as the king of Israel. If you read Psalms 2 or Isaiah 42 you will see that words spoken by God are those used to anoint a king. He is recognized as the son of David and the Messiah.
Jesus fulfills the old covenants and will now establish the new covenant.
Jesus is commissioned to ministry as he is filled with the Spirit. He will now begin to usher in the kingdom of God and restore God’s blessing to the world. We now wait for his second coming when all things will be made new and we live in the new Jerusalem (Rev 21-22).
Likewise, our baptism has similar themes to Jesus’:
We identify with Jesus by reliving the story of redemption (death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus).
We are adopted into God’s family.
We agree to be committed to God as we live under his new covenant.
We are commissioned to ministry and are given the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Our purpose in life is now to partner with God to spread the good news of Jesus.