Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jesus Was Baptized

Why was Jesus baptized in water?  What does the scene of Jesus' baptism mean to us as believers?
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22 ESV
John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus' ministry. He came with a baptism of repentance, meaning that he was calling people to repent of their sins in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, who he later identified as Jesus.  But Jesus never sinned (1 John 3:5) and did not need to repent.  So why was he baptized?

Matthew adds some detail in his account of Jesus' baptism.  He tells us that John first turned Jesus down - he was unworthy to baptize the Messiah!  But Jesus told him "it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15).  So we see that Jesus was working righteousness; doing good.  He is the One who fulfilled the Law; who walked in perfect righteousness and always did what pleased the Father (John 8:29).  This is very important, because it is his perfect righteousness that is given to us through faith so that we may be acceptable in the sight of God! (2 Corinthians 5:21)

So we see that Jesus was baptized in order to fulfill God's requirement of man.  Jesus is not only God, but is also man. He lived as the perfect man, meeting all of God's requirements to the uttermost.  Jesus was also identifying with us (sinners) by being baptized.  He is the God-Man; the one Mediator between God and men.  Here in the waters of baptism he was fulfilling God's righteous requirement and identifying with sinful man in his mission to reconcile the two!

But at this scene of Christ's baptism we see some wonderful things.  As Jesus prays, the heavens are opened and the Holy Spirit of God comes down upon Jesus, anointing him for his ministry, which now begins. And a voice came from heaven as the Father boldly declared that this Jesus was his Son, and that he found great pleasure in him.  So in this one verse we see the 3 Persons of the Godhead united in their common plan to redeem a people to God from sinful man.  The Father is speaking his approval, the Spirit is coming from the Father to empower the Son, and the Son is submitting humbly to his role in this redemption plan.  3 distinct Persons; One amazing God of love!

In the Father's spoken approval of his beloved Son Jesus, we see an important teaching of the Bible: God the Father eternally loves God the Son.  In case any doubt would arise when people would later witness Jesus dying on the cross (hanging on a tree as cursed by God), the Father wants to make it clear that he is pleased with his Son.  He also repeats this spoken message of his approval of Jesus when Jesus is transfigured on the mount (Matthew 17:2).  And finally, he forever spoke of his approval of Jesus by raising him from the grave, vindicating Christ and showing that he did not die because he was a sinner!  For a moment on the cross the Father turned his back on Christ, because Christ took our sin in his own body and became a curse for us.  The sky grew dark as God judged his Son in our place.  But it was our sin that displeased God.  And when Christ had made full payment for the sins of his people, the Father eagerly displayed his approval of the Son by raising him on the third day and then exalting him to his right hand!  The Father loves the Son!  ("Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world" John 17:5)

Here is where much encouragement can flood our soul!  In light of how much the Father loves his Son and is pleased with him, how great is his love for us that he would give up his beloved Son to the cross for us!

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Romans 8:31-32 ESV
God gave his beloved Son to redeem us from our sins and reconcile us to himself forever!  He wants us!  He loves us greatly!  It is right for us to understand the depths of our depravity and sin before God, and to admit and confess this in repentance.  But we must not stay there; we must move on to faith, looking away from ourselves and our sinfulness to the glorious provision God has made for us - to the wonderful solution to our problem and the Savior for our sins!  God provided his own righteousness for us that we may be clothed in Christ's goodness!  "...the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe" (Romans 3:22b).

Because Christ has taken our sins away, having dealt with them at the cross, and because we have been given the very righteousness of God in Christ, through faith in Jesus, we can now stand accepted before Almighty God and hear him say of us as he said to his Son, "with you I am well pleased."  Hallelujah!

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