SEARCH THE ARCHIVE

? SEARCH TIPS
Exact phrase, enclose in quotes:
“keyword phrase here”
Multiple words, separate with commas:
keyword, keyword

Rev. VanOverloop is pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.

“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:13-17

It was necessary for Jesus to be born humbly. This was the way to the cross. It was necessary that Jesus be baptized. This also was the way to the cross.

John had labored in the wilderness near the Jordan river for about six months before Jesus came to him. John preached the theme, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (v. 2). Those who repented, confessing their sins, were baptized by John with the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). Upon evidence of sincere repentance (“fruits meet for repentance,” v. 8), John gave them the sign that they were forgiven, washed of all their sin.

While John was busy preaching and baptizing many, Jesus came to him (Luke 3:21). The reason Jesus came to John was “to be baptized of him.” This caught John by surprise. Why “comest thou to me?” Upon first consideration we are as surprised as John. So we are not surprised that John would refuse to baptize Jesus.

John had two good reasons for refusing to baptize Jesus. First, John’s baptism was one of repentance and of the remission of sin. Those who sought John’s baptism did so because they were conscious of their sins and sinfulness. Their repentance indicated their desire to be delivered from their sin. Now Jesus came to be baptized with that same baptism. But how can that be, since Jesus had no sin. John had learned from his parents and from his study of the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus was holy and good, the Lamb without blemish and spot, the Messiah. John saw that there was nothing for which Jesus needed forgiveness. We see Jesus even more clearly than John did. We know Jesus to be the person of God the Son who is always perfect. And according to His human nature, Jesus was without the guilt and corruption of sin. Jesus never knew, by experience, what repentance was. Yet He came to John to be baptized of him. Why did Jesus need to be baptized?

John’s second reason for refusing to baptize Jesus was the fact that he believed that Jesus should be baptizing him. John knew that, unlike the perfect Jesus, he was a sinner and needed the baptism of repentance and forgiveness. Also, Jesus should baptize him because, while John baptized with water, Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire (v. 11). John wanted the reality of which water baptism was the sign.

So John believes it wrong for him to baptize Jesus. Jesus should be baptizing him.

As insistent as John was to refuse Jesus’ request to baptize Him, so insistent was Jesus that He be baptized by John. Jesus had two things in mind.

First, Jesus knew that He stood before John, not as an individual, but as intimately united with His people. When the Father, in eternity, gave to Him a people, they and He were united in such a way that Jesus became their legal and organic Head. This union with His people means that the guilt of all of their sins and sinfulness was imputed to Him. The curse of our sin was laid on Him. As He stood before John the Baptist, Jesus sees Himself to be made sin. He must be baptized, for His baptism is to be submerged into death as the punishment of His people’s sin. Therefore, from the perspective of His union with His people, Jesus needed to be baptized, to be cleansed, to receive the baptism of the remission of sin.

Second, Jesus knew that He needed to be baptized now—at this point in His life and ministry. This is the way that Jesus enters into His public ministry. Until now He was preparing Himself. But now He is ready to take on the task of being the Good Shepherd. In order to be the Good Shepherd, Jesus must enter the sheepfold by the door, not by climbing in some other way (John 10:2, 3). You see, Jesus, by being baptized, is accepting the responsibility of being the Head of His people, even though it meant that He would have to bear the punishment for their sin. The path that follows from His baptism leads directly to the cross. From this perspective, too, Jesus must be baptized.

This was hard for Jesus. It was difficult to accept the responsibility of being one with His people and of representing them, because it meant bearing the result of all their sins. That is why we read that Jesus prayed when He was baptized (Luke 3:21). In this prayer He consecrated Himself to God and to doing God’s will. In prayer He gave Himself up to being obedient to God. Second, in this prayer Jesus was expressing His need for God’s blessing. He needed God’s blessing to do what He had to do. He knew experientially His need for the Spirit to equip Him for the great task that lay ahead of Him. Jesus knew He had to be baptized, and everything this meant. So He prayed!


That which finally convinced John to baptize Jesus is Jesus’ statement, “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was telling John that it was only by His being baptized by John that they would fulfill righteousness.

John had preached the necessity of repentance. With that he also preached the promise of the forgiveness of sin and of entrance into the kingdom of heaven. And to show that there is forgiveness, John gave the sign of baptism—the washing away of sin. It is right to have the promise of forgiveness accompany the demand to repent and believe. Forgiveness is promised us in the way of our repentance.

But why is this so? Why should one who repents be forgiven?

Is it the case that repentance makes one worthy of forgiveness? Absolutely not! That would make repentance a work of man that earns forgiveness. That would deny grace.

John preached remission of sin to the repenting ones on the basis of the promise of God. This promise was proclaimed throughout the old dispensation and was portrayed most graphically in the sacrifices. But there was yet no completed basis for that which John (and all the other Old Testament prophets) preached. God’s promise was sufficient reason for this to be preached by John and the prophets. God swore that His promise would be completed and fulfilled. But as yet the promise was not fulfilled. Jesus’ real baptism would complete God’s promise.

John preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. That meant that God would soon send His Son into the world to establish the basis for the promise of forgiveness. Jesus came to realize the basis for the truth of John’s preaching: repentance unto salvation.

It is to the need for this basis that Jesus spoke when He said, “it becometh us to fulfill all righteous.” God’s attribute of righteousness or integrity must be fulfilled, i.e., completed, in the sense of performed. God cannot promise forgiveness without His righteousness demanding a solid basis. Forgiveness is rightly granted only because the punishment of each and every sin of His people has been met. God’s righteousness requires that Jesus die (exactly what His baptism symbolized) for there to be forgiveness.

That which convinced John to yield to Jesus’ insistence that He be baptized was submission to God’s righteousness. Jesus’ death (baptism) would make it righteous for God to forgive.


That which finally convinced John to baptize Jesus is Jesus’ statement, “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was telling John that it was only by His being baptized by John that they would fulfill righteousness.

John had preached the necessity of repentance. With that he also preached the promise of the forgiveness of sin and of entrance into the kingdom of heaven. And to show that there is forgiveness, John gave the sign of baptism — the washing away of sin. It is right to have the promise of forgiveness accompany the demand to repent and believe. Forgiveness is promised us in the way of our repentance.

But why is this so? Why should one who repents be forgiven?

Is it the case that repentance makes one worthy of forgiveness? Absolutely not! That would make repentance a work of man that earns forgiveness. That would deny grace.

John preached remission of sin to the repenting ones on the basis of the promise of God. This promise was proclaimed throughout the old dispensation and was portrayed most graphically in the sacrifices. But there was yet no completed basis for that which John (and all the other Old Testament prophets) preached. God’s promise was sufficient reason for this to be preached by John and the prophets. God swore that His promise would be completed and fulfilled. But as yet the promise was not fulfilled. Jesus’ real baptism would complete God’s promise.

John preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. That meant that God would soon send His Son into the world to establish the basis for the promise of forgiveness. Jesus came to realize the basis for the truth of John’s preaching: repentance unto salvation.

It is to the need for this basis that Jesus spoke when He said, “it becometh us to fulfill all righteous.” God’s attribute of righteousness or integrity must be fulfilled, i.e., completed, in the sense of performed. God cannot promise forgiveness without His righteousness demanding a solid basis. Forgiveness is rightly granted only because the punishment of each and every sin of His people has been met. God’s righteousness requires that Jesus die (exactly what His baptism symbolized) for there to be forgiveness.

That which convinced John to yield to Jesus’ insistence that He be baptized was submission to God’s righteousness. Jesus’ death (baptism) would make it righteous for God to forgive.ing His people and of suffering the punishment for all their sins. For this task Jesus was best equipped with meekness. For this work Jesus would need a meekness greater than that of Moses. When the Lord would lay on Him the iniquity of all His people, then Jesus would need the meekness of allowing Himself to be led as a lamb to the slaughter, not opening His mouth (Is. 53:7).

Second, out of the opened heavens came the voice of God. This voice was meant first for Jesus, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21). God spoke these words out of heaven at critical moments in Christ’s life, at times when Jesus needed encouragement from His Father. Now God declares to Jesus that His willing obedience to bear the sins of the people given to Him—even unto death—was pleasing to God.

And God spoke these words for John and for us: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (v. 17). John learned that God’s approval was given to Jesus. John learned from this declaration of God that all righteousness is fulfilled in Christ. We too must hear God’s declaration about His Son and His willingness to be baptized for us. We learn that in Jesus’ real baptism there is forgiveness. What a gospel!