READ: Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22
In today’s passage Jesus is baptized by John. Both Matthew and Mark’s accounts of the baptism make it clear that Jesus very deliberately came to John to be baptized. There is much uncertainty about where along the Jordan this baptism happened. John was an itinerant teacher and likely taught and baptized at different places along the river, but at a minimum it would’ve been close to a day’s walk for Jesus to get to the place. Jesus didn’t happen by the river, he went to the river with the full intent of being baptized.
I feel John’s consternation at this prospect. John’s whole life is wrapped up in preparing the way for Jesus. John has been preaching and watching and waiting for the one he knows will come. John is so ready to step back and make way for Jesus. A bit later, after Jesus’ baptism, some of his followers come to him upset because “… that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan — the one you testified about — well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” (John 3:23) John’s answer is beautifully summed up in John 3:30 “He must become greater; I must become less.” This is the heart of John – a heart all about Jesus.
Jesus insisted and John cooperated and the heavens opened to reveal the heart of God about Jesus. The synoptic gospel accounts are so similar, but show a different perspective. In Mark we see God speaking directly to Jesus – affirming Jesus’ identity and God’s own deep love and pleasure in His Son. In Matthew and Luke we see God speaking about Jesus for the sake of those watching – a third person perspective that clearly gives affirmation and identity to His Son so others would know. The gospel of John offers a fourth perspective, that of John receiving confirmation about the identity of this man as he sees the Spirit come down and remain on him. This is the one for whom he, John, has been preparing the way. This is the one for whom he has been waiting.
What would have been lost if Jesus had not insisted on being baptized to fulfill all righteousness? Clearly the obvious approval and stamp of authenticity that God provided here as Jesus began His ministry was so important. But I think there is more. Jesus demonstrated His desire to do and experience all that we do and experience. The waters of purification that physically represented a ready heart were not a new thing to the Jewish people. But a baptism in living water that reflected a heart of repentance and a readiness to live a new life – this was new. Jesus’ baptism not only presented the opportunity for God to reveal His approval of His Son and His Son’s ministry, it also was the way for Jesus to demonstrate before many witnesses that John had been preparing the way, a validation of John’s ministry. There was a new way to follow and Jesus was on mission to show that way. What a lot of obedience happened that day and what a lot of obedience has followed to the glory of God!
Lord, I confess there are times when what You ask makes no sense. It feels full of hubris to say this, but it is a reality of human life, of my life. Help me, like John, to say ‘yes’ to those times when what You ask makes no sense. Thank You for this life story that reflects so much obedience and gives a peek at the ‘why’ behind obedience. Today Lord, I choose to obey even when I don’t understand why. Today I give you glory for Your greater purposes and I choose to trust!