The promise of a Messiah was based on the premise that a virgin will bear a son and his name shall be called Immanuel. Having made this promise, God also had to find a way to help us identify the Messiah when He came, because anyone could rise up and make the claim the he is the Messiah. So, among other things, the Baptism of the Lord served to identity Jesus as the Messiah, the Lamb of God, the one who will take away the sins of the world; it was the Epiphany of the Lamb.
According to John the Baptist, “So that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water and He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit’ (John 1:30-33). Matthew, Mark, and Luke testify, “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 1:9-11, Lk 3:21-22). Notice that this phenomenon, as reported by all four Gospels, happened only to Jesus Christ in order to single Him out the Messiah. John the Baptist will have to say, “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34).
By being Baptized, Christ was identifying with those he had come to save so that through His righteousness sinners can gain a right place with God again. By being baptized, Jesus took our place—our sin, our guilt, our punishment, our death so that when we are baptized, we can take on His place—his perfect life, his death, his resurrection. Scripture says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Again, Scripture says, “Having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:7).
His Baptism also turned the Baptism of John—a baptism of repentance—into a Sacrament of grace, redemption, and salvation; a ticket and admission into the community of God’s people; a gateway and passport into the kingdom of God. It ended the claim of Jewishness and circumcision as the criteria for God’s children. The Bible says, “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith (those baptized in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit) who are sons of Abraham….in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:7-9, 14).
A very important matter to note, also, is that the Baptism of our Lord served to reveal the true nature of God as Trinity—Three Persons in one God—the Father who spoke of His Son; the Son who was being baptized and on whose behalf the Father testified; and the Spirit who descended on the Son in preparation for the Father’s testimony.
What a rich experience and privilege it is for all of us who are bonded unto the Lord in His Baptism, for His Baptism gave us the reassurance that we are following the Right One, the Savior, the Son of God, the Redeemer, the one who died, ones and for all, for my sins and the sins of the world. To Him be praise, honor, and glory for all ages, Amen.