Matthew 3:1-17, Matthew 4:1-25, Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 4:1-6
For better or worse, I grew up watching “Sesame Street” as a child. I especially remember that instructional skit in which one of the characters would have four things set in front of him. Three of the items would be identical and one would be different. The song would then start:
One of these things is not like the others
One of these things just doesn’t belong…
Before His earthly ministry started, Jesus came to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist, the herald who proclaimed the coming Messiah, saying, “Prepare the way for Lord; make his paths straight!” (Matthew 3:3; Isaiah 40:30).
God had sent John to inaugurate the Messianic ministry by calling His people to repentance, representing their cleansing by baptism. People flocked to John and his ministry, turning back to God in repentance and faith. And so Jesus also came to John to be baptized. But why?
Throughout the New Testament we learn that Jesus “did not commit sin” (1 Peter 2:22) and was “holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). Why would the sinless Son of God come to John to receive baptism, a sign indicating the need to have sins washed away?
When Jesus stepped into the Jordan, He was stepping into the waters that had been symbolically polluted by the sin of the great line of those who had gone in before Him. Jesus submitted Himself to having that symbolically polluted water poured over Him. Geoff Thomas captures the scene so well:
“There is a great line of repentant sinners standing soberly and sorrowing on the bank of the Jordan waiting to go down into the waters… There’s a thief, a drunkard, an adulterer, a liar, a bully, a wife-beater, an idol-worshiper, a torturer, Jesus, a murderer, a forger, a troublemaker, a braggart, a terrorist, a blasphemer, an abuser of children… and hundreds more—every one a sinner, and there is Jesus—made in the likeness of sinful flesh—standing in line.”
How do we know Jesus was so very different from the others in that water?
Even John questioned the need for Jesus’ baptism, at first trying to stop Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me?’” But Jesus said, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:14-15).
So John baptized Him. Then the heavens opened up. The Holy Spirit descended on Him. And the Father Himself spoke over Jesus: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:13-17).
The Father’s affirmation would carry Jesus all the way to the cross where He would die for those who could not live without Him. Nailed to the tree and under the wrath of God, Jesus washed away the sins of His people through His bloody baptism on the cross (Luke 12:50).
Imagining Him there now, on the banks of the Jordan River, we must conclude that truly, He is the One who is most certainly not like the others. Yet He became like us in order to redeem us. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Written by Nick Batzig