From T.M. Schoewe
Jesus came to be baptized by John in the Jordan River! Why? John did not understand and ever since people have wondered why.
John’s baptisms were symbolic acts of cleansing. First of all for Gentiles, who had not been born into the family of God’s chosen ones, outcasts according to the Jews, they could come as converts to Judaism. Did Jesus see Himself as a non Jew? No! So why did He come? John’s baptism was also for Jews, apostate Jews who had rejected the Law of Moses, denied their birth right, etc. By this washing they could be restored into the family of God. So did Jesus see Himself as an exile or expatriate of Israel? Clearly no!
The question persists. Even John says, “I need to be baptized by You, why do You come to me to be baptized?” The RSV seems to be the best translation: “Let it be so for now, for in this way I shall do all that God requires.” Jesus’ mission is to identify Himself in every way with all humankind in their need for restoration and redemption. And now at the very beginning of His ministry Jesus acts out God’s total identification with His human family in their sin. In going down to the Jordan, Jesus dedicates Himself to His work. He came into this world to bestow God’s grace and identify God’s love with the whole human race, with every man and woman in their struggle with sin and in their search for forgiveness.
We are in the season of Epiphany. It is an old Greek word meaning, “the showing forth” or “revealing.” The Epiphany of the wise men shows Him as the Savior of “all nations!” Now as we stand in spirit at the Jordan River we witness in the baptism of our Lord this truth “that God in Christ has come to be totally immersed in our mortality. He moves slowly into the muddy river not for Himself but for us, for the whole human race, crying, craving for cleansing. So deeply does He identify with us that He knows and feels it in His body as He trembles over our sin and guilt. Jesus’ baptism reveals God’s deep sympathy with every troubled soul that ever walked the earth; rejected children, grieving parents, the lonely widow, the despised politician, the thief on the cross, you...me. He carries all our struggles with sin with Him into the Jordan.
And coming forth from the river, He brings us hope and the promise of glory. Read Matthew 3:16-17. “Hear He Him;” John 1:29 “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Through faith in Christ our Lord the heavens are open to us, the Holy Spirit is given us. In spite of human frailty and sin, the Father calls us His sons and daughters! In Christ we are found pleasing in His eyes. Two great claims of the gospel are here at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry. In Christ, God comes to us in our sin. And in Christ the Lord we become children of God; forgiven and given His holy spirit.
When Jesus came to John to be baptized, the Baptist asked why?, a question we all should ask. The Lord’s answer is an Epiphany. It shows us He came to do what God required, to take us, our sinful selves, through the waters of His saving grace and bring us redeemed and restored into the glory of His Father’s house. Read Matthew 16:16 and Matthew 28:16-20.