Then comes Jesus from Galilee to Jordan to John, to be baptized of him.
This is a narrative which authenticates itself. No Christian writer of a later generation would have invented a story of the baptism of Jesus by John; nor could any current ideas have started a myth in this form. The very difficulties of the story prove its historicity.
I. LET US INQUIRE WHAT WAS THE MEANING OF THE BAPTISM OF JESUS.
1. Note some errors to be avoided.
(1) This was not a baptism of repentance. John saw that, and although lie did not yet know who Jesus was, the pure and spotless life of his mysterious Relative was evidently not unknown to him. He saw that Jesus did. not need the baptism as it was commonly understood.
(2) This was not a mere form. Christ continually contended against the hypocrisy of formalism. He could not have begun his public life with a purely formal action.
(3) This was not only intended as an example for others. In that case the action of Christ would have been simply a theatrical performance, unworthy of him, not to be countenanced by the serious Baptist. Moreover, the results of the baptism show that it had to do directly with the Person and work of Christ.
2. Consider the truths of the incident. Baptism has a double meaning. It looks forward as well as backward. As a rite in regard to the future it is a dedication, an act of self-consecration. Jesus had no sins of the past to wash out; but there was a great future to which he would dedicate himself in baptism. Then he was a Man, and he was humbling himself to the whole round of human duties. It was not in accordance with his mission that he should abandon the religious duties of his day. On the contrary, it was incumbent on him to "fulfil all righteousness" in connection with them. Thus the method of his self-consecration was an act of lowly obedience in connection with the deepest religious movement of the time.
II. LET US LOOK AT THE RESULTS OF THE BAPTISM OF JESUS. There were a vision and a voice.
1. The vision.
(1) The heavens opened. Self-surrender brings us near to God. The heavens open over the head of the utterly unselfish and truly consecrated man.
(2) The descending Spirit. The Spirit comes to Christ, and is in him without measure (John 3:34). The form was symbolical, but the fact was real. After this Christ displayed powers in miracle-working and teaching which he had never shown before. If Jesus needed this endowment of the Spirit, much more do we need it.
(3) The form of the dove. This is very significant. The Spirit takes many forms. On Jesus it appears in love and gentleness. "A bruised reed shall he not break." This form of the manifestation is peculiarly true to the nature of the Spirit. God is most of all present in "the still, small voice." By his gentleness he makes us great (Psalm 18:35).
2. The voice. The vision was especially for Christ's benefit. The evangelist says that "he saw the Spirit of God," etc., as though the people did not see the dove descending. John also saw the vision (John 1:32), and probably no one else. But the voice is not thus restricted. The spiritual grace is personal, for Christ himself; the revelation of the Son of God is for all who have ears to hear. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.