Matthew 3:16, 17
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, see, the heavens were opened to him…
After receiving John's baptism, Jesus "went up straightway from the water." He did not remain to make confession of sin, and for the obvious reason that he had none. He went up "from the water," or ascended the outer hank of the Jordan; for John appears to have ministered his baptism within the double bank of that river. Then "lo, the heavens were opened unto him," etc. An interval is here clearly marked between the baptism of John and that of the Holy Ghost, to show that the baptisms are distinct. The latter was the true baptism of Jesus.
I. THE SCENE MANIFESTED THE BLESSED TRINITY.
1. Here is Jesus, declared to be the Son of God.
(1) This is a Messianic title (see Psalm 2:7; also 2 Samuel 7:14, cited Hebrews 1:5; and Luke 1:35).
(2) It does not appear to be used to set forth the pre-existence of Jesus. It is even remarkable that John, when speaking of that preexistence, uses the title "Word;" but when he comes to treat of the Incarnation, then he uses this title (John 1:1-14).
(3) Nevertheless, as a title of the Incarnation, it expresses the Divinity of Christ. It sets forth Messiah as of the same nature with the Father (see ch. 26:63-65; John 1:18; John 5:18; John 10:36; John 19:7; Romans 1:3, 4; Hebrews 1.).
2. He is so declared by the voice of the Father.
(1) This voice was probably like thunder (cf. John 12:29; also Job 40:9; Job 37:4, 5; Psalm 18:13; Psalm 29:3, 4).
(2) Yet was it distinct from thunder, for it came in articulate phrase. It was therefore supernatural. It resembled the voice in which the Lord spake to Moses or answered the high priests who consulted him by the Urim and Thummim.
(3) The vision of the Father is reserved for the heavenly state. The angels do there continually enjoy it (see Matthew 18:10; Luke 1:19; cf. Esther 1:14). Hitherto man has not seen the Father (see Deuteronomy 4:12; John 1:18). The sonship of man will be revealed in the resurrection; then will also be revealed the Fatherhood of God. We hear of these things now by the hearing of the ear; the eye shall see them then (Romans 8:19).
3. The Spirit of the Father rests upon the Son.
(1) It came from the cloven heavens - from the "excellent glory." It was "the Spirit of glory and of God."
(2) It came as a dove. The stream of glory hovered as a dove hovers before it alights, and then rested upon him. Possibly also in the very form of a dove. In either case it was supernatural.
(3) "It abode upon him" (John 1:32-34). The gift of the Spirit as a Spirit of wisdom and power is to be distinguished from the indwelling of the same Spirit as a Spirit of holiness. The apostles are repeatedly said to be "filled with the Holy Ghost;" but of Jesus it is said once for all that he was "fall of the Holy Ghost" (Luke 4:1).
(4) Out of his fulness we receive the measures of grace (John 1:16; John 3:34, 35).
II. THE BAPTISM INTRODUCED JESUS INTO HIS PROPHETIC OFFICE.
1. As to the fact
(1) This is certified by Luke, who, after describing the baptism of Jesus, adds this note: "And Jesus himself, when he began to teach, was about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23).
(2) It is also evident from the event. For immediately after his baptism Jesus was driven into the wilderness. There he engaged in conflict with Satan; and after forty days he entered a synagogue and opened his commission in these words: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach . To-day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:18-21).
(3) He had his commission in the voice. God spake in oh! time by the prophets. The Baptist was the last and greatest of these. "This is my Son." He now calls attention to the mission and teaching of Jesus (cf. Matthew 17:5).
2. As to the form.
(1) The Spirit of God came upon him. This is the indispensable qualification. When he descends upon the preacher, the light of heaven comes into his soul. Without the Spirit of God there can be no effective spiritual teaching.
(2) It came upon him as a dove. The Holy Spirit came upon the apostles in tongues or flames, of fire. There was something to he purged in them. Christ had nothing that needed cleansing. The dove is the emblem of innocence, purity, and meekness (see Isaiah 42:1, 2). These qualities should be sought and cultivated by all preachers (cf. Matthew 10:16).
3. As to the effect.
(1) It was illuminating. The glory streaming from the opened heavens was the symbol and sign of spiritual illumination.
(2) It was miracle-working. To the qualification of his baptism his doctrine and miracles are ascribed (see Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 12:28; John 3:34; Acts 10:37, 38).
(3) All God's people have the Spirit of sanctification. Special gifts are specially given.
III. THIS BAPTISM WAS THE FIRST ACT IN THE CONSECRATION OF JESUS TO HIS PRIESTHOOD.
1. In the complete consecration the baptisms are three.
(1) There was the baptism of water. "Moses brought Aaron and his sons" to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation and "washed them with water."
(2) This was followed by the baptism of oil. "Moses poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head, and anointed him to sanctify him."
(3) The baptisms were completed in that of blood. "Moses took the blood" of the ram of consecration, "and put it upon Aaron's right ear, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot."
(4) These baptisms had their counterpart severally in the consecration of Christ, viz. at the Jordan; on the Mount of Transfiguration; and in Gethsemane and Calvary.
2. We are here concerned with the first of these.
(1) As Moses the Levite washed Aaron with water; so John, also a Levite, washed Jesus with water, to mark him as the Antitype of Aaron.
(2) But the baptism which really inaugurated Jesus was that of the Holy Ghost, which followed the baptism of John. "It is the Spirit that beareth witness" in this case, not the "water" (cf. 1 John 5:6, 8, 9).
(3) The attesting voice comes now with fresh meaning. "My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Jesus came to do the will and fulfil the pleasure of God, which the Law failed to do or fulfil (cf. Hebrews 10:5-10).
(4) No eulogy could be greater. We, in Christ, may hear this voice of eulogy in the last day. We are "accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6).
(5) Bethabara had its name, the House of passage," from the passage of the children of Israel over the Jordan at that place. Then the river was cloven. Now the heavens are cloven. There the people went up into Canaan, the type of heaven. The gospel is the kingdom of heaven, and brings heaven near.
(6) Jesus at Bethabara represented his Church. There the glory of heaven came down upon him, though he did not then cross the Jordan. We must be baptized from heaven and with heaven before we can ascend into heaven. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: