We know the story:

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. (Matthew 3:13-15)

Why was it necessary to be Baptized by John in order to fulfill all righteousness?

  • Are you searching for a scholarly history-based answer or a Christian perspective? If the latter, then this topic is too broad to be considered.
    – Double U
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 20:14
  • If the former, then this question is definitely on-topic, as there is a definitive answer within mainstream academia.
    – Double U
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 20:20
  • @DoubleU One of the guidelines for edits is that they should not conflict with the intent of the OP. Given the answer He has given to his own question, perhaps it may be better re-cast as requesting an overview of different explanations Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 7:11
  • Mike, this question is at risk of being closed as 'primarily opinion based' under the site guidelines that have been refined somewhat since it was written - would you like to edit it to keep it within current site guidelines? Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 7:12
  • Re: the current edit, I don't gain from the text that being baptized by John is of any significance compared to being baptized. I think the text stresses baptism, not baptism by john.
    – user3961
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 23:04

4 Answers 4


The Baptism of John was calling sinners to repentance. It was unusual in that it was treating the Jews as Gentiles. Everyone was considered impure and needing washing at the door-step of the New Covenant:

From wiki we get a clear definition of the Jewish Mikveh. It is correctly stated here that:

Several biblical regulations specify that full immersion in water is required to regain ritual purity after ritually impure incidents have occurred.

It signified washing impurity away.

More applicable to our text Mikveh was used, and is still used today to convert Gentiles to Judaism. Here is a quote from the Jewish historian Alfred Edersheim on the subject:

‘the proselytes of righteousness,’ who became ‘children of the covenant,’ ‘perfect Israelites,’ Israelites in every respect, both as regarded duties and privileges. All writers are agreed that three things were required for the admission of such proselytes: Circumcision (Milah), Baptism (Tebhilah),and a Sacrifice (Qorban, in the case of women: baptism and sacrifice) - the latter consisting of a burnt-offering of a heifer, or of a pair of turtle doves or of young doves (Maimonides, Hilkh. Iss. Biah xiii. 5).

So the question remains why did Jesus submit to a baptism calling everyone to repentance for their sins, in preparation of Christ’s appearing?

There are many views why Jesus was Baptized, some of the better views are; His coming as the Representative of a guilty race, or as the bearer of the sins of others, or of His surrendering Himself symbolically to death for man. However as Jesus came to ‘fulfill all righteousness’ it seems to best to say that He came to perform perfect obedience to Gods Law. This obedience not only included all the ceremonial, civil and moral laws given to Moses, but as Christ was not only God but man, He must also submit to the ministries of Prophets sent by God. Furthermore the level of consciousness that Jesus, as a man, had of His purpose and ministry seems to have taken a sudden increase after His submission. For it is hear that God declares from a voice from heaven and a visible token of His Spirit anointing Him for His ministry that he has the One whom God loved, that is the King Messiah, and also the suffering servant who He was well pleased with.

So His baptism was to fully comply with all Laws in order to have a righteousness that He could provide to sinners while the sins of the world were placed upon Him in return. This is why John says:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (NIV John 1:29)

Jesus was presenting Himself as the Lamb in Baptism, to suffer all the sins of men punishable under the Laws of Moses. John was including the righteous Pharisees and sinful tax collectors as equally needing this baptism of repentance for sin. Jesus was the center upon which this baptism had meaning, for water does not cleanse.


The "mikvah" or Baptismal rite was a symbol of righteousness amongst the Jews, and was central in John the Baptist's message. As an outward manifestation of righteousness, it would have served as a signal to those who witnessed it that:

  • a. Jesus was clean


  • b. John the Baptist was worthy to say that Jesus is clean

John the Baptist was recognised by Jesus as "The greatest among those born of a woman." So this means that John was greater than Moses, greater than Elijah, Or Elisha, Perhaps, even greater than Abraham. John the baptist also introduced himself as "The voice shouting in the desert". He was to change people's hearts to God, just as Elijah did when the whole Israel turned to worship baal.

John was worthy of reprenting the whole human race because he was raised by God. He grew up in the desert, his food was honey and locusts and he wore feathery animal skin. So he grew up away from the people that time. His thinking was different from anyone else.

John was also from the lineage of Aaron, the high priest. It is clear that only the people in the lineage of Aaron could be priests. Therefore, John the Baptist represented the rest of the world as the high priest used to do on the day of atornment. I assume you already know what used to happen during atornment. The priest 'laid his hands on the lamb'. This was to 'pass on' the sins of Israel onto an innocent lamb. then sacrifice it. The lamb bore Israel's sins and therefore had to pay the penalty of sin, death.

Similary, this is what happened when Jesus was being baptised by John. Jesus was again identified as "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world". John(as a high priest) laid his hands on Jesus(the Lamb). So the sins of man were 'passed on' to Jesus during his baptism. Jesus took all our sins on his head immediately he was laid hands on by John. "For it was fitting to fulfill God's righteousness". That's the reason why Jesus had to pay for the sins he took.

However, immersion in water represents death, coming out of water represents resurrection. But the laying on of hands represents the passing on of sin.

  • Was Jesus born of a woman? I wonder what he intended to say about that. Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 15:06
  • Which Christian denominations believe this? On this site, we're looking for objectively supportable answers about specific beliefs of Christian groups: that's not what this looks like. Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 15:21
  • I like everything about this answer except this: it does not explain why John the Baptist was so surprised that Jesus would submit to baptism. John would have been well versed in points of Jewish law related to baptisms and priests and sacrifices, the ideas you cite, yet he was still surprised. Clearly there is a dimension to Baptism that even John did not know about. Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 14:15

Why was Jesus baptised by John the Baptist?

John was known for offering a baptism of repentance for those Israelites who wanted to experience a revival of their faith and make a public commitment to be more faithful.

John objected to Jesus presenting himself for baptism.

Matthew 3:13-15 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

We do not get a specific explanation of what the "fulfil all righteousness" meant.

Two possibilities suggest themselves. The first is that there was a ritual washing for those who were to embark on a career in the priesthood and that this was to be emblematic of the ministry of Jesus.

Exodus 40:12-15 And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water. And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest's office.
And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats: And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.

Hebrews 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

The second possibility is that God wanted to declare publicly the endorsement of the ministry of Jesus. We have an example of a previous public announcement of the birth of Jesus.

Matthew 3:16-17 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Luke 2:8-11 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

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