By Mark Ellis —
John the Baptist, a cousin of Jesus, was prophesied to be the forerunner of the Messiah, preparing the way for Him to come. John ministered along the Jordan River, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
He was an unusual character who dressed in camel’s hair and ate locusts and wild honey. Jesus called him the greatest man who had lived up to that point. And while John ate honey, he didn’t preach honey. He preached vinegar – a very hard message.
He railed against the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, calling them a bunch of snakes. He said “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Half of that prophetic statement has been realized. The first part was fulfilled with the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (and every time a new believer is baptized with the Holy Spirit). The second part is waiting to be fulfilled, when Jesus returns to judge the earth with fire.
Baptism is extremely important for believers. Jesus started his public ministry by being baptized. Jesus finished his earthly ministry by commanding his disciples to go throughout the whole world, making disciples, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The climax of John’s ministry was to baptize Jesus. After that, John said, “He (Jesus) must increase and I must decrease.”
And that is one of my prayers, that He would increase in power and influence in my life and that the old man, my old behavior patterns and ways of thinking would decrease, fade away.
My grandfather, Rod Gomes, was 85 when he was baptized. At 85 he broke his hip and then he caught the flu, he had never been sick in his life, so he got kind of uneasy about his eternal destiny. All of his 14 brothers and sisters were strong Christians except for him.
He was the rebel in his family. He had never darkened the door of a church in his adult life.
He called me up and surprised me by saying he wanted to be baptized. He thought he would have a better chance of getting to heaven if he got baptized. I had to tell him that baptism does not save you. It is a powerful symbol and public declaration of something that has already happened inside your heart.
I’m not sure he totally understood, but I had the privilege of baptizing him in our church several years ago.
If you are truly saved – you will want to be baptized. But baptism will not save you.
The passage in Luke that describes the baptism of Jesus is only two verses. There’s a lot packed into those two verses, but the other three gospels contain some important additional details. So I’ve merged the four historical accounts together:
“In those days Jesus came from (Nazareth of) Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 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.
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus was praying and was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold the heavens were (being torn) open, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove (coming to rest on him) (and it remained on him); and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’
“And John bore witness: ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.’”
Now John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Repentance involves a change of mind, where you decide to turn away from your sins, confess them, and seek forgiveness. We know that Jesus lived a sinless life. So why would He need to be baptized?
In the passage you can see John protesting, saying that Jesus should be the one to baptize him, not the other way around.
But John relents when Jesus tells him “it is to fulfill all righteousness.”
How did he fulfill all righteousness? Jesus was the only one to perfectly fulfill the Mosaic Law. In Numbers chapter 8, it prescribes that before a priest could begin his service in the Temple at age 30, he had to go through a ritual cleansing similar to baptism. Priests needed to be cleansed before they could serve in the house of the Lord.
And whatever God required, Jesus did. There were no sins of commission or omission in his life.
Jesus did not go under the water as a sinner, but his purpose was to identify with us as sinners. Second Cor. 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God.”
When Jesus was baptized, he was identifying with us. When we are baptized, we are identifying with Him.
By going through baptism, Jesus demonstrates that He is with us in our struggle against sin. I don’t know about you, but I still struggle with my sinful, carnal nature. Perhaps you’re still wrestling with a habitual sin that’s captured your heart for a long time.
Paul said in Romans 7 that he hated repeating the same sins over and over again. I have found myself in that condition and it is a miserable place to be.
The people coming out to be baptized by John were admitting publicly that they were sinners and needed to be forgiven. They were confessing and asking God to cleanse them.
Some of you may have sins that you hope no one ever discovers. You might be living a double life. You look one way on the outside and on the inside there are sins that have a grip on you and you wonder if you can ever be set free.
You think if that thing was discovered it would bring you embarrassment, shame, or humiliation. Perhaps you even think it puts you outside the reach of God’s grace.
When you confess to another person, when you bring that shameful thing into the light, it begins to loosen its grip on you. That’s the beginning of freedom – freedom in Christ.
Because of Jesus’ baptism (into death) he says, “I’m taking those sins on myself for you.”
When we are still lost in sin, Jesus reaches out to us, and says, in so many words, ‘I was baptized with the baptism of sinners because I came to take away the sins of the world.’
He says, ‘Trust in me and decide if My loving kindness is better than the delight you get from that sin…turn from that sin to me.’
Baptism is a picture of His sacrifice for us. When a person goes under the water, that pictures a death and burial. When a person come up and out of the water, that pictures a resurrection. It is the likeness of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.”
A comfort to me recorded in Luke is that Jesus was praying before his baptism. Luke loves to show Jesus in prayer. Luke tells us Jesus prayed before he selected the 12 Apostles, at Peter’s confession, at the transfiguration, in Gethsemane, and on the cross.
Jesus often went into the wilderness to pray and even spent whole nights in prayer.
If Jesus prayed this much, how much more do we need to pray? Why did he pray so much? He liked talking to his heavenly Father. It reflects his affection for his Father. He loves to be with his Father.
What was happening before the creation of the world? Before the world was created, John 17 tells us there was relationship; the Father was loving the Son. That’s why relationship will always be more important than created things.
From eternity to eternity, there never was a break in communication between Jesus and his Father except for that moment on the cross when your sins and my sins were placed upon Him and Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”
My son Sam and I get together once a week for breakfast and that is really one of the highlights of my week, having that father-son time. I like to hear what’s on his heart and mind and we process things together.
My other son Nate lives in San Diego, so we don’t have that regular meeting time, but when he’s visiting we find time to go for a run together or share a meal. That communication and that father-son communion feeds my soul.
In our passage, something very dramatic happened when Jesus was baptized. Heaven was opened. The veil that obscures the reality of heaven was torn open and it was suddenly made visible to those standing along the banks of the Jordan River.
This tells me that heaven is not as far away as we might think. But it exists in a different dimension of time and space that our physical eyes can’t see, unless God removes the veil for us.
If that wasn’t dramatic enough, then the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form, like a dove, coming to rest on Him and remaining on Him. The dove suggests to us purity, innocence, and meekness.
Now suppose it said the Scripture said the Spirit descended on Him like a hawk…that wouldn’t seem quite right, it would conjure up something different.
But the picture is a dove, the kind of bird a poor person could offer for a sacrifice. When Jesus walked this earth, he used his power with meekness, tenderness, and love.
To add further drama to this remarkable scene, the audible voice of God the Father declared from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Wouldn’t you love to have seen heaven open, watch the Spirit descend, and hear that voice? What did that voice sound like? Did it thunder? Did He sound like Charleton Heston…or Morgan Freeman?
If you ever have had trouble grasping the Trinity, here you have all three: the Son being baptized, the Holy Spirit coming down, and the Father speaking from heaven. What a moment!
John had been told in advance that the One whom the Spirit descended upon (and remained on) would be the Messiah. Two members of the Trinity confirmed Jesus is the Messiah.
Some might say that Jesus got the Holy Spirit at this point. But Jesus was in full communion with the Holy Spirit throughout eternity. So He was not like a non-believer receiving the Holy Spirit for the first time.
This was an anointing of special power for extraordinary service as he launched his ministry. Later in the Temple, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me…today this (referring to Isaiah’s prophecy) has been fulfilled in your ears.”
Every believer receives the Holy Spirit when they are born again. But there will be moments in your life as a Christian when you receive an anointing of additional power for service. You don’t need that additional power if you’re sitting at home on the couch watching House of Cards. But you will need His power when an unexpected ministry assignment crosses your path.
I pray for the filling of the Spirit every day. Ask for more of His Spirit.
In this passage, we see the Father’s affection for Jesus when He says, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Did you know that the Father has the same love and affection for you as he has for Jesus?
When Jesus was baptized he identified with us as sinners. Then he paid the penalty for our sins when he died on the cross. When you trust in what He did on the cross and you decide to surrender to Him as Savior and Lord, there’s a great exchange that takes place.
All your sins get placed on Jesus and God treats you as if you lived His perfect life. This is the wonder of grace and the marvel of His righteousness being credited to you. The Father’s love for Jesus is gifted to you.
That seems too good to be true. But the night before Jesus was crucified, he prayed, that the love the Father had for Him from all eternity would be in us, His followers.
He wants you to know the Father doesn’t love you any less than He loves His only Son, Jesus. Some of us have a hard time believing that, or even if we believe it in our heads, we have trouble feeling it in our hearts. I can relate to that.
Sometimes there is a bit of a disconnect, because our earthly fathers loved us imperfectly, perhaps your earthly father never gave you a blessing, he never showed you that kind of love. You might have had a distant father or a father who was missing when you needed him most.
The Father’s blessing is a powerful thing!
Ed McGlasson, the pastor of the Stadium Vineyard in Anaheim, lost his father when he was still in his mother’s womb. His father was a test pilot. He was killed going 400 mph when Ed’s mom was 8-months pregnant.
A big part of Ed’s life, before he came to Christ, was proving himself to the father he never knew. That drive took him all the way to the NFL, where he played for the Rams, Jets and Giants. What drives you? Are you seeking the approval of someone who may not be able to give it to you?
Ed sees humanity divided into two groups. He says, “There are those who know the love of the Father and they are ‘the beloved.’” Those who don’t know that love feel like orphans.
He says, “Adam and Eve lost access to the Father’s house and moved humanity into an orphanage. The headmaster of that orphanage is the ‘father of lies.’” His plan is to name us by our brokenness and keep us enslaved to things that destroy us, body and soul.
When Ed meets others who have suffered the wounding that comes from a missing or distant father, he offers them the Father’s blessing.
The cross demonstrates the enormous cost of the Father’s great love for you, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. The cross shows the full measure of His extravagant love.
In the baptism of Jesus, the words “You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased,” are a preview of words the Father will speak to those who have trusted in His Son for their salvation.
You are His beloved. He delights in you.
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here
The previous piece was adapted from a sermon delivered November 19, 2017 at Church by the Sea in Laguna Beach, California.