And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
(Matthew 3:16-17 ESV)
A couple of days ago we learned that Jesus was baptized in order to identify with sinners. He went through this ceremony of public declaration conducted by John the Baptist even though he had never committed a sin
While John’s baptism was for those who understood their need to repent as preparation for receiving God’s forgiveness [Matthew 3:11], today people get baptized to demonstrate they are already forgiven and therefore are justified before God.
When we are forgiven of our sins we are “cleansed” – made pure and clean and eligible to enter God’s presence in heaven someday. God no longer sees us as sinners – our sins are 100% forgotten [Isaiah 43:25; Micah 7:19; Hebrews 8:12 et. al]. Baptism is both a symbolic representation of this change as well as a public witness to this fact.
After Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened… and the Spirit of God [descended]… coming to rest on Him. Then a voice from heaven (God’s voice) indicated that Jesus was God’s son and that God was well pleased with Him.
Not only did this fulfill Old Testament prophecy [Isaiah 11:2] but it was a public witness to Jesus being the Messiah, sent by God to take on the penalty of mankind’s sins. It is as if God is commissioning Jesus, after living a normal life for 30 years, to begin His public ministry that will eventually end with His crucifixion.
Notice that this one event involved the entire Trinity: God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. All three persons of the Godhead were working together for the benefit of the human race, just like they have from the beginning [Genesis 1:26].
It’s interesting that the Holy Spirit descended like a dove. Doves were one of the animals offered as sacrifices for sin in the Temple. But whereas bulls and lambs were sacrificed by the wealthy who could afford them, doves were sacrificed by the common people who could not afford to purchase a more expensive animal to sacrifice [Leviticus 5:7].
Three years later Jesus would become, like the dove, a sacrifice for anyone who is willing to become poor in spirit. That is, recognize and admit that they are sinners who cannot pay the penalty for their sins and instead need someone to do that for them [Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8; Psalms 14:3; Ecclesiastes 7:20 et. al]. This takes a great deal of humility.
Not to be overlooked is the humility Jesus had. He was God. Yet He gave up His position in heaven to identify with helpless sinners, allowing His body to be killed despite being perfect and innocent [Philippians 2:5-8].
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