John the Baptist was the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, a cousin of Mary the mother of Jesus. John was called by God and sent to prepare the people to receive the Savior Jesus Christ. The scriptures say that when Jesus was about 30 years old, John the Baptist was preaching in the wilderness of Judæa “saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3: 2).
“Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judæa, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Matt 3: 5-6) Having authority from God, John baptized the people by immersion in the river Jordon for a remission of their sins and he taught that one greater than he would come to baptism with fire and the Holy Ghost. “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matt 3: 11).
Jesus is baptized
Then the scripture says that Jesus came from Galilee to Jordan to be baptized by John. Initially, John refused to baptize Jesus saying, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” (Matt 3: 14). John knew that Jesus was without sin, and so he thought Jesus did not need baptism. But Jesus asked John to allow it, explaining that his baptism was necessary “to fulfil all righteousness” (Matt 3: 15).
John the Baptist Baptizing Jesus, by Greg K. Olsen
So then John baptized Jesus by immersion in the river of Jordan. And when Jesus came out of the water, “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” (Matt 3: 16-17). Or, as Mark put it, “he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1: 9-11). Or, as Luke recorded the event, “the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3: 21-22).
John’s Testimony that Jesus is the Son of God
The Gospel of John gives us a little more insight into the aftermath of Jesus’ baptism. The scripture says the John the Baptist bore “record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him (Jesus). And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare arecord that this is the Son of God” (John 1: 32-34).