John had baptized many people who had repented and believed his message that the Messiah would soon appear. When Jesus came to be baptized, John didn’t yet realize that He was the Messiah, so it wasn’t for that reason that he was hesitant to baptize Jesus. He must have been hesitant because, when he compared himself to perfect and sinless Jesus, his own sinfulness was evident. That is why John suggested that Jesus baptize him! This reveals to us that Jesus had a reputation of being a very holy person, which we would have expected anyway since we know Jesus never sinned.
It was right after John baptized Jesus that John saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Him in the form of a dove. God had foretold John that when he saw that happen, it would reveal the person who was the Savior. Can you imagine how John felt at that moment when Jesus came up out of the water? His own relative, the most holy person he had ever met, was actually God’s Son! For thirty years Jesus had kept it a secret! From then on John began to tell everyone that Jesus was the Son of God. The secret was out!
John also understood something about the main reason why Jesus became a man, because he began referring to Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). For thousands of years the people of Israel had sacrificed lambs during every Passover, just as God had commanded. But those lambs only served to prefigure Jesus, who would die for everyone’s sins, not just covering them, but, as John said, taking them away. If you are a believer in Jesus, you should know that He has taken away your sins. In God’s eyes, you aren’t just a sinner who was found guilty and then forgiven, you are a new person who has been declared “not guilty”! Wow!
Q. Why didn’t John call Jesus “Lord” when he objected to baptizing Him?
A. Because John didn’t know at that point that Jesus was Lord.
Q. Why do you think Jesus wanted to be baptized by John like everyone else?
A. It couldn’t have been because Jesus needed to repent like everyone else, because He was sinless. Jesus told John that He should be baptized in order to “do everything that is right” (Matthew 3:15). Some people (including myself) think that Jesus was baptized as a way of foreshadowing His death on the cross. Picture it this way: Thousands of sinful people being baptized in the Jordan River, washing their dirty sins into the water, and then Jesus, who was clean and sinless, going down into the water and coming up with everyone’s sins on Him. That is what happened on the cross, when Jesus took the sins of the world on Himself and suffered as our substitute.
Application: Once we realize and believe, just as John the Baptist did, that Jesus is the Son of God, we need to tell other people, especially those who are searching for the truth.