Matthew 3:13-17

Mark 1:9-13; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34; Philipp. 2:5; Isaiah 53:11-12; 42:1; Psalm 2


John's baptism of Jesus would have been a boulder of doctrine to navigate through for the early church. Even in Acts 19 there were disciples of John the Baptism in Ephesus when Paul arrived.


3:13 - "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John."

- Τότε παραγίνεται Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην πρὸς τὸν Ἰωάννην τοῦ βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ αὐτοῦ.


"paraginesthai" is "came". It is also used of the Magi and John the Baptist. It means "appeared"


Mark here says Jesus came "from Nazareth of Galilee. (Mark 1:9)


Matthew tells us plainly that Jesus came "to be baptized by John" from Galilee. Jesus' purpose for leaving Galilee was for John's baptism.


Why would Jesus come to be baptized by John? These are some suggestions from commentators. Some of the options below are really not possible or correct:

  1. impelled by God
  2. John's ministry was saying the right things with the right direction
  3. public identification with this new movement that had people confessing sin and seeking God
  4. identify himself with the sinners he would one day die for
  5. Jesus came to join John's movement
  6. Jesus came for confirmation of his ministry and purpose before the approaching wilderness trial
  7. Jesus came to confess any sin even unknown
  8. Jesus came to be identified by John the Baptist (the prophet) as the Messiah and begin his ministry as the messiah or Christ.



3:14 - "But John tried to deter him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?' " - δἑ διεκώλυεν αὐτὸν λέγων Ἐγὼ χρείαν ἔχω ὑπὸ σοῦ βαπτισθῆναι καῖ σὺ ἔρχῃ πρὸς με;


Although Jesus came for baptism, the use of "but" indicates that John had another plan or did not see God's purpose.


"deter" is from the word "diexoluen" which means "tried to stop". Some would say the 'dia" is perfective and means "John was for stopping him altogether."


John tries to reverse their roles and says he "needs" (not "wants") to be baptized by Jesus. John could have been referring to:

  1. His own sinful state
  2. His desire for baptism with Holy Spirit and Fire
  3. Jesus' greater righteousness as a man


According to John 1:33, John the Baptist did not know Jesus as the Messiah until the Spirit descended on him.


I think John here is referring to Jesus' natural moral superiority to John's.



3:15 - "Jesus replied, 'Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.' " - ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ἄφες ἄρτι οὕτως γὰρ πρέπον ἐστιν ἡμῖν πληρῶσαι πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην. τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτόν.


"now" - this word allows for John's expectation at a future time. But, for "now" it will be moved to the future for "now" is the time for Jesus to fulfill this part of God's plan. Jesus is in a sense adjusting the timetable.

  • At this time John is serving over Jesus
  • Later Jesus will be positionally superior


"Let it be so now" or "let's get this done"


"To fulfill all righteousness" is difficult to explain. It could mean:

  1. to fulfill through obedience every divine ordinance of the Mosaic Law, except this type of baptism was not one of them and not for the Son of God.
  2. the baptism indicated an acceptance of John's standard of righteousness as the measure of God's expectation for: Jesus to live by, the people to live by, Jesus to accomplish on the cross and Jesus to establish in his kingdom
  3. The fulfillment of what was required by God to fulfill his word and his purpose. "Fulfill" then means to accept or recognize. Isaiah 53:11-12 - Jesus had to be identified so people could know him and trust him. "by knowledge of him shall my righteous servant justify many" and "he will be numbered with the transgressors"
  4. Jesus continues ot be identified with Israel as Mathew has pointed out. Jesus here catches up with Israel historically as a type or shadow: He was persecuted at birth, he fled to Egypt, he made an Exodus from Egypt, and now is being baptized with those who are seeking the kingdom.


3:16 - "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him." - βαπτισθεὶς δὲ Ἰησοῦς εὐθὺς ἀνέβη ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος καὶ ἰδοὺ ἠνεῴχθησαν οὶ οὐρανοί, καὶ εἶδεν πνεῦμα θεοῦ καταβαῖνον ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν ἐρχόμενον ἐπ αὐτόν


"went up" is "apo" and means Jesus completely departed from the water.


The word "idou" (translated sometimes as "behold" or "look") is an expression used by Matthew to indicate amazement at what is seen or heard. "Idou" is used in this verse to refer to the heavens being opened and in the next verse to the voice speaking out of heaven.


In Jewish literature a dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
Philo wrote the a dove is divine wisdom.

So, the dove, even during the time of John the Baptist was associated with the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The Rabbis recognized that the Holy Spirit was not active in Israel since the days of Malachi. Maccabees recognizes this. This manifestation of the Spirit would have indicated the long awaited Messianic age had began.


"Heaven Open" was seen by:

  1. Jesus for sure
  2. According to the gospel of John, John the Baptist also saw it (John 1:29-34)
  3. Some people must have seen it since the voice that is going to speak in Matthew 3:17 addresses the people in Mark and Luke. Also, in John 12:28, 29 the voice from heaven at a different time is heard by some, yet some thought it thundered.


The Holy Spirit comes on Jesus like a dove and not like fire because the coming of the Holy Spirit and fire was for the refining and purifying of the people (Malachi 3). Jesus did not need to be refined from sin. Jesus character and nature were a perfect match and so the Holy Spirit could come peacefully and gently as a dove and did not need to come as a purifying agent as He does in Acts 2.



3:17 - "And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.' " - καὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν λέγουσα οὗτος ἐστιν υἱός μου ἀγαπητός̔ἐν ἐν εὐδόκησα.


"idou" is used here again. It is the second word in the Greek after "kai" or "and"


A voice from heaven is heard three times in the gospels:

  1. Baptism
  2. Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5)
  3. Before the cross (John 12:28)


The presence of the voice indicates an eschatological event.


Isaiah 42:1 and Psalm 2 are the Old Testament verses that may indicate what is going on with the voice from heaven addressing the Son of God on the earth.


Qumran documents show that the phrase "Son of God" was a Messianic title in Israel before the Christian age. The Qumran title "Son of God" referred to the authority given to a man, but did not refer to the divined nature of that man. John does indicate that the one he is to baptize is greater than John the Baptist because he was before John the Baptist. Or, the Son is eternal God.


"Beloved" signifies "only" or "only-begotten" as is seen and used in John 1:18


"Pleased" means "to think it good," "to give consent," "to take pleasure in"


Jesus is both:

  • the Messiah of Psalm 2:7
  • the suffering servant of Isaiah 42:1