Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
09/02/16 – 559 – Jesus’ Baptism
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
The gospel of Mark also includes an account of Jesus’ baptism, it’s probable that Matthew used Mark’s as his model. The 3 accounts do vary though, just enough to tell us they were written by people with 3 different views of the event. But notice the background, and the most important ‘take-aways’.
First, the ritual of baptism itself. From the earliest days of the tabernacle, there were basins (lavers) for ritual cleansing before making certain sacrifices or participating in certain rituals. Then John came along, and seems to have been going down a different road.
He wasn’t cleansing people for the purpose of performing some ritual, he was hearing their confessions and baptizing them by immersion in the Jordan river! He spent his life declaring that he was preparing a way for the promised Messiah. Some believed him, some thought he was just crazy. But, he was pretty much universally accepted as a prophet/rabbi sent by God Himself. Because of this he drew enough attention that he apparently had a good audience of people waiting to be baptized plus Pharisees and Sadducees that had come to watch one day when Jesus came walking up.
The importance? Many witnesses – which would become extremely significant later on. John recognizes Jesus not as his cousin, but obviously as the Messiah, and protests that it should be Jesus baptizing him, not the other way around. This is important point #2. Of course Jesus insisted. Have you ever noticed that He never asked us to do anything that He didn’t do Himself?
Then the miracle – in front of all those witnesses. The sky opened up, and the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form, landed on Jesus, and everyone heard in an audible voice those famous words – “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”.
I noted 2 points as being very important. Here’s why. When Jesus’ authority is challenged later on, He has to show that His rabbinical authority to interpret scripture comes from the endorsement of 2 other authorities. So later on, after Jesus had been teaching and performing miracles, we read this:
Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism — where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?”
They knew that John’s authority was recognized as having come directly from God, and that John had recognized Jesus’ authority. The second ‘endorsement’ was the one that came from heaven, in front of too many witnesses to be ignored. They knew it, and Jesus knew it. That’s why they had no answer.
It’s always important – even critical – to know where your authority lies. To know why you believe what you believe. It takes more than emotions, more than a warm fuzzy on Sunday morning. Let’s pray today for that deep pull of the Holy Spirit to take root in us, that we would truly want to know.