21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened,22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
One of the more remarkable things about this passage is that Jesus got baptized at all. If anyone had zero need for a baptism of repentance, it was Jesus. Matthew 3:15 adds the detail that Jesus said it was “to fulfill all righteousness,” but I confess I do not find it easy to say what that even means under the circumstances.
But I do see that many people were being baptized and they certainly saw that they needed a baptism of repentance, even if Jesus didn’t. At least some of Christ’s earliest disciples were first followers of John, who in turn saw himself as Christ’s forerunner. Finally, we also know from a later verse, Luke 7:30, that many Pharisees and lawyers did not receive the baptism of John.
Under the circumstances, we might at least see that Jesus did not want to be confused with self-satisfied Pharisees and lawyers. If there was to be any confusion, let it be that the sinless Son of God and Messiah went all the way in his identification with sinful humanity. A baptism of repentance? He submitted to it, just like so many of his followers. John, who was some kind of blood relative, saw Jesus outwardly and obviously supporting his ministry. Christ did everything he could to be “one of us.”
And isn’t that the great thing about him? God the Son emptied himself and he began his public ministry getting baptized by John.
Those silly apostles. In Luke 22 we see Jesus about to be betrayed, arrested and crucified – approaching the climax of His mission and ministry here on earth. Sadly, His closest followers seem oblivious. They are so self-centered they get into something of a fight.
“I’m a better Christ-follower than you, Peter, ” says one.
“You are not,” the burly fisherman strikes back.
“Wait a minute! I’m the disciple Jesus really loves,” says John, the beloved disciple.
“He’s just trying to make you feel good because you’re such an idiot.”
And so Jesus, with endless patience, interrupts. He takes a conversation about greatness and makes it a lesson about our willingness to serve others. It’s a lesson we need every bit as much as they did:
Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. – Luke 22:24-27 (NKJV)