© Rosemary Bardsley 2013



A.1 The message of John the Baptist

‘Prepare the way of the Lord’.

John the Baptist came as herald and forerunner of Christ. His message was one of urgency and anticipation.

The Lord is coming.
The Kingdom of God is upon you.
Repent and receive the forgiveness of your sins.


A.2 His baptism

To John’s message many responded, and came to him in repentance, confessing their sins [verse 5]. The sign of this repentance and confession was baptism.


A.3 His limitations

Yet John saw neither himself nor his baptism as being of permanent significance:

He knew he was only the forerunner – he knew there was someone greater coming [verse 7]. John held this Expected One in awe and respect.

John saw his baptism as inferior to the baptism the Coming One would bring:

John’s baptism was purely symbolic: Jesus would baptise with the Holy Spirit [verse 8].

Baptism with water was a sign of human repentance and confession: baptism with the Holy Spirit is the regenerating, life-giving activity of God in man. It is being born of the Spirit; it is being remade into a new man. It is being incorporated, once-for-all, into God’s family.

Such is the baptism the Coming One would bring.


Matthew 3:13-15:

‘Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.”’

Jesus came to be baptized. There are two facts which combine to make this amazing:

John’s baptism was for sinners – it symbolised their repentance and confession of sin.

Jesus was the sinless one. The whole of Scripture agrees that Jesus Christ was the spotless Lamb of God. He was perfect.

He had no need to repent.
He had no sins to confess.

Why then did he submit to, and indeed insist on, being baptized by John?

He has given the reason: ‘… it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness’ [Matthew 3:15].

What does this mean?

When Jesus was baptized he identified himself with sinful man. This self-identification with man began with the incarnation – when the Son of God became man. This self-identification with sinful man was seen clearly on the cross, where he died the death of a sinner.

Christ did all that God required of sinful man. So here, this fulfilling of all God’s demands of man, is expressed in Christ’s submission to John’s baptism – a baptism of repentance, confession and forgiveness.



C.1 ‘You are my Son’
In these words God himself affirms that Jesus is his Son. This does not indicate that God adopted Jesus as his Son at his baptism, as some scholars have taught. Rather, it indicates that God is announcing who Jesus is, and who he has always been.

He was the Son of God before he came to earth.
He has always been the Son of God.

This eternal existence of the Son of God is taught, for example, in the following scriptures:

‘This is the one I meant when I said, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.”’ [John 1:30]

‘”I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am.”’ [John 8:58]

‘And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began’ [John 17:5].

Therefore, God proclaims in these words the true nature of the Expected One, of the Messiah whom the Old Testament foretold and whom the Jews were expecting. He is no other than God’s own Son, the eternal Son of God.

It is this divine Son, Lord of the whole universe, who has just humbled himself in a baptism for sinners, identifying himself with sinful man.


C.2 ‘my beloved’ [KJV] ‘whom I love’ [NIV]
This term ‘my beloved’ refers to God’s Chosen One. His beloved, only Son, whom he has chosen to redeem sinners. The work of this beloved, chosen one was prophesied by Isaiah:

It is the work of a Servant.
It is the work of suffering.

In the word ‘beloved’ we are told that the eternal Son of God came to earth as the Suffering Servant of God, who would in his own body bear the sins of many.


C.3 ‘with you I am well pleased’
God here states his approval of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christ alone, in himself, finds acceptance with God. God is pleased with him, and only with him. On him God’s favour rests.



Jesus is the Son of God.
He is to be acknowledged as our Lord and our God. To him is due honour, glory, praise and obedience.

Jesus identified himself with sinful man.
This tells us that he put himself in our place – even in the place of condemnation, even on the cross. This is our assurance that our sins have been already judged in Christ, on the cross.

God is well pleased with Christ.
God accepts what Christ did for us on the cross, and we who believe are therefore acquitted. Our sins are eradicated from God’s sight and the perfect righteousness of Christ is credited to us. He sees not us, but Christ and he is well pleased with him. Thus, in Christ, he presents us holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation [Colossians 1:20].

Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit
That is, he regenerates us. He ahs brought us through a spiritual birth so that through faith in him and his work we can e called sons of the living God, born of the Spirit.