Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3: 14–17)

The baptism of Jesus is recorded in all four gospels. This sort of agreement is referred to as a ‘harmony of the gospels’.

The baptism is an event that is very important in Jesus’ ministry. In this story we see clearly the relationship between Father and Son and the use of the title ‘Son of God’.

The events that occurred in Jesus’ baptism are all signs of God’s presence.

  • The heavens were opened. Heaven was a symbol of God’s presence, so the heavens being opened shows a closeness to humanity. Some scholars have suggested that this event was simply Jesus’ vision alone as it was not seen by anyone else.
  • The Spirit of God descended in the form of a dove. In the Old Testament doves were a symbol of the arrival of good news – eg when a dove brought the news that the flood had ended in the story of Noah. It has come to mean the symbol of peace and is regarded as a symbol of the Holy Spirit in modern Christianity.
  • A voice from Heaven spoke, “You are my son whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” This confirmed Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and would have given him confidence to carry out his ministry.

Why did Jesus get baptised?

Jesus was God’s son, so he was sinless and there was no need for him to receive forgiveness. John tried to refuse to baptise Jesus saying that it was he, John, who should be baptised by Jesus.

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Christians believe Jesus was baptised so that he could become like one of us. This shows his great humility. He set an example for us to follow.

Jesus’ baptism was also an opportunity to show his authority as God confirmed he was His Son.

Infant versus adult baptism

Jesus was baptised as an adult

Some Christian churches still hold to this custom today. This is so that the adult chooses a Christian way of life and will follow it – eg believers’ baptism.

Roman Catholics are baptised as babies to remove the stain of original sin and to welcome the child into the Christian community. The child then grows up in the faith of the community and makes their sacraments.