Christ’s baptism raises some interesting questions. The first, and most obvious questions is: Why did Jesus need to be baptized? Baptism, we believe, is for the forgiveness of sins, and John said that this was the purpose of his baptism as well. But Jesus was without sin. So, why did he need to be baptized?
Each of the Gospels handles this scene differently. In Mark’s Gospel, no explanation is given. In Matthew, Jesus and John have a small dialogue, where John objects, but Jesus explains that it’s necessary for him to be baptized to fulfill God’s designs for our salvation. Luke slyly glosses over this scene, simply saying, “After his own baptism, while Jesus was at prayer, the heavens opened…” In John’s gospel, the baptism of Jesus isn’t mentioned. Instead, John catches sight of Jesus walking by, and announced to the crowds that Jesus is the savior.
Some commentators have speculated that his baptism marked for Jesus the dawning awareness of his divinity, and his mission. Others have said that the encounter between Jesus and John is the point of transition between the old covenant and the new, between the era of the prophets and the messianic era. But for all of us who have been baptized, this event makes holy the waters of baptism we have received. We have been baptized into a community of faith, and into Christ’s death and resurrection. Just as our Baptism marks the beginning of new life for us, Christ’s baptism marks the beginning of his earthly mission which makes that new life possible.