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The Baptism of Jesus

I. Luke 3:21-22 Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”
A. Three parts of this great event
1. The baptism itself
2. The Dove descending from heaven and “remaining on Jesus”
3. The Voice
II. The event of Jesus’ baptism
A. His baptism was His ordination, His installation, His anointing, His unveiling, His being introduced as the messiah, the announcement of His coming by the voice of God Himself.
1. He had been on earth for 30 years, but now it was time for Him to do the great task which God had sent Him to do. Now it was time for Him to play the role of the Messiah; now it was time to do the work of salvation.
B. And so the anointed One is anointed.
1. Jesus was the anointed One – anointed by the Holy Spirit.
2. He is given “the Spirit without measure.” (John 3:34) He is set apart for His great work.
3. God had told John how to recognize the coming "anointed one": it was the One who was anointed by the Spirit:
a. After baptizing Jesus, John said, "I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. And I did not recognize Him [on my own], but He [God] sent me to baptize in water and said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." (John 1:32-34)
4. Notice how Peter refers to this last passage in Acts 10:37-38: “You yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”
a. “God was with Him.” This is what set Jesus apart from all the others.
b. It is not that Jesus was not the messiah before His baptism. But in one sense, this was the anointing of the "anointed one," i.e., the messiah. This is also the divine indication of the messiahship of Jesus, signifying that this was the Messiah, the One anointed with the Spirit.
III. The meaning of Jesus’ baptism
A. A rite of passage
1. It represents the transition into a life of ministry.
2. The taking on of an office: His inauguration
3. Anointing in the OT – priests and kings
B. The empowerment of God
1. Jesus was sent to earth by the Father with a mission to fulfill. When the time for the mission arrived, God gave Him the Spirit to empower Him to fulfill the mission.
2. And when Jesus received the Spirit at His baptism by John (Luke 3:21-22), a noticeable change took place. Luke 4:1-18, the next chapter of Luke, highlights the change:
a. And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness. (Luke 4:1)
b. And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.... (Luke 4:14)
c. ...and He began teaching in their synagogues...and the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He anointed Me"... (Luke 4:15-18, see Is. 42:1)
3. It is interesting that as soon as He received the Spirit, He began to do miracles, in particular: healing and casting out demons (Luke 4:33-41).
4. It was by the power of the Spirit that He endured the temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1,14), and of course it was by the power of the Spirit that He endured Gethsemane and Calvary. It was by the Spirit's power that He performed signs and wonders (Matt. 12:28; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38), and it was by the power of the Spirit that He proclaimed the gospel (Luke 4:18; Matt. 12:18; Acts 1:2).
5. Just as He was directed not by His own agenda, but by His Father's (John 5:19-20,30; 8:26-29,42; 14:10,24), so He was driven not by His own power, but by the Spirit's.
6. This brings up the question, "Why did Jesus, being divine Himself, need the Spirit in order to have the power to fulfill His ministry; was He not omnipotent Himself?" It would seem that the answer to this question lies at least partly in the fact that the Holy Spirit is the person of the Godhead who is delegated the task of working here on the earth to empower human beings to do the works of God.
C. The divine approval of Jesus
1. The expression of the Father’s love for the Son
a. The sense in which Jesus is His only Son
b. Jesus often called God “My Father” or “the Father” but never referred to God as “Our Father.” (In the Lord’s prayer He is teaching the disciples how they should pray.) In John 20:17 He actually refers to “my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”
c. John 1:18 “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God WHO IS IN THE BOSOM OF THE FATHER, He has explained Him.”
d. Edwards: “The infinite happiness of the Father consists in the enjoyment of His Son.”
e. Piper: “[The Father] is well-pleased with His Son. His soul delights in His Son! When He looks at His Son He enjoys and admires and cherishes and prizes and relishes what He sees. The first great pleasure of God is His pleasure in the Son.” (The Pleasures of God, p.31)
2. This is the basis of God’s love for us.
D. Pointing ahead to the cross
1. The water baptism of Jesus points ahead to and symbolizes His baptism on the cross, His baptism by fire: “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished.” (Luke 12:50, see also Mark 10:38)
2. It foreshadowed the curse-baptism which He would undergo at Golgotha, when God's judgment fire would be poured out upon Him. This baptism of fire, of course, justly belonged to His followers, but He took it in their stead to provide salvation for them.
3. This substitutionary aspect is pictured in the Jordan baptism by the fact that Jesus took the place of a sinner in submitting Himself to John's baptism. This is why, at first, (in the gospel of Matthew) John objects to baptizing Jesus. He is surprised at the notion that Jesus, the perfect One, would put Himself in the place of sinners.
E. A new era: the age of the Spirit
1. By being baptized Jesus was initiating a new era in redemptive history.
2. At His baptism Jesus entered into a new age, an age into which He would eventually lead His people at Pentecost. Thus began the age of the Spirit.
3. You live in the age of the Spirit. John did not. (Luke 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached.”) Jesus began it — at His baptism.
4. And later, as one reward for the successful completion of the mission, Christ would be given the Holy Spirit to pour out on His followers to empower them to continue to fulfill the task that He had begun:
a. “Therefore, having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” (Acts 2:33)
5. Just as the Spirit came down upon Christ's physical body at the Jordan, now Christ pours down the Spirit upon His churchly body at Pentecost. What Jordan was to Christ, Pentecost was to Christ's followers.
F. The coming of the kingdom (another way of looking at this)
1. The message of John the Baptist was that the "kingdom" was near at hand: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt. 3:2) Everything John said pointed ahead to a great event that was about to happen: Someone was coming who was going to change everything. His was a message of expectation, not of fulfillment.
2. When, on the other hand, Jesus comes on the scene (not when He’s born, mind you, but when He’s baptized) He comes speaking a message of fulfillment. Granted, it is a message the beginnings of fulfillment, not of ultimate fulfillment. But it is a message of fulfillment.
a. Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)
b. Jesus had already been alive for about 30 years, but still the Kingdom of God was something future for John the Baptist. But once the Spirit had come upon Jesus, all attention turned to Him and the time was now fulfilled.
3. In the OT, God had promised David that his son would be king of Israel, and that his son's kingdom would be an everlasting one. Now, Jesus, the Son of David (Matt. 1:1, 21:9), is anointed by John and by the Holy Spirit as King in fulfillment of this Davidic promise (probably this anointing was also for the offices of prophet and priest - see Heb. 5:5-6; it is very interesting that Jesus did not function in any of these three roles until after His baptism by John). So, when the King was anointed it marked the coming of the Kingdom. This is why the language shifts from SOON! to NOW!
IV. Conclusion
A. We no longer live in the age of man’s failure, but in the age of God’s success. This is the age of the messiah. This is the age when the power of God comes upon Jesus and then upon His people. Was there divine success in the old era? Yes. Is there human failure in the new era? Yes. But this is not how the ages are characterized.
B. The first Adam was a failure. And we have all failed in him and with him and like him. But God has sent a new Adam. He has sent One on whom rests the Spirit of God. And through His righteous obedience we are all justified and made righteous before God.
C. It’s time to come to the end of ourselves. It’s time to realize that we’re all failures. It’s time to realize we can’t make it on our own. It’s time to wake up to the fact that God has sent the Messiah, full of the power of God, who has succeeded where all others failed.
D. Jesus is the living fulfillment of the verse: “‘It is not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord.”
E. “...the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, ..., which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col.1:25-27)
1. Now we have a great hope that was hidden in the OT: Christ in you! Not you on your own. It doesn’t work. Not all of us together. It has never worked. Not you with a little help from God. It’s not enough. The way it works, and the only way it works is in Jesus the Christ. He does it.
2. He succeeds. He triumphs. He wins. He hits the mark. Because He is not acting by human might nor by human power, but by the Spirit of the living God.
3. And He not only succeeds Himself, but He succeeds for us and in us. So we become overcomers, not in ourselves but in Him.