Times were changing. The old was being replaced by the new. No longer would bulls and goats need to be sacrificed in the Temple as described in the Old Testament (Hebrews 10). As the New Testament opens John the Baptist declares while baptizing Jewish converts in the River Jordan, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” as Jesus made His way to the banks of the river. Although John requested Jesus baptize him, Jesus insisted John baptize Him to fulfill all righteousness. In this way Jesus was identifying with sinners who were trusting in Him for salvation.
As Jesus entered the water He demonstrated His death, burial and resurrection which was to come by being placed under the water and “straightway coming up out of the water” (Mark 1:10). There was no just splashing Him with water or sprinkling a few drops on Him. It was total immersion signifying dying to self, being buried with Christ and being risen again to walk in newness of life. Peter tells us in I Peter 3:21 baptism is “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh,” in other words the water is not for the washing away of sin, for only the blood of Jesus Christ is pure enough to do that. Baptism is a picture of identifying with Christ.
Just as the Jewish converts from Judaism who trusted Christ as the Promised Messiah took a bold step in following the Lord in believer’s baptism in spite of the pronouncements of the Temple rulers that those who did so would no longer be welcome in its synagogues, believers today upon placing their total faith and trust in Christ boldly identify with Him by dying to self, being buried in the baptismal waters, and coming up out of the water to walk with Him wherever He leads, just as Jesus portrayed for us.