Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jesus' Baptism - Matthew 3:13-17 Bible Commentary

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:13-17)
The climax of John's ministry was at hand. All of his preaching, all of his pleading for Israel's repentance— even his encounter with the Pharisees— all of it had been leading up to this moment: the coming of the Messiah.

John had labored hard in preparing the Messiah's way. Now he had the privilege of preparing the Messiah Himself for His ministry. This was, in a sense, the fulfillment of all that John had come to do. What better way was there to prepare for the Messiah than to baptize Him? Indeed, Jesus' baptism marked the beginning of His ministry and the descent of John's.

John almost "descended" his ministry too quickly: in his desire to honor Christ, he was nearly blinded to the purpose of his mission. For a moment, He was going to refuse to baptize Jesus, and it was only when he was told, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness," that John remembered the work he had been sent to do.

Imagine the splendor of this baptismal scene, nearly equaling in many ways that of the Transfiguration. There stands John, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, who had gone forth "in the spirit and power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17). On the other side stands Jesus, the Lamb of God, the very One who would take away the sin of the world.

John lowers Jesus into the water, immersing Him completely. Then Jesus reemerges, marking the beginning of His ministry. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit descends upon Christ like a dove, just as Isaiah had prophesied:
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
(Isaiah 11:2)
Then came the Father's voice from Heaven, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

Here, at the beginning of Christ's ministry, is the Trinity in full display. From His baptism to His resurrection, the divine nature of Christ was obvious. He was none other than God in human flesh. This Trinitarian baptismal scene shows us what heresy it is to say God is merely one Person, taking upon different forms at different times. For here at Christ's baptism we see the three distinct Persons of the Godhead: the Son clothed in flesh, the Spirit moving like a dove, and the Father speaking from heaven.

What a picture this is of the unity of the Godhead! Here is God, in three Persons, united in the task of the Messiah's mission. Notice especially the glimpse we get in this passage of the love of God. The Son is beloved by the Father! This is not some secret, hidden truth, for the Father's words were not whispered to Christ in midnight solitude— instead, they were proclaimed for all to hear, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

Jesus' ministry on earth began with baptism, and it would also end with baptism. The second baptism, however, was not with water, but with wrath. On the cross, Christ drank the cup God's terrible, righteous fury, bearing the blow of the axe meant for all sinners, and was submerged in death. On the third day, He rose again from His baptismal grave, defeating the sin's power forever. Let us praise our great Saviour, who was so humbly prepared by John, in order that He might suffer and rise again for us!

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