As important as the subject of baptism is in various parts of the Bible, one would think Christians today could answer the simple question: Why was Jesus baptized? It’s obvious they never thought about it before my question.
Note: Lots of Scriptural baptisms exist, such as baptism in water, through water, of fire, in the Holy Spirit, etc. We’re discussing only in-water baptism here.
When I ask people why Jesus was baptized, I often get blank stares.
So Pop Quiz Time!
Why was Jesus baptized?
- Baptism was better than tearing John’s shirt
- For the remission of His sins
- To be saved
- As an outward sign of an inward faith
- To be a member of the local church
- To be an Elder of the local church
Okay. Take your time. What’s the answer?
Read over each answer carefully.
Don’t pull the trigger until you’re sure.
So what is your final answer?
->You only get one shot, make it a good one!
If your answer is 2, you are wrong.
If your answer is 3, you are wrong.
If your answer is 4, you are wrong.
If your answer is 5, you are wrong.
If your answer is 6, you are wrong.
The answer to why Jesus had to be baptized and be baptized by John and only John is simple: It was better than tearing John’s shirt.
What Tearing a Collar Meant
In Leviticus 10:6, Moses warned his brother Aaron, “Do not uncover your heads or tear your clothes, so that you will not die…”
This seemed to be pretty important to God. After all, they were His inspired words.
Surely you’ve seen Fiddler on the Roof and other films about Jews. They are experts at grief. Often, a leader can be so grieved that he wrenches his collar, you know, can’t you just picture it, a Jew grieving, grabbing his collar and tearing it in agony. Jews are known for this.
Kriah is a Hebrew word meaning “tearing.” It refers to the act of tearing one’s clothes. This rending is often a show of dramatic expressions of grief and anger at the loss of a loved one.
If a Jew today or a Jew from Moses’ time or a Jew from John and Jesus’ day tore his collar, it wasn’t usually a big deal
But there was one exception in Jesus’ day: the High Priest couldn’t tear his collar. Everybody else could, in grief, tear their collars day in and day out if they wanted to. Hebrews did it all the time.
But not the High Priest. As a matter of fact, the only person on earth who could not tear his own priestly collar was John. That’s how we know he had to baptize Jesus. (I know, I know, John didn’t wear priestly garments. Stay with me here.)
So Why Some and Not Others?
The ones who would die if they tore their collars were High Priests. There was only one High Priest at a time. Aaron was the very first High Priest. This is why Aaron was the very first one whom God wanted warned about tearing his clothing. Again, God said, through Moses, to Aaron: “Do not uncover your heads or tear your clothes, so that you will not die…”
The special High Priest’s garments were always to be constructed with reinforcement around their necks (Exodus 28). This kept the High Priest in times of intense grief from doing the very thing that was a capital offense. God would kill a High Priest who tore his garment and the reinforcement helped ensure that it wouldn’t happen on accident in times of tragedy.
That is why John had to baptize Jesus.
What’s the Point? Caiaphas was High Priest, So What If John Couldn’t Tear His Collar?
Caiaphas could tear his priestly garment all day. He could go through thousands of priestly garment wardrobes, putting them one and tearing them all. He wouldn’t die if he did.
As a matter of fact, Caiaphas did tear his garment and then just kept on spewing his idiocy. He didn’t die.
Wonder why God told us that? In Matthew 26: 65-66: Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!”
See, Caiaphas tore his garment and didn’t die. Well why on earth did you think he would die anyway? Oh, because he was High Priest?
Saying Caiaphas was High Priest is a lot like saying a public school education makes one educated. Saying it doesn’t make it so.
Caiaphas Was Not the True High Priest – Guess Who Was?
We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the wicked idiot Caiaphas was not the true and rightful High Priest. It’s pretty obvious just by reading about him, but we also know that he didn’t die when he tore his robes. Man can call another man whatever he wants, High Priest, President, whoever. But that doesn’t make it so.
The fact that the Sadducees and Romans and others said Caiaphas was High Priest is completely meaningless.
We don’t even need the story of Caiaphas tearing his clothing and living past it to know he wasn’t High Priest in spite of the title. Still, it helps reinforce the fact he was a phony.
The fact that Caiaphas was a false High Priest is exactly why Jesus had to be baptized. By John. Because the true High Priest was John.
And a true High Priest can’t tear his clothing. He would die if he did. The perfection of the High Priests had to be maintained. They had to be free of blemishes. They had to be physically complete in every way to imply the perfection of God. (One of many reasons I could never have been High Priest in case you thought about nominating me.) God would see to it and God would kill them if they tore their clothes.
Proof that John Was High Priest
John’s father was Zechariah. Have you ever wondered why the Angel of the Lord went to Zechariah with news of a son? God promised him that Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth would have (to their surprise no doubt) a son. And the angel told Zechariah that his son should be named John.
Did the angel of the Lord go to Caiaphas? No way! Why would he do that? Caiaphas was a wicked idiot. And we know he wasn’t High Priest anyway in spite of his man-given title. We saw above that he later tore his priestly garment and didn’t die but just kept on talking.
The angel of the Lord knew that Zechariah was a priest. The High Priest. The angel of the Lord isn’t stupid. He’s a messenger for a pretty smart God.
Zechariah was burning incense. In the temple. John’s father was High Priest, the true one. And, at the time, if he did not have a son, he was the last of the priests. Without a son, the priesthood would end with Zechariah. But there needed to be a priesthood or else Jesus could never have been born. Because Jesus would become the final and last High Priest.
High Priests burned incense in the Temple. This was what Zechariah was doing when the angel came to him and told him, “By the way, your barren wife is going to have a boy and you need to name him John.”
It is because Zechariah was High Priest and could not tear his clothes that John had to baptize Jesus.
John Would be the Bloodline’s Last Priest
Without a son, the priesthood would have ended with Zechariah. That wouldn’t do because what if Zechariah was not alive when Jesus was ready to become priest, High Priest, the very last High Priest ever?
So Zechariah had a son. Named John. You know him by his first, middle, and last names: John the Baptist.
John, a contemporary of Jesus, was the last one we find in the New Testament who had the blood lineage of the Priesthood. John wasn’t married and he wasn’t planning to get married. He had fish to fry and people to dunk. So we still have the same problem. When John died, the priesthood’s bloodline would die. That was a huge problem if someone wasn’t there to take over.
But someOne was there to take over. For ever and ever. Jesus would become our High Priest for all time.
John’s baptism was for the remission of sin as John clearly stated. Jesus, however, had no sin. But in Matthew 3:15, Jesus makes it clear that only John the Baptist could baptize Him. Why? Because baptism was the way that John the High Priest could pass along the priesthood service to Jesus.
Before Jesus stepped into the water, He was King but after His baptism, He was King of Righteousness. This is what Melchizedek meant and Jesus was from the Melchizedek Priesthood, the only men who were both priests and kings. No other kind of Priest could be king and no king could be priest. Jesus was to be both which is why He comes from the lineage of Melchizedek.
The birthing of the Priesthood of King Jesus was there in the Jordan. John had passed on the Priesthood.
John holds the rightful blood lineage of the High Priest. And when the High Priest moves out of office, he baptized the next one.
Jesus got baptized so that He could receive the office as High Priest, after the order of Melchizedek, the Last, a High Priest forever. (He is our great High Priest but unlike Aaron’s Priesthood, this High Priest will never end.) With Jesus, a change occurred in the Priesthood, an eternal change, as Hebrews tells us must happen. We now have an eternal High Priest and King.
The High Priest was to go into the temple on the Day of Atonement with the blood sacrifice and burn incense to cleanse Israel from her sins. With Jesus dying on the cross, no subsequent sacrifices are necessary. His sacrifice paid the price for it all. Now… “it is finished.”
Why Didn’t John Baptize Jesus in the Temple?
The baptism of the next High Priest usually took place in the temple. But God’s will isn’t thwarted by man.
There was a phony “High Priest” in the temple – Caiaphas who could tear his robe’s collar and not die. God didn’t want His true High Priest, John, baptizing in the current phony’s temple.
And the Jordan wasn’t just a place. The Jordan river was the only place. The Jordan symbolizes “out with the old and in with the new.”
John, being the true High Priest, the only one who could baptize Jesus, never tore his collar. He valued life too much for that.
Full Disclosure: Now we can certainly assume that John’s sackcloth was never considered a priestly garment by God. John could have torn his sackcloth almost for sure. It was the priestly garments described in Exodus, the ephod, that couldn’t be torn without the penalty of death. Yes, I used that tearing angle to pull you into this article. Yet, it is a vital point because without the garment tearing and subsequent death of a High Priest, we’d not have proof that Caiaphas was not the true High Priest.