Matthew 3

John the Baptist and the Baptism of Jesus

I had to look up why John baptized. He explained his reason in Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” But baptizing for repentance is not something I thought existed in Jewish culture. What I found was the concept of a mikvah, a cleansing to prepare for the new week or remove spiritual uncleanness.

John, who came to “prepare the way of the Lord” camp to baptize as a sign that the people were taking a new direction in their salvation, looking from the law to the redeemer.

Jesus came to John “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b), to prepare for his ministry to his people, not, as I had previously believed, to symbolize a removal of sin he did not carry, but to accept his role and begin his mission. Thus Matthew 3:17b “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well please.” The Father is not pleased that the Son has obeyed an outward sign, but rather that the Son has accepted his mission, and the heavy burden he would wear over the next few years, and begun the work he was sent to earth to do.


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