Jesus was about 30 years old when he came to the River Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. Jesus had no personal sins that needed forgiveness and therefore no need to repent but he knew and recognized that God is righteous. Though Jesus was sinless, his flesh would deteriorate and die like any man’s unless sustained by the word of God. John protested that if anyone was to be baptized, it was himself, not Jesus which caused Jesus to say something relevant to all of us, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” John then consented.
Jesus was praying as he went under the waters of the Jordan to be baptized and immediately as he came up from the water, God confirmed his position as the Messiah by the Spirit of God descending and resting upon him in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven which said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Thus began the ministry of the Son of God. He was heralded by the unmistakable sign of the dove and words from heaven.
Clearly what Jesus had done was pleasing to God. Jesus said that baptism is something we all need and was not just for himself. When later speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus said. “…. Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Puzzled, Nicodemus questioned how he could be born again. Jesus replied, “Unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Being born of water must be a “rebirth” by water – baptism by immersion that indicates a start of a new life in Christ. Being born of the spirit is a spiritual renewal. The transformation of one’s life from within to accompany the outward act.
When Jesus neared the time when he must die as a sacrifice for sin, he used a phrase which indicated how he viewed baptism – as an act of dying to self and pledging to live wholly to God. He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with and how great is my distress until it is accomplished.” (Luke 12:50) For him the death on the cross would be what his baptism had pointed forward to. In the Jordan he had publically pledged to die to self and in Jerusalem he would literally fulfil that pledge.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ 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. For if we have been united together in the likeness of his death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:3-5)
Jesus was the example by being baptized himself. He charged his disciples to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20) “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)