During the time that John was baptizing multitudes of people, Jesus also came up to him to be baptized. I wonder just how well John knew Jesus and exactly who he was when he did. How much did his parents tell him about his cousin? How much did God tell him? John had been living in the desert probably from the time he was old enough to survive on his own. Did he even recognize Jesus?
He must have, at least to some degree, for when Jesus came to be baptized, John saw in his eyes someone unlike any other he had ever met. Someone who had no need of repentance. And so he told Jesus,
I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me? (Matthew 3:14).
But Jesus told him,
Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness. (Matthew 3:15)
Why did Jesus get baptized? For two reasons. One was to make clear to John with no room for doubt just who he was preparing the people for. Later, when John saw Jesus, he gave this testimony:
Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel…I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34)
From his words, it seems clear that up until that point, that though he recognized something different in Jesus, nevertheless, he didn’t know he was the One God had promised, the one that he was preparing Israel for.
The second reason Jesus got baptized was to identify himself with us as fallen people in need of repentance. Although Jesus himself never sinned, he would take our sins upon himself at the cross, and die for us. By his birth, he identified with us as being human. By his baptism, he identified with our sinfulness.
But the thing that strikes me is what happened when he got baptized, something that John the Baptist alludes to.
Namely, that when he got baptized, the Spirit came upon Jesus in power. Not only that, the Father affirmed his love for him.
If we are to be effective Christians, we need these things in our lives. If Jesus, the only unique Son of God, needed these things, how much more do we?
To know that the Father loves us. If we do not know this, we will always fear to draw near to Him. We will always be afraid of his words of rebuke, and so we’ll hesitate to draw into a close relationship with him.
But also, if we are not secure in the love of the Father, it makes all our other relationships much more difficult. It becomes difficult to love others when they don’t return that love, or at least as much as we would expect or hope. It becomes difficult to forgive when people hurt us. The reason so many people find it hard to love as God does is simply because they don’t know God’s love for them. But because Jesus was so completely filled with his Father’s love, he could love others despite their failings.
At the same time the Father affirmed his love for Jesus, however, the Spirit empowered him. Jesus didn’t start his ministry until that happened.
In the same way, if we want to be effective servants for God, we need to be filled with his Spirit. According to John, that was what Jesus also came to do. To baptize us with his Spirit.
How about you? Do you know God’s love in your life? Are you filled with his Spirit?