And So It Begins.
Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23; John 1:29-34
“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” – John 1:29 NLT
More than likely, John the Baptist did most of his preaching and baptizing along the Jordan River in the region known as Peraea, just east of Jerusalem. It is a wilderness area, but close enough the capital city that crowds could make their way there to see this unusual phenomenon, this prophet named John. It is in this semi-remote region that God chooses to launch the earthy ministry of His Son, the Messiah. After nearly 30 years of relative obscurity living in the city of Nazareth and within the environs of Galilee, Jesus makes His way to the River Jordan where John is baptizing all those who have repented of their sins. That day, in the crowd, John sees Jesus, his own cousin, and immediately exclaims, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus asks John to baptize Him, but John tries to talk him out of it. He tells Jesus, “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you, so why are you coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14 NLT). He knew that Jesus’ baptism was different than his own. He had been telling the people, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11 NLT). But Jesus insists, because He knows this is all part of God’s divine plan for Him. He tells John, “It should be done, or we must carry out all that God requires” (Matthew 3:15 NLT).
What a fascinating scene. Here is John, this wild-looking prophet of God, dresses in camel’s hair, surrounded by a crowd of anxious onlookers, having an intimate and animated discussion with Jesus. To the crowd, He was just another man. Despite John’s pronouncement that Jesus was the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world, they did not comprehend who Jesus was. This appears to be an exchange between the two cousins. Two men who had been set apart by God prior to their own births as part of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. Somewhere in the wilderness on the banks of the Jordan River, God inaugurates His Son’s public ministry. And He does it by having Jesus identify with the people by following in the same act of baptism John had been calling them to. While Jesus had no sin to confess or repent of, as God’s representative for mankind, Jesus acknowledged the sins of mankind by submitting Himself to John’s baptism. He was modeling for the people obedience to God’s will and encouraging them to return to God in repentance and submission. Jesus was the ultimate substitute for mankind. His life would be lived on their behalf. His death would serve to replace their own need to die as payment for their sins. His baptism was a public declaration and confession of mankind’s sinfulness and need for repentance.
And Matthew, Mark and Luke each tell us that as soon as Jesus came up out of the water of the Jordan, something remarkable happened. “As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, ‘You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.'” (Mark 1:10-11 NLT). It is amazing to think that the very Son of God received the Spirit of God as a part of the launch of His earthly ministry. Jesus, the God-man, was filled with the Holy Spirit and would be directed by the Spirit throughout His earthly ministry. And as the water continued to drip off of the face and clothes of Jesus, God the Father acknowledges His love for Him. God broadcasts His love for Jesus for all to hear, but it was mainly for the ears of Jesus. And it is interesting that this expression of love proceeded what was going to be one of the most difficult periods of Jesus’ life, His own temptation in the wilderness. God loved His Son, but was still going to require that He undergo a very difficult trial at the hands of the enemy. How often do we doubt God’s love in difficult times? How easy it is to feel unloved by God when things don’t go quite the way we would like them to. But God let it be clear up front, that His Son was beloved and loved. Everything that was about to happen during the next three-and-a-half years was within God’s loving plan for His Son. And so it begins.
Father, what a way to start a ministry. Your Son, identifying Himself with the common, sin-suffering man. But that was His role. He was the God-man. He had been born like a man, raised like a man, worked like a man, and would spend His next three years living like a man in the midst of all the sin and suffering this world had to offer. He was going to live the life that You required and that no other man could live – sinless, perfectly obedient, and in complete submission to Your will. All so that His ultimate death would be totally sufficient to satisfy Your demand for justice. Thank You! Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men