Baptism of Christ

The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist is recorded in the synoptic gospels (Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21f.) and is implied in John (1:32-34). John's role was to be a link between the old and new covenants. Where the prophets of the OT had spoken in general terms of the Messiah, it was John who was able to identify him. The baptism of Jesus by John was the beginning point of the ministry, and therefore also of the apostolic witness and the kerygma (Acts 1:22; 10:37; 13:24f.).

Because John's baptism was connected with repentance for the forgiveness of sins, Matthew records John's hesitation to baptize Jesus. John is persuaded to do so when Jesus says, “It is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” This seems to mean that He accepted the divine plan and was willing to identify Himself with the faithful remnant in Israel. The opening of the heavens shows the direct contact between the Father and Jesus in the descent of the Spirit and is both in line with the coming of the Spirit upon the prophets and a continuation of what He had done as the agent of the Father in the conception of Jesus. The words which refer to Jesus as God's “beloved Son” are often taken to be a combination of Isaiah 42:1 and Psalm 2:7, implying that his Sonship is to be worked out in the role of the Servant of the Lord. The fact that the baptism immediately precedes the temptation in the wilderness suggests that there is typology involved as Jesus recapitulates the experience of Israel in the Red Sea and the desert. The answer Jesus gives to the chief priests about the source of His authority (Mark 11:27-33) suggests that on the historical level the authority for His mission is to be found in His baptism.