you been in a situation in which you asked, “What’s going on here?”
You can appreciate the hesitancy and confusion that John the Baptist
expressed when Jesus, the Messiah, came to him to be baptized in the
incident recorded in Matthew 3:13–17 .
Your Lord fulfilled all righteousness. John baptized for repentance from sin. At the heart of preparing for the coming of the Messiah lay repentance, symbolized by the baptism John administered. (John’s baptism is a precursor to and is not identical with Christian baptism.) Repentance involves awareness of sin, turning away from it to God. It is not only feeling sorry, but involves a change of direction and life. Repentance is still essential to coming into God’s presence. Not only did John’s attire recall the work of Elijah, who called Israel to repentance, but the geographic location was significant. The Jordan was the same river which the Lord had dried up so that Israel, led by Joshua, could enter the promised land. That crossing recalled the Exodus from Egypt. Against the background of the Flood in Noah’s day, the water is a sign of both blessing and judgment. “Just as Israel was led by Moses and had to go through the Red Sea at the exodus, and just as second-generation Israel had to do the same thing at the Jordan River under Joshua’s leadership, as a replayed second exodus, so again, now that Israel’s restoration is immanent through Jesus, true Israelites must identify with the water and the Jordan and their prophetic leader in order to begin true restoration. . . . Thus the blessing/cursing sign of the Red Sea likely carries over to Jesus’s baptism by John (where the Spirit descended on Jesus). . . .” (G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, p. 814).
fulfilled righteousness for you. John’s consciousness of his
preparatory role and his awareness of his own sinfulness both gave
rise to his protest at Jesus being baptized by him. Jesus, the new
Joshua, made the journey from Galilee to the Jordan with the purpose
of being baptized by John. The “but” which begins v. 14
indicates that John’s purpose and that of Jesus are contrary. To John
it appeared that he needed to be baptized by Jesus, not the reverse.
Jesus tells John that this is not the time for objection, but rather
to proceed with the baptism,. Jesus (and Matthew) may have passages
like Isaiah 53:11 in mind, “By his knowledge my righteous
servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”
By his baptism Jesus identifies with his sinful people. Isaiah 53:12
goes on to talk about the Messiah being “numbered with the
transgressors.” Though sinless himself, the Messiah identifies
with his sinful people. He truly becomes one with you to be your
Savior. As you are united with him by faith, his righteousness
becomes yours. He fulfilled all righteousness for you! As Israel had
to trust Moses and be united with him (see 1 Corinthians 10:1–5) to
leave Egypt by crossing the sea, as 40 years later the people had to
follow Joshua to enter the promised land, so Matthew is telling you
that your entrance into the kingdom proclaimed by both John and Jesus
requires that you be united by faith to the Redeemer.
baptism by the Spirit opens a new era. Heaven is opened! Jesus is
baptized by John with water from the Jordan River. Matthew does not
describe the details. But a more spectacular baptism takes place.
Heaven was opened. There is open fellowship between heaven and earth.
The Spirit of God in the form of a dove descended upon Christ. John
had just spoken of the Messiah as coming to baptize with the Spirit
and with fire. But this coming of the Spirit is in the peaceful form
of a dove. The Spirit (in fulfillment of Isaiah 42:1) comes upon the
Messiah, and equips him for his work. He can do his work as Messiah,
not simply because he is truly God, which he is, but also because, as
truly man, he needs the equipping, powerful work of the Spirit. He is
identified with his people. He is about to suffer for them, and then
to die in their place. He is preparing to die for you who trust him.
Upon his resurrection, the glorious completion of his work, the
Christ will baptize his church with the same Spirit. “For the
Spirit-and-fire baptism, eventually realized at Pentecost, to be one
of blessing rather than destruction for the messianic people, the
Messiah himself must first become identified with them as their
representative sin-bearer (the point of Jesus being baptized by John,
from which John recoils, cf. Matt. 3:14) and be endowed with the
Spirit, in order to bear away the wrath and condemnation of God their
sins deserve. If they are to receive the Spirit as a gift and
blessing, then he must receive the Spirit for the task of removing
the curse on them.” (Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Perspectives on
Pentecost, pp. 15–16).The
old has ended. The new has begun! With all of the connections between
the Old and New Testaments, don’t overlook how radically new it is
for the Messiah to be, not jus a promised future Savior, but the
Redeemer who has come. Give thanks that the heavens opening at
Jesus’s baptism is a foretaste of what will happen at the end of the
age, when the heavens and earth are united in a glorious city-garden.
the Father is well pleased with what his Son would do for you and in
you. The voice from heaven (Matthew’s reverent way of describing God
as speaking) announces: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I
am well pleased.”All three persons of the Trinity are involved
in your salvation. “Son” is used here in a messianic sense.
Christ is beginning his redemptive work. His humiliation, his
involvement and identification with our sinful humanity (symbolized
in his baptism), rather than being reprehensible to the Father,
pleases him. The Son is doing his Father’s will. Something truly new
has happened. God has become man, and has become the Savior of his
people. In Exodus 4 God had called Israel his firstborn son. But you
know how Israel rebelled in the desert. You know how, even though
brought into the promised land, they worshiped idols. They refused to
live as God’s children. Now the
Son is not only beginning a life of suffering and obedience,
culminating in the cross, but he is also, by his Spirit, about start
making his people into the kind of people they will be in the new
heavens and earth. The Father is pleased with the work the Son
is doing. His public announcement of that serves to summon you to
trust in the Son as the way to himself that the Father has provided.
is a year that many of you have found to be filled with challenges.
But, because heaven was opened, because the Father spoke, because the
Spirit descended, and because the Son was baptized, it is another
year of our Lord. It is a year characterized by his kingly rule,
exercised through the Spirit he has poured out on you, his people.