Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST”

Matthew 3.13-17; Mark 1.9-11; Luke 3.21-23

 

God pierced the pitch darkness of spiritual deadness and ignorance in the human race when He dispatched His only begotten Son,[1] the Light of the world,[2] the eternal Son of the living God slain from the foundation of the world,[3] to be born of a young virgin named Mary in fulfillment of predictive prophecy.[4] It was the first time They had ever in eternity been so separated. There would be a more painful separation. That said, the Lord Jesus Christ’s birth took place in an obscure and dusty little village and without audience in what most would have described as an unimportant backwater region.[5] Had angels not appeared to the shepherds watching over their flocks by night several hours after His birth no attention whatsoever would have been paid to what seemed to be the insignificant delivery to a young Jewish woman of yet another baby.[6]

Yes, at the circumcision of the child in accordance with the covenant God made with Abraham and when Mary offered sacrifice for her sins in accordance with Leviticus 12 the newborn Christ child was most definitely noticed by one man named Simeon and by the aged woman Anna.[7] As well, there were those magi who arrived several years after His birth to worship Him and to give Him gold, frankincense and myrrh, which provoked jealous King Herod to slaughter the innocents in Bethlehem.[8] And about a decade later the twelve year-old Christ did arouse some curiosity in Jerusalem when He astonished several of the scholars and amazed His parents with His brilliance.[9] However, for the better part of thirty years He lived a quiet and uneventful life, being an obedient son to his stepfather until Joseph died, and taking care of His mother and younger siblings until it was time for Him to leave home.[10] Then came the day when He departed for the last time to embark on His public ministry, doubtless after bidding His mother and siblings good-bye. To be sure, He would see them again over the next three years, but things would never be the same between them after He became so public a figure.

It must have been heart breaking for Mary when her eldest Son hugged His brothers and sisters before leaving, them really having no idea why He had to leave. In her bosom she had some understanding of His mission. For the rest of her life Mary must have cherished that last embrace from her firstborn, the tender kiss on her cheek as her tears flowed, and the soothing kindness and gentleness of His voice telling her as He had told her so many times before, “Mother, I love you.” However, that last time marked a division in her life, when her Son would never again be only hers as He had been since she delivered Him.[11] As she watched Him walk away from Nazareth with long, purposeful strides toward the South and His destination on the lower Jordan River, she may have asked Him to greet her nephew and His cousin John, who had risen to prominence a few months earlier for his preaching and his baptizing.[12],[13] But we will never know for sure this side of heaven.

Did He walk alone from Nazareth to the Jordan River, or was He in the company of others? We do not know, though a number of John’s disciples who were later Christ’s disciples were from Galilee.[14] How long did it take Him to traverse the rugged 70 to 80 miles? Perhaps two or three days. What was the encounter between the Lord Jesus Christ and John the Baptist like? Did they recognize each other? Did they embrace? Had they ever actually seen each other before? We do not know. What we are told is found in Matthew 3.13-17, in Mark 1.9-11, and in Luke 3.21-23. Please turn to Matthew 3.17 for the reading of God’s Word. When you have found that passage I invite you to stand with me and read along silently:

 

13    Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.

14    But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

15    And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

16    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:

17    And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

 

Now, please, Mark 1.9-11:

 

9      And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.

10    And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:

11    And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

 

And finally, Luke 3.21-23:

 

21    Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,

22    And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

23    And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli. . . .

 

This opening episode in our Lord Jesus Christ’s public ministry can be explored for our understanding and appreciation under three headings:

 

First, THE ARRIVAL OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

 

Mark 1.9 tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ came from Galilee and was baptized of John in the Jordan River:

 

“And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.”

 

Notice the word “in.” Quite apart from the basic meaning of the word “baptize” in the Greek language definitely meaning immersion, this small word “in” begins to show additional proof that the baptism of the Bible is, has always been, and can only be, baptism by immersion. This is because the Greek word translated “in,” the word eis, is a preposition that means “into, in, toward, to.”[15] Thus, the Savior did not merely arrive at the bank of the Jordan River to be immersed by John, but was actually in the river.

How nicely does this fit in with Matthew 3.16:

 

“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water.”

 

Additional confirmation of our Lord’s immersion by John the Baptist.

Thus, it is clear that our Lord’s intention was to be baptized, and that He was baptized, and that His baptism was immersion because that it what baptism is. But I get a bit ahead of myself.

 

Next, THE ANNOUNCEMENT

 

Notice, particularly, Matthew 3.14-15:

 

14    But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

15    And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

 

When the Lord Jesus Christ came to John the Baptist to be baptized by him, the Baptist was taken aback and balked, protesting. Remember, his was a baptism to, or of, repentance. It simply did not to him seem proper for the Holy One of Israel to identify with such an admission of sinfulness as was pictured by his baptism.

But the Lord Jesus Christ overruled His mistaken cousin and insisted that he baptize Him, saying to him,

 

“Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.”

 

Then, of course, our Lord was baptized by John.

There is a great deal of speculation concerning the possible reasons for the Lord’s baptism . . . and exactly what He meant about fulfilling all righteousness. Let me review the various reasons and share what my particular opinion about the subject is: Absolutely no one who is truly born again believes that the Lord’s was a baptism of repentance, as were the other baptisms that John administered before and after this one. Anyone who would suggest that Christ’s was a baptism of repentance is impugning the sinless nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some believe that our Lord Jesus Christ was baptized as an example for us to follow who would later believe in Him. Still others believe that His baptism was an object lesson predicting His Own death, burial and resurrection. This was, of course, pictured as He was laid back in the water, was momentarily under water, and then as He was lifted from the water by John. There are even some who are the opinion that His baptism was a means of identification with the sinners who were being baptized following their confession of sins. That would mean that the Lord, as our substitutionary sacrifice for sins, began at His baptism to take upon Himself the sins of sinners or to identify Himself with the sinners He would eventually give His life for. There, no doubt, may be other reasons put forth by Bible teachers, but these are some of the main reasons put forth. I do not really disagree with a single one of these opinions. I believe them all to be somewhat valid. However, it strikes me that none of these explanations specifically addresses what Christ meant when He spoke about fulfilling all righteousness.

Let me set forth my personal, though not dogmatic, response to the question of what the Savior meant when He said,

 

“Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.”

 

We know from Galatians 4.4 that our Lord was made or born under the Law of Moses, that He might redeem them that are under the Law of Moses:

 

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”

 

Therefore, we can be sure that He did explicitly obey and fulfill the Law of Moses in all its requirements to the nth degree. We also know from numerous passages that one of Christ’s offices is that of priest. Indeed, Hebrews shows Him to be our great High Priest. Hebrews 4.14:

 

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.”

 

My feeling is this with respect to the question: Though our Lord was not born a member of the priestly tribe of Levi and thus not qualified to be a priest after the order of Aaron, but was rather a member of the kingly tribe of Judah, He nevertheless did receive a proper induction into His priestly office according to the regulations of the Mosaic Law, which Law He was born under and obeyed throughout His normal human lifetime. In Leviticus chapter 8 we find the requirements that God set forth for the consecration of a man to the priesthood. Except for the provisions having to do with the priest’s sinfulness, which provisions would obviously not apply to the sinless Son of God, He was inducted into His priesthood in a manner quite parallel to the provisions set forth in this chapter. Leviticus 8.1-12:

 

1      And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2      Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments, and the anointing oil, and a bullock for the sin offering, and two rams, and a basket of unleavened bread;

3      And gather thou all the congregation together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

4      And Moses did as the LORD commanded him; and the assembly was gathered together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

5      And Moses said unto the congregation, This is the thing which the LORD commanded to be done.

6      And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water.

7      And he put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and he girded him with the curious girdle of the ephod, and bound it unto him therewith.

8      And he put the breastplate upon him: also he put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim.

9      And he put the mitre upon his head; also upon the mitre, even upon his forefront, did he put the golden plate, the holy crown; as the LORD commanded Moses.

10    And Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was therein, and sanctified them.

11    And he sprinkled thereof upon the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all his vessels, both the laver and his foot, to sanctify them.

12    And he poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head, and anointed him, to sanctify him.

 

Several things need to be pointed out by way of caution before we continue: Though inducted into the priesthood in this way, remember that the Lord Jesus Christ was not the same kind of priest as Israelite priests descended from Aaron before Him. They were after the order of Aaron. But Christ is a priest after the order of Melchizedek.[16] Though other priests offered many sacrifices, Christ offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins only one time, according to Hebrews 9.28:

 

“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

 

Again, the sacrifice He offered was Himself. For a man to be inducted into the priesthood he must be consecrated by another priest. But what was John the Baptist? He was a priest. He was the son of a priest. Remember, his father Zacharias was informed of his birth by the angel Gabriel . . . in the holy place in the Temple as he was performing his priestly duties, Luke 1.5ff. John was, therefore, fully qualified to perform this most honorable task of baptizing our Lord as part of His induction into the priesthood of Melchizedek, fulfilling the scriptural step of washing that we read in Leviticus 8.6.

The question, of course, is if the Lord Jesus Christ actually functioned as a priest on our behalf before He offered Himself up on the cross of Calvary. The answer to that question is yes He most certainly did. Remember that the essential difference between a prophet and a priest is one of orientation and representation. When one faces the people and speaks to them as a representative of God one is conducting oneself as a prophet. However, when one faces God and speaks to Him in prayer as a representative of the people one is conducting oneself as a priest. That the Lord Jesus Christ most certainly did throughout His earthly ministry following His baptism. His priesthood’s greatest expression was when He offered Himself, though His priesthood continues to this day. Is that a new understanding of the Savior’s life and ministry for you? Had you before recognized and understood Him to be your priest, your Great High Priest, when He pleaded with God on your behalf? In like manner do you serve as a priest, Christian, when you pray to your heavenly Father on behalf of others, pleading with God to bless them for Christ’s sake.[17]

 

Finally, HIS APPROVAL

 

You might have taken notice of the fact that Christ’s baptism fulfilled the requirement of ceremonial washing, but where does the anointing oil come in? Read Matthew 3.16-17 with me once more:

 

16    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:

17    And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

 

All through the Old Testament we see oil used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit of God. Indeed, all of the small “m” messiahs, be they priests, kings, or prophets, were anointed with oil when they were inducted into their respective offices. How appropriate, then, that the capital “M” Messiah not be anointed with any mere symbol of the Holy Spirit, but with the actual Holy Spirit Himself.

So, the picture is complete. Our Lord was consecrated or set apart for His priesthood by John’s baptism. He was then anointed for His priesthood by the Holy Spirit of God coming upon Him from heaven, followed by the blessing of His Father from heaven:

 

“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

 

 

Now allow me to make some remarks related to this whole episode in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ relative to certain subjects of popular appeal.

First, in regards to the doctrine of the Trinity. We believe and the Bible teaches the threefold personality of the One indivisible Godhead. Here, at the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, as it is recorded by Matthew, by Mark, and by Luke, we see simultaneous manifestations of each of the divine Persons of the Triune Godhead. The Father is speaking. The Spirit is descending. The Son is being baptized. Being able to scripturally show each of these three Persons to be God, the Trinity is illustrated. And it is with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity that such groups as the Unitarians, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Muslims, and the United Pentecostal Church are in erroneous agreement with the ancient Arian heresy.

Second, in regard to this pet symbol of the dove used by various religious groups, some of whom seem to claim a monopoly on the Holy Spirit, let me draw your attention to what the Word of God teaches: Consider Exodus 20.4:

 

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”

 

This, of course, is the Second Commandment of the Decalogue. Though this commandment was not given to Gentiles, it should cause us to be particularly careful about attaching any significance to any picture, or symbol, or religious article of any kind. This applies to the problem of superstition in regards to religious artifacts such as crucifixes and medallions, as well as the modern day trend of assuming special spirituality for those who flash or banter about the sign of the dove.

Ponder how this affects our understanding of the dove logo that has become so popular in recent years, so we might see how valid it really is and develop a Biblical attitude toward it. Read each of the four gospel accounts of this incident, Matthew 3.16, Mark 1.10, Luke 3.22, and John 1.32, and you will find in each of these verses a simile in which the manner in which the Spirit of God descended upon the Lord Jesus Christ when He came up out of the water was “like” a dove in Matthew, “like” a dove in Mark, “as” a dove in Luke, and “like” a dove in John. The same Greek word, osei, is used in each verse, as well. For the greater part of the last century, and indeed in other centuries as well, many folks came to an erroneous conclusion, after a very superficial consideration of these passages, and have assumed that this event in our Lord’s life was marked by the Holy Spirit of God coming from heaven in a bodily form that looked like a dove and gently descended upon our Lord.

Careful examination of the scripture shows conclusively that such is not, repeat not, what the gospel writers meant to indicate by what they wrote. Upon careful scrutiny of this event, in each of the gospel accounts you will see the following truths stated:

 

#1  Immediately following His baptism the Lord Jesus prayed.

#2  Either during or shortly following His prayer the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended.

#3  The Holy Spirit, as He descended, had a bodily form. There is no evidence of any kind that anyone saw the Holy Spirit descending other than the Lord Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. For all we know the information contained in the gospel accounts came either from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself or from John the Baptist. No one else saw this.

#4  The particular word “like,” translating osei in John 1.32, does not refer to the appearance of the Holy Spirit, but to the manner in which He came upon the Savior. Comparison of all four verses will reveal that what is compared to a dove is not the appearance of the Holy Spirit, but the way in which the Spirit descended, as a dove gently lights when it lands. In other words, this is an action of the Holy Spirit which is being expressed, not His appearance being described.

New Testament scholar and Dallas Theological Seminary professor Darrell L. Bock sums up what the scripture actually teaches when he writes, “What was visible was not a dove, but rather, what was seen was compared to a dove. . . . The manner of the Spirit’s descent was like the way a dove floats gracefully through the air. . . . These attempts to make a theological symbol out of the dove seem flawed.”[18]

When religious factions in Christendom assume some kind of religious sign or symbol and state or imply, whether openly or by attitude and action, that there is something spiritual about that sign or symbol, especially when their belief is mistaken . . . there is a problem. You see, if the person who says that he has a superior spiritual experience, or who states that he has a higher level of intimacy with the Spirit of God, really does have that then it is most probable that he would also be aware of such a simple fact as this about the Spirit that we have just seen. Therefore, I question any such claim of superior spiritual experience. I, therefore, demand that any claim anyone makes concerning his relationship with the Spirit of God be backed up with Biblical proof. After all, the Lord Jesus said that He (the Holy Spirit) will guide you into all truth.[19]

From our Lord’s embrace of His mother, His kiss on Mary’s cheek and tender departing words, to His baptism and induction into His priesthood and the public ministry that would end with His crucifixion for my sins, He was ever and always so very personal and intimate with not only His heavenly Father and His human mother, but with each individual He encountered.

I close by pointing out that this Savior, even while hanging on the cross after suffering such torture and humiliation, still tended to the needs of His mother Mary.[20] Is this not the kind of High Priest you need to represent you to God? Has He not so demonstrated His humanity that you can acknowledge Him to be approachable? If He is approachable then approach Him, and trust Him as your own savior from sins.

__________

[1] Psalm 2.7

[2] John 1.4-5, 7; 9.5; 2 Corinthians 4.4

[3] Revelation 13.8

[4] Genesis 3.15; Isaiah 7.14; 9.6-7

[5] Micah 5.2;

[6] Luke 2.6-20

[7] Luke 2.25-40

[8] Matthew 2.1-18

[9] Luke 2.41-48

[10] Matthew 13.55-56

[11] Matthew 12.46-50

[12] Mary and Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother, were cousins, Luke 1.36

[13] Matthew 3.1-6

[14] John 1.37-42

[15] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 288ff.

[16] Genesis 14.18-20

[17] 1 Peter 2.5, 9

[18] Darrell L. Bock, Luke Volume 1: 1:1-9:50 - ECNT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994), pages 338-339.

[19] John 16.13

[20] John 19.25-27

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org