Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him — Mat_3:13
The Baptism of Jesus Was Surrender to Vocation
The baptism of our Lord was His self-consecration to His lifework. It was His dedication to His public ministry. When others were baptized in Jordan, it was a symbol of their need for cleansing. Awakened to the guilt of sin, they were promising amendment of their lives. But when our Savior was baptized, He had no sin to be repented of. His baptism was surrender to vocation. Hitherto He had been preparing for it. He had been, if one might put it so, at college. In the secret fidelities of home, God had been training Him to be the faithful witness (Rev_1:5). Now He was entering on His public ministry, and for that, He was set apart and consecrated by this open and voluntary action. In what, then, did that dedication issue? What were its spiritual and immediate consequences? It is not wasted time to meditate on these things.
Clearer Vision Followed Full Surrender
First, then, it issued in a clearer vision, for we read that the heavens were opened unto Him. That does not point to a material sky, but to a vision breaking on His soul. When Peter was praying on the housetop, he, too, saw the heavens opened. In that great moment, there was revealed to him the spiritual equality of Jew and Gentile. So our Lord, when the heavens were opened to Him, won a larger and a clearer vision and won it because in full surrender He had dedicated Himself to God. That always follows the personal dedication. To see, we must surrender. It is when we give ourselves with our whole heart to anything that it breaks out into a wealth of meaning. It is when we give ourselves with our whole heart to God that, like our Lord, we see the heavens opened, and new vision dawns upon the soul.
Personal Dedication Brings New Endowment
Again, this personal dedication brought with it at once a new endowment, for we read that as He left the river, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. When God bestows His Spirit on a child, He gives it up to the capacity of childhood. God does not pour into a little cup what it would take a flagon to contain. So then the Spirit of God filled the holy Child, it was not that He might be a perfect man: it was that He might be a perfect child. As a child, He was a perfect child, and as a youth, He was a perfect youth. All that was needed for those quiet years was given without measure. But now these sheltered years were over, with their lowly tasks, and happiness of home, and He was launching out into the deep. Before Him lay the highway of Messiahship, the proclamation of the Kingdom, the long conflict with the powers of darkness, the crucifixion on the tree. And for that, He needed equipment which He had never needed as a child, nor in the lowly duties of the home. That is what God gave Him at the Jordan when the Holy Spirit descended on Him there—grace for His unparalleled vocation as the one Savior of mankind. The full surrender of the baptism was owned and honored by full equipment—and so it is with every believer.
A Sense of Filial Intimacy
Again, the dedication of the baptism issued in a new sense of filial intimacy, for immediately there was a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son.” We know that even from His childhood Jesus had dwelt in the fatherhood of God. The presence of God as a loving heavenly Father had been Him through all the silent years. But never, till the hour of baptism, had this deep sense been verified and owned by an audible witness from the other side. There came a voice now, carrying in its utterance intense and irresistible conviction. There came the glorious and immediate certainty of One who never had been far away. And all this when He came up from Jordan, and when, for life and agony and death, He had yielded Himself up a living sacrifice. Not when He was a happy child at Nazareth, wandering and playing in the fields there; not when He was a lad of twelve, intensely and spiritually eager; but when He gave Himself, yielded up Himself, immersed Himself in the baptism of sinners, did He have the divine assurance of the voice of the Father.
The Dove Gave Him a Certainty of Sacrifice
Lastly, the dedication of the baptism issued in the certainty of sacrifice, for we read that when the heavens were opened, He saw the Spirit descending like a dove. Now the dove is a very gentle bird, and you and I have a very gentle Savior. As we read the story of His life, we are often reminded of the dove. But the first thing which the Holy Spirit did was to drive Him out into the wilderness, and that is scarcely significant of gentleness. Something more than gentleness is here, and every Jew could tell you what it was. For the dove were the one and only bird that was ever sacrificed upon a Jewish altar. And do you not think that when in that high hour the Holy Spirit descended like a dove, our blessed Savior would see the meaning of it? Just as the dove was laid upon the altar, so He was going to be laid upon the altar. Just as the dove was sacrificed for sin, so He was going to be sacrificed for sin. In that great moment of perfect dedication, when He identified Himself with sinful man, there was revealed the necessity of Calvary.