Jesus was not the first person baptized. It didn’t begin with him. John was baptizing and Jesus was probably just standing in line. Indeed, John said, “You should be baptizing me.” But Jesus indicates that this is the way to do things properly. John was the one baptizing, and Jesus wanted to follow the tradition.
In Zürich in the 16th century there was a big dust-up about baptism. A Swiss gentleman named Manz disagreed with an important Reformed theologian named Zwingli about the efficacy of infant baptism. Manz didn’t belive in it. He believed that the only baptism that counted was one in which the baptized understood what was happening and could speak for themselves. In infant baptism the parents speak for the baby. In fact, Manz was encouraging people to be re-baptized. Manz got a lot of people all riled up about it and was imprisoned. Then, the Swiss council made re-baptizing punishable by death. On January 5, 1527, Manz was the first Swiss Anabaptist (those in favor of adult baptism) executed by other Protestants for a belief. They drowned him by tying his hands behind his back to a pole placed between his legs and throwing him in the water.
Today, the main Protestant denominations all recognize each other’s baptisms, and we don’t drown dissenters. In January, 2013, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Presbyterian Church (USA), Christian Reformed and the Reformed Church of America, and the United Church of Christ signed a document known as the “Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism.” The next time a baby is baptized in your church, listen again to the words of the pastor and imagine how much has changed since Jesus stepped in that water to be baptized by John.