Then comes Jesus from Galilee to Jordan to John, to be baptized of him.…
I. ITS OCCASION. How long was Jesus to be known merely as the village carpenter of Nazareth? What is to transpire which shall show him that God's time has come for his public ministry? Ambition makes opportunities. In general, kings have only to wait the demise of their predecessors. To our Lord came at last a summons he could not misunderstand nor resist. John's hearers longed for that which only Jesus could give. He could no longer hide himself in Nazareth when a movement was afoot which he alone could guide, utilize, and prosper. When men truly seek Christ, he does not hide himself from them. He will not cause by his absence the defeat of any righteous movement.
II. ITS MEANING. John did not recognize its meaning. He was taken aback when Jesus presented himself for baptism. This was a difficulty he had not foreseen. He had foreseen trouble with scrupulous consciences; that he would be abused, perhaps endangered; that he would be the repository of disagreeable secrets - a nation's confessor. But this he had not foreseen. How could he baptize One who had no sin? John's refusal a strong testimony to the sinlessness of Jesus. He might not yet know he was the Messiah; it was his personal character and private conduct which had impressed him. He was abashed in his presence, and would have changed places with him. But Jesus demanded the performance of the rite, because, as one with a guilty race, he felt that baptism was for him. He was so truly one with us that he felt ashamed of our sins, grieved because of them, felt as if they were his. The father hangs his head, sickens and dies when the son is disgraced. The wife cannot persuade herself she need not be ashamed when the husband commits a fraud. Our Lord could not claim separation from those whom he more intensely loved than human heart has ever loved; nor could he help feeling a truer sorrow and a deeper shame for sin than the holiest of sinners or the most despairing has ever felt. The baptism may also be looked upon as an anticipation of his death; or, again, as the anointing of the King.
III. OUTWARD SIGNS ACCOMPANYING THE BAPTISM. Outward signs were required to identify the Messiah. John tells us he did not know the Christ till these signs were given. The dove, used in scriptural language as symbol of guileless innocence, here represented the Spirit. It was only the form of a bird which would not have seemed grotesque descending from above; and the dove, which would not settle on anything unclean, was the most appropriate symbol now. Luke adds, "in a bodily form," to remind us that it was not by one attribute or influence the Holy Spirit came upon our Lord, but in his complete Personality. For though Jesus was Divine, he regularly ascribes his power to work miracles to the Holy Spirit. He prays, as if to receive from without the aid he required. His body was sustained by bread, and not by the energy of the Divinity with which it was joined. So his human soul was sanctified by the Spirit, and his human nature empowered to do wonderful works by the same Spirit.
IV. RESULT OF THE BAPTISM. It was not only needful for the people that Jesus be proclaimed publicly as the Messiah, but he himself, when his consciousness of Messiah-ship was numbed by the contradiction of sinners, needed some sure word of God to fall back upon. The sign from heaven was given, no doubt mainly in order that John might be able to identify Jesus as the Messiah, but to Jesus himself it was a helpful sign on which, in times of outward discouragement, he could fall back. Compare instances in which our Lord needed such comfort (Matthew 11:27, etc.); and use to be made of our own baptism.
USES. The Spirit is given to Christ without measure, in a bodily form. The Father makes him Heir of all his treasure, and takes no account of all he takes. There is no gauge, no metre. The more that is used the better. This fulness he received as Man and for us. The head being anointed, refreshment is felt to the very skirts of the garments - to the least and last and lowest of the members of Christ's body. Claiming to be our King, it is this he claims - to give us his Spirit. That very Spirit which enabled him to be what he was and to do what he did, he gives to us. Had Jesus lacked anything which he needed for his office, had he found himself helpless to heal the sick, bewildered by the arguments of clever men, outwearied by the wretched blindness of sinners, unmanned by danger and the approach of death, this could only have arisen from his being abandoned by the Spirit; and when we fail and stop short, when we are overcome by outward difficulties or inward weakness, it is because we are trying to live without the Spirit. The finishing of his work is the guarantee that ours shall be finished. And the indwelling of the Spirit in Christ in a bodily completeness is the guarantee that we shall enjoy, not merely one, but all of his influences, and that in every part of our life he will be sufficient for all our occasions. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.