The Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17)

Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | January 12, 2014


  • Intro: Beginnings… Do you remember the first time you…went to school, rode a bike, made a snowman, went on vacation, drove a car, worked a paying job?
  • These were beginnings for many of you.
  • Which beginning do you look back on most often? (Pause)
  • For me, I think it was when I moved to NC at the age of 20.
  • So many things changed after that.
  • What about you?
  • Some beginnings are more memorable than others.
  • Jesus’ baptism was a beginning for him, but not just for him.
  • It was also a beginning for us.
  • It is or should be a very memorable beginning, but it’s often overlooked.
  • It’s memorable because it definitively marks the beginning of his redemptive ministry for his people in the world.
  • And Matthew’s account here tells us both the purpose and the result of Jesus’ baptism.
  • Theme: The purpose of Jesus’ baptism is his identification with sinners, and the result of Jesus’ baptism is God’s authentication of him as the only savior of sinners.


  • In his baptism Jesus is announced and demonstrated to be God’s chosen vessel to accomplish salvation.
  • This day marks a pivotal point in salvation history.
  • It’s the visible demonstration and audible announcement of the beginning of Jesus’ redemptive work.
  • First, the purpose of Jesus’ baptism is his identification with sinners.
  • John is baptizing people for the repentance of their sins and announcing the coming of the kingdom of God as he has been doing for some time.
  • However, on this day, Jesus himself comes to be baptized as well.
  • But Jesus does not just happen by and decide to join in.
  • He has walked seventy miles from Galilee for the specific purpose of being baptized in the Jordan by John.
  • Jesus knows God’s purpose for himself – as the angel told his father Joseph many years before – he will save his people from their sins.
  • And he knows now is God’s time for this purpose to begin to be carried out.
  • But when Jesus tells John he wants to be baptized along with the others, John is shocked and repulsed by the thought of it and saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?
  • In other words, How can I, John, a sinner myself, baptize the One whom I know to be sinless, and whose baptism is greater than my own?”
  • But Jesus insists, saying “Let it be so for now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,”
  • In other words, “John, this may seem utterly backwards to you, but this is the time, and this is the way God wants us to show people who I am and what I’m going to do.
  • This is the time and the way God wants to show people how I am to fulfill what God demands of them and what has been prophesied about me.
  • It’s the time and the way to begin to identify myself with the sinful people whom God is going to save through faith in me.
  • I must become like them so that they can become like me.
  • I must take on their unrighteousness so that they can take on my righteousness.
  • And the first thing I’m going to do is to be baptized by you as every repentant sinner should do in obedience to God.
  • Submitting to baptism is the visible and public acknowledgment of a person’s sinful nature and his need of a Savior.
  • It’s the first step of a life of obedience to God.
  • Therefore it must be the first obedient step in my ministry of redemption which will finally end in my going to the cross to bear their sin.
  • God has ordained that I become sin itself, who has never known sin, so that in me they might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5.21).
  • By God’s grace, John understands and consents to do as Jesus asks.
  • John, perhaps for the first time, begins to understand to whom his baptism is ultimately pointing.
  • His baptism is pointing to Jesus’ and his death as “a ransom for many” (Mat. 20:28) and to Jesus’ perfect obedience fulfilling God’s righteous requirement for disobedient sinners (Mat. 5:20, 48).
  • Here at the beginning of his ministry he sets his face to obediently carry out God’s redemptive plan.
  • The purpose of Jesus’ baptism is his identification with sinners, and second, the result of Jesus’ baptism is his authentication as the only savior of sinners.
  • The result of Jesus’ obedient identification with sinners is God’s authentication, his visible, audible testimony to Jesus as the only Savior, the promised Messianic King, the Son of God and Suffering Servant of the Lord.
  • “Immediately” after he rises from the water, the heavens are opened to him and he, to see and hear God’s testimony to who he is and what he is to do.
  • First, it is the testimony of the Spirit, “descending like a dove to rest on him.”
  • By receiving the Spirit after his baptism, Jesus represents his people, he is anointed as Messianic King and he is empowered for his redemptive ministry.
  • By the Spirit, Jesus is anointed king and heir to David’s throne.
  • It recalls for the Jews well-known messianic prophecies in Isaiah that say that God will place his Spirit upon his chosen servant Isaiah 42: 1; Isaiah 11: 2, and Isaiah 61: 1.
  • It is like David or Solomon being anointed with oil at his coronation.
  • It marks the beginning of his reign and God’s enabling to carry out his rule.
  • By the Spirit Jesus is empowered to accomplish the mission for which he is sent, to accomplish salvation and to overcome the power of the devil.
  • Jesus is visibly equipped and commissioned to undertake his messianic mission.
  • The one who will be baptizing in the Holy Spirit must himself first be empowered by with the Spirit.” (?)
  • It’s not that he hasn’t possessed the Spirit in his pre-incarnate state or even in his early years.
  • In fact, he was conceived by the Spirit in his mother’s womb.
  • But here he is specially equipped for his redemptive ministry.
  • Second, it is the testimony of the Father, “a voice from heaven,” saying,
  • “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”
  • As Abraham preached last week, until this time, God’s voice through his prophets had been silent for 400 years.
  • Now God himself has broken silence and is again revealing himself to men – a clear sign of the dawning of the messianic age.
  • God authenticates Jesus as his one and only son son.
  • God authenticates Jesus has his obedient suffering servant.
  • [These words] “reflect Isaiah 42.1, “here is my servant in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit upon him,” and Psalm 2.7 in which God says, “you are my son; today I have begotten you.”

Why we need to know this. So what? What difference it makes to us. The application.

  • Because the purpose of Jesus’ baptism was his identification with sinners, then the purpose of our baptism is our identification with Christ in his life, death and resurrection on our behalf.
  • And because the result of Jesus’ baptism was God’s authentication of him as the only savior of sinners, then the result of our baptism is God’s authentication of us as those who have received the benefits of our savior.


Categories: 2014, Epiphany, Matthew, Sermons, The Life and Ministry of Jesus

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