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Matthew 3:13-17 – The Baptism of Jesus

Summary

Jesus comes from Galilee to the Jordan wilderness to be baptized by John. At Jesus' request John acquiesces and baptizes Jesus in fulfillment of all righteousness. After the baptism a voice from heaven announces that this Jesus is God's beloved Son.

Analysis

Just when the Baptist's activity seems so successful, it is "then" that Jesus first appears on the scene in a surprising turnabout. John has said that the one who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Instead, Jesus comes seeking to be baptized by John. Matthew alone seeks to address the problem by having John attempt to avoid Jesus' request. If, after all, baptism has to do with repentance and with bearing fruit that befits righteousness, why should Jesus have to be baptized? But the threefold reference to baptism in this passage and Jesus' response to John both serve to emphasize the importance of this event coming at the beginning of this narrative of the good news about Jesus.

Jesus says that this baptism must take place to "fulfill all righteousness," and with his words the reader begins to realize that righteousness has to do with much more than simply human ethical response, but rather has to do with the whole plan of God in this one who comes as savior, and thus is a sign of Jesus' obedient submission to God's marvelous grace. The unique reference to the opening of the heavens "to him" and the clear public announcement of God's good pleasure name Jesus as God's beloved Son (Mark says, "You are…"; Matthew writes, "This is…") and mark this event as revelatory of God's presence and approval.

Matthew 3:13-17

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ 15But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. 16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved,* with whom I am well pleased.’

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10 February 2011

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