Jesus’ Baptism – Luke 3:18-22 ESV, Colin Munroe, Lead Pastor

Jesus’ Baptism

Luke 3:15-17 (ESV)
As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Luke 3:18-22 (ESV)
So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison. 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.”

Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV)
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

John 1:29-34 (ESV)
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

Luke 3:18-20 (ESV)
So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

Matthew 14:3-5 (ESV)
For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet.

Mark 6:17-20 (ESV)
For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

How do you respond to conviction and admonishment from others, the scriptures or directly from the Spirit?

Do you justify your actions?

Or do you confess your sins and humbly turn to God, asking Him for the power to change?

Luke 3:21-22 (ESV)

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.”

The Father’s words at Jesus’ baptism clearly identified who Jesus was: God’s beloved Son. What Jesus was doing, including His baptism by John, totally pleased God. Jesus was in no way becoming God’s Son at His baptism; instead, His true nature/identity was being revealed. Jesus’ baptism showed that He was identifying with sinful men and women, without implying that He Himself was sinful.

Instead of going to Jerusalem and identifying with the established religious leaders, Jesus went to a river and identified Himself with those who were repenting of sin. 

If John’s baptism was for repentance from sin, why was Jesus baptized?

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Hebrews 4:15 (ESV)
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

1 John 3:5 (ESV)
You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

Our sinless Savior! Yet He was baptized.

Although Jesus didn’t need forgiveness, He was baptized for the following reasons:

  1. To confess sin on behalf of the nation, as Isaiah, Ezra, and Nehemiah had done.
  2. To fulfill all righteousness in order to accomplish God’s mission and advance God’s work in the world.
  3. To inaugurate His public ministry to bring the message of salvation to all people.
  4. To validate John’s ministry.
  5. To identify with the repentant people of God, with their humanity and sin.
  6. To be an example to follow. John’s baptism of repentance was different from Christian baptism. Paul had John’s followers baptized again in Acts 19.

Jesus, the perfect human being, didn’t need baptism for repentance, but He accepted baptism in obedience to the Father and He voiced His approval. The opening of the heavens is spoken of by Ezekiel, Stephen and John in Revelations. It was as if the heavens rolled back to reveal the throne of God like in Isaiah 64.

After the heavens opened, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like a dove. The act of the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven like a dove revealed to John the Baptist that Jesus was the Messiah. This signaled that Jesus was the Messiah and that the age of the Spirit predicted by the prophet Isaiah had formally begun. 

John knew that the Messiah would come, but it is uncertain when. He knew that his cousin, Jesus, was the one.

Isaiah 11:2 (ESV)
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

Isaiah 42:1 (ESV)
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

The Holy Spirit’s appearance in the form of a dove showed that God’s plan for salvation was centered in Jesus. He was the perfect human who didn’t need baptism for repentance, but He was baptized anyway.


“Remember, Christ was not a deified man, neither was he a humanized God. He was perfectly God and at the same time perfectly man.”

C. H. Spurgeon

Jesus did not become the Son or the Messiah at this baptism. Jesus already was divine from eternity past. The opened heavens, the dove, and the voice revealed to John the Baptist that Jesus was God’s Son, come to earth as the promised Messiah to fulfill prophecy and bring salvation to all who believe.

Theologians have long been troubled by Jesus’ allowing himself to be baptized by John. After all, baptism was for sinners. Why did Jesus agree to undergo baptism? He did it because he is both God and man—in identifying with people, he underwent their baptism; in his role as God, he both gives the Holy Spirit and receives the anointing of the Spirit as the one and only Son, in whom the Father is well pleased. God and man, two natures in one Person. He gives the Holy Spirit and life, as only God can; he undergoes baptism and even death, as only a human can. He represents the sacrifice for sins before the Father, and he communicates the Father’s love. When you are hurting, depressed, broken, remember: you have a Savior who understands your humanity. When you sin, remember: He has paid the price for your disobedience.

Close in prayer