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Jesus, Baptized for Us


“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Matthew 28:19

We who have been baptized know the power and purpose of Baptism. It was our lost and sinful condition from conception which prompted our Triune God to give us this blessed sacrament. From birth we cannot, nor do we even have the desire to, follow our Lord or keep His commands. Our hearts needed a transformation—a conversion. The Holy Spirit alone can give that change of heart and create saving faith. Often—as is the case with infants—it is the Spirit working through the water and Word of Baptism that effects conversion.
So why was Jesus baptized? Luke records that John the Baptizer was “preaching a Baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (Luke 3:3) We know from all of Scripture that Jesus, as the sinless Son of God, had no sins to repent of. Even John himself felt that Jesus was mistaken in coming to be baptized. “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’” (Matthew 3:13-14) Perhaps we, too, would have been surprised—why would Jesus request Baptism?
Jesus’ answer to John’s question is short, but not simple. It is as broad and deep as the Gospel itself. “But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’” (Matthew 3:15) The operative words in Jesus’ answer seem to be “fitting” and “fulfill.” The commands of God are fitting or appropriate for us to pursue. Jesus, as the obedient Son of God, submitted Himself to His Father’s will. He came, at His Father’s direction, in the form of a servant. He kept not only the letter, but the spirit of the Law as well. Jesus’ obedience led Him not only to the cross, but also to the condemnation it held as well. “For He [the Father] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us. . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:21a)
However, the Corinthians passage goes on, “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21b) This is the fulfillment Jesus spoke of. He fulfilled the Law. He was condemned not for His own sinful deeds, but for the sins of the world. Jesus’ triumphal cry from the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) meant completed—fulfilled, now and forever. He was raised again on the third day as proof positive that His redemptive work had been accepted by the Father.
That we might become the righteousness of God—what a wonder! Through Jesus’ birth, obedience, Baptism, death, and resurrection, we are now clothed in His righteousness. “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed . . . even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all . . . and on all who believe . . . being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-22, 24)
Our Baptism into Christ gives us not only the promise of eternal life with Him, but also the power over sin today. “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)
Read the entire sixth chapter of Romans to see a more complete picture of the Holy Spirit working through the power of your Baptism, and your Savior’s fulfilled work for you.
David W. Bernthal is a retired teacher. He is a member of Luther Memorial Church in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.