Jesus’ Baptism: 3 Key Lessons to Learn

The baptism of Jesus is easily misunderstood. We often understand this important event as Jesus simply going into the Jordan River and being baptized just like any other human being is baptized. What we fail to grasp is the deep significance of the meaning of God’s voice from heaven at Jesus’s baptism. The biblical text tells us that, “a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” Without a deeper connection with the Old Testament, we fail to see that Jesus is telling us exactly who Jesus is, and what his mission will be as the Son of God. Let me explain.

God’s heavenly voice combines three Old Testament texts to tell us about Jesus and his mission:

  1. “You are my Son” comes from Psalm 2:7. Psalm 2 is a Royal Psalm, first applied to King David and probably read at the coronation of subsequent Davidic Kings. When we understand this background, we see that God the Father is identifying Jesus as a Sovereign King in the line of King David, the highest ideal in Judaism.
  2. “whom I love” comes from Genesis 22:2. Remember when God told Abraham, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love” and sacrifice him on the mountain? As that story unfolds, Isaac is spared and a ram is sacrificed instead. When God speaks to Jesus at his baptism with these words “whom I love,” he is stating that Jesus is the unique Son of God and as the Lamb of God will sacrifice himself for the sins of the people. Jesus will be offered as a sacrifice, just as Isaac was. Jesus will die as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). This is very important, and easy to miss if we do not grasp the Old Testament connection.
  3. “with you I am well pleased” – this phrase is taken from Isaiah 42:1, the first of four servant songs in Isaiah 42-53. Jesus as the Servant would accomplish his purpose through suffering, as prophesied in Isaiah 53:5: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Using these three Old Testament texts at Jesus’ baptism, the Father indicates that Jesus, the promised King and Messiah is also the Suffering Servant who will sacrifice himself to conquer sin and death. How important is that deeper understanding!! Moving out of the Jordan River waters, Jesus knows his identity and his purpose! His teachings and actions throughout his ministry try to make these two facts known to the world: Jesus is the kingly Messiah, but a warrior king, rather, Jesus will be a suffering Servant King who dies on the cross for our sins. Amazing. Thank you, Jesus!

Want to learn more? Check out the Life of Jesus DVD Bible Study from the Deeper Connections Series by Hendrickson-Rose Publishing!

Dr. Matt Williams, Biola University — the associate professor of New Testament at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, La Mirada, California. A former missionary to Spain, Matt preaches and teaches at churches throughout the United States and Spain. He is general editor of Colección Teológica Contemporánea, a series of theological books in Spanish, and is the author of two books on the Gospels. Click here to learn more about Dr. Williams’ new DVD Series The Life of Jesus DVD Bible Study.

The Life of Jesus: 6-Session DVD Bible Study

The “Life of Jesus” in the Deeper Connections Bible study series is the fourth DVD and participant’s guide to be released by Rose/Hendrickson Publishing. Along with “The Last Days of Jesus” DVD, one has a 12-study overview of the main events and teachings from the life of Jesus, one of the most popular Bible classes in any Christian University. These studies, taught by top New Testament scholars, are now available for personal, church, and small group use. These studies are unique among many other DVD Bible studies in that they really emphasize three important aspects of good biblical teaching:

  1. Historical and cultural background
  2. An engaging, close look at the biblical text, and its meaning
  3. Accurate, encouraging, and challenging applications of the Bible’s message to life today

Here is the list of teachers:

  • Dr. Darrell Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary
  • Dr. Gary Burge, Wheaton College
  • Dr. Scott Duvall, Ouachita Baptist University
  • Dr. Susan Hecht, Denver Seminary
  • Dr. Mark Strauss, Bethel Seminary
  • Dr. Matt Williams, Biola University

The Life of Jesus DVD and participants guide covers the first six main lessons on Jesus’ life and ministry:

  1. Birthday Surprises—Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-16)
  2. John Prepares the Way—Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:11-17)
  3. The Victorious Son of God—Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11)
  4. Fishing with the Master—Jesus Calls Disciples (Luke 5:1-11)
  5. Diseases Conquered—Jesus Heals the Sick (Matthew 9:27-34)
  6. Defeating the Enemy—Jesus Casts Out Demons (Mark 1:21-28)

Each of the lessons begins with an introduction filmed on location in Israel in order to better understand the cultural and geographical background. Then the lesson switches to a creative location in the United States that helps bring out the main emphasis of the passage. So, for example, the baptism of Jesus is filmed next to a river in Little Rock, Arkansas; Jesus heals the sick is shot in the mountains of Colorado Springs, in a location that was thought to contain magical healing waters by native Americans.

I have successfully taught these studies to groups of people from the ages of junior high school all the way up to 80-year olds. I highly recommend these creative studies for any group that you might lead—and they are easy to lead: they are truly plug and play. Let the New Testament scholars teach your lesson with all of their experience: your group simply follows along in the participant’s guide, which allows one to take notes and highlights important points. The participants guide also contain a five-day personal Bible study to help one to reflect further on each lesson during the week.

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