THE PERSON OF CHRIST: His baptism
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL OF LUKE CHAPTER 3, VERSES 15 TO 22
3:15 And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;
3:16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:
3:17 Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and will gather the wheat into His garner; but the chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable.
3:18 And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.
3:19 But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done,
3:20 Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.
3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
3:22 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.
The significance of Christ’s baptism
The baptism of Christ marks a very significant stage in the life of Christ. He Himself referred to it as “the beginning”, John 15:27, and those who had been with Him from that time were eligible to be chosen as a substitute apostle to Judas, who fell, Acts 1:21,22, as Peter indicates. To be an effective witness they must have seen Him in the full range of circumstances through which He passed. They must also have seen Him in resurrection, so they could honestly testify that the man they saw in resurrection was the very same man they had been with for nearly four years.
Christ also referred to this event in the words, “Him hath God the Father sealed”, John 6:27. The word “seal” was used of the mark that bakers would impress upon their loaves to show they were prepared to stand by their product. So in John 6 the Lord Jesus claims to be the “Bread of God”, and as such had the Father’s mark upon Him.
Again, in the synagogue in Nazareth He referred to His anointing, which took place at His baptism, as support for His Messiahship. To deny that Messiahship was to go against the manifest will of God.
The apostle Peter referred again to this event in the house of Cornelius, who seems to have had some knowledge of the ministry of John the Baptist. “The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all:) that word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached”, Acts 10:36,37.
Peter went on to refer to the anointing which took place at Christ’s baptism, when He was “anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power”, with the result that He “went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the Devil; for God was with Him”, Acts 10:38.
The apostle Paul alluded to Christ’s baptism as he preached in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia. “Of this man’s seed hath God according to His promise raised unto Israel as Saviour, Jesus: when John had first preached before His coming the baptism of repentance to all the children of Israel”, Acts 13:23,24. So the baptism of Christ was His coming, in the sense that He had come within the range of men publicly after long years of obscurity in Nazareth.
The apostle John spoke of this beginning as the point from which the Son of God began to manifest publicly the eternal life that the persons of the Godhead share with one another, and which they desire to share with men, 1 John 1:1-4. Just as the ark of the covenant introduced the people to the land of promise when it crossed the Jordan, so Christ brings His people into blessing through His ministry subsequent to His baptism.
So He is anointed as Sovereign, David’s son, destined to reign. He is anointed as Servant, given the Holy Spirit and power to work for God. He is anointed as Sympathiser, ready to bind up the broken-hearted. (His kingly anointing does not mean He is distant and aloof from His subjects, for He will come where they are to bind up their wounds, Luke 10:33,34). He is anointed and sealed as Son, ready to manifest publicly in the world of men that eternal life He had always enjoyed in the bliss of heaven eternally.
The four-fold presentation in the gospels
It is one of the beauties of the four gospels that they present matters from different angles, yet they combine to give us a composite impression of Christ in all His beauty and grandeur. We shall see this as we proceed, suffice to say at this point that Matthew writes about the Sovereign for the benefit of His subjects; Mark of the Servant for His under-servants; Luke of the Saviour for His people as Samples of Him in His life; John writes of the Son for His scholars, those who are getting to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. The baptism accounts will further those ends.
Luke, as a doctor, was very well educated. He writes the first four verses of his gospel in Classical Greek style, as befits a salutation to “most excellent Theophilus”. He then proceeds to write, in 1:5-2;52, after the Hebraistic style of the Old Testament. This is not surprising, since these verses consist of the eye-witness accounts of those in Israel who were closely connected in some way with the birth of Christ, and His subsequent life in the household of Joseph and Mary.
In chapter three the style changes again, for Luke now begins to write in Koine Greek, the language of the ordinary citizen. This is not slang, but the unadorned, home-spun language of every-day. How fitting all this is! Luke is presenting us with a Man who can meet the needs of all classes of men, and one of the ways he does it is by varying his style of writing. He thus aims to capture the attention of all.
So it is that Luke chapter 3 begins with an array of facts about the ruling powers of the time. As in the Book of the Acts, Luke is not afraid to be specific. He has been criticised over the years for certain statements he makes, yet one by one those criticisms have been shown to be unfounded. So we are confronted with some twenty persons, times, offices and territories. How much easier would it have been for Luke to pass by these things, for fear of making a mistake. But he is writing by the Spirit of God, and, moreover, has done his research well, and the result is accurate and reliable. Luke is setting his record of Christ in the context of the history, humanity, and hierarchy of the world.
The word of God to John
He has another object, however, for having catalogued men who were listened to by ordinary folk, since it was thought that they were informed, Luke delights to tell us that the word of God came, not to these, but to John the Baptist. The princes of this world, political or religious, Gentile or Jew, were not fit to receive the revelation of God, but John was. He was the son of Zacharias, and therefore of the priestly family, yet he had not heard the voice of God in the temple courts, but in the wilderness. He had been in the deserts until the day of his showing unto Israel, Luke 1:80, so he had not been in one desert, (such as that around the Dead Sea, with the Essenes, as some would wrongly suggest), but had varied experiences with God in different desert circumstances. The fact that the word of God came to a man in the desert was a scathing rebuke for the priestly class of the day, showing they were not fit to hear the voice of God. It had been the same in Eli’s day, for the voice of God came not to him but to the child Samuel.
The mention of John as son of Zacharias serves also to highlight the fact that the prophecies uttered by his father, (once he had been delivered from his dumbness), as to John’s mission and character, had come to pass, and he had come in the spirit and power of Elijah, to bring the people back to God as Elijah had done.
John is careful to ensure that the people are in no doubt as to his identity. (We know from John 1:19-24 that there was confusion in the minds of the authorities about this). One of the features that distinguishes Christ from John is that whereas the latter baptised with water, Christ would baptise with the Holy Spirit. The water John used had come from the atmospheric heavens originally, but the element Christ would use came from heaven itself, the very presence of God.
The baptism in the Spirit
It is interesting to notice the different ways in which the writers of the four gospel present this. In Matthew we read, “He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire”, Matthew 3:11,12. Here the floor is the place where profession is tested, to distinguish between chaff and wheat, and the King will “gather out of His kingdom all things that offend”, Matthew 13:41, and gather His wheat, (true citizens of the kingdom), into the garner, (the security of the kingdom), but will burn up the chaff in the everlasting fire He spoke of in Matthew 25:41.
In Mark, typically, the account is more brief, stating “I indeed have baptised you with water: but He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost”, Mark 1:8. Mark is presenting the activity of the Servant of Jehovah as He prepares His people to serve Him. For this they must have power, for the energy of the flesh is of no use in the service of Christ. This power from God He gives when they believe. Mark is simply writing about the genuine servants, and does not mention the fire, or, indeed, the garner. Ideally, the servant will only be satisfied when souls are delivered from the fire; and only concerned about being faithful in the work, and leaving the results, (the garner) to the Lord of the Harvest.
In Luke the words are almost the same as in Matthew, but taking into account the different aspect of things that the two writers present, we may say that Luke, (a companion of the apostle Paul), is not so much concerned with the King and His kingdom, but the Saviour and His church, for He is the Saviour of the body, Ephesians 5:23. So now the floor is the place where Christian profession is tested, the gathering into the garner is the taking of His true people to heaven, and the fire is the fire of hell for those whose profession is not genuine.
John’s record of these things is for an entirely different purpose. There is no mention of fan, floor, filled garners, or fire, but the fact that He baptises with the Holy Ghost because He is the Son of God. And the descent of the Spirit upon Him at His baptism was what convinced John of these things, John 1:31-34.
The imprisonment of John
Having made sure we realise the superiority of the Jesus Christ over John the Baptist, Luke records the fact that Herod shut up John in prison, Luke 3:19,20. Now clearly Luke is anticipating things, for in the next verses John is at liberty and baptises Christ. Luke is showing us that even though His forerunner would be cruelly beheaded, a sign that His own mission would not be universally accepted, Christ nonetheless was determined to do His Father’s will, and being baptised was one way of signalling that determination.
Matthew reserves this piece of information about John until chapter 4:12, several months later, and shows that the imprisonment of John was one of the reasons why Christ departed into Galilee. He had stood firm against the Devil in His temptation experience, and the Devil was forced to leave Him, defeated. Yet Christ left one place to go to another because of people rejected Him, even to the extent of trying to kill Him, Luke 4:29,30. He is totally in control; over the Devil in making him leave Him, over men in Himself leaving them. He will die at one place only, and that, Calvary.
Mark emphasises the fact that the service of God must go on, even if one prominent servant has been put in prison. So “after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God”, Mark 1:14. Mark’s gospel opens with the greatest servant of God up to that time, (see Luke 7:28), and then continues, with John’s ministry ended, with the greatest servant of all.
John’s approach is different again, for, writing later than the other three, he clears up a misunderstanding that may have arisen over the timing of Christ’s movements. When we read Matthew and Mark, at first glance we would think that the Galilean ministry of Christ as recorded by them took place immediately after the temptation. It is not so, for the events of John chapters 1-4 took place before the second Galilean tour that Mathew and Mark detail. This John makes clear in John 3:24, for the Son of God had been in Galilee in chapter 1:43-2:12. Then He went up to Jerusalem, and when He returned from thence and went into the land of Judea, it is at that point that John tells us John was not yet cast into prison.
The despised river Jordan
So Luke comes to his account of the baptism of Christ. John, although the son of a priest, is not baptising in the laver in the temple courts, but in the river Jordan. This was the river so despised by Naaman, (for after all, why wash in the dirty water of Jordan when you can wash in the sparkling mountain streams of Damascus?), and is therefore a fitting place for the one who was despised and rejected of men to be baptised in. The multitudes were being baptised there because they had learnt to despise themselves, and had repented of their sins. The one who now approaches John for baptism is totally different, however. Nonetheless, He does come when the people come- He does not stand aloof and distant, but companies with them, as the Ideal Man amongst men. This is characteristic of Luke’s approach, showing one who had a concern for men, and who, although sin apart Himself, came to be their friend.
Association with the remnant
At this point we may consider the reasons for the baptism of Christ, especially since it was not, for Him, the baptism of repentance. The first thing we may say is that He thereby associates with the repentant remnant of Israel. It is of such that the words were written, “the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all My delight”, Psalm 16:3. Isaiah 57:15 speaks of God as dwelling “with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones”, and this is manifest in this incident.
Then His baptism marked the beginning, as we have already noted, of the public manifestation of eternal life in the world. Eternal life being the life of the Eternal God. Of course, all who were in communion with God in old time must have had the life of God, or else they could not have shared Divine things and worshipped God. But the perfect expression of that life by one who is equal with the Father awaited the coming of Christ. It is in Him that the life of God is seen to perfection, without anything of the life of Adam, the life of flesh. The very pointed contrast between these two expressions of life is made by the Lord Jesus Himself in John 17:2,3. He distinguishes very clearly between “all flesh” and “life eternal”, showing that the life of men in the flesh is not the life of God.
That which the apostles saw and heard, they recorded for us, so that we might share with them in the joy of eternal life. John later on writes to the fathers in the family of God, those who were mature in Divine things, and describes them as those who had “known Him that is from the beginning”, 1 John 2:13. This is all the remarkable because he writes of the babes in the family of God that they know the Father, yet the maturer ones know the Son! This is clear testimony to the equality of the Son with the Father, and also to the way in which the Son has manifest in manhood the features of eternal life, so that they can be taken in by the renewed mind, and growth in Divine things can take place.
Commitment to Calvary
We have already noticed in connection with the imprisonment of John, that Christ’s baptism represented His commitment to Calvary. How significant the waters of Jordan were to Him. They represented the barrier that confronted the children of Israel as they approached the land of promise. Yet when the feet of those who carried the ark touched the brim of the waters, those waters were cut off, and the people were free to pass over on dry land, Joshua 3;15,16. For them the waters represented an obstacle no longer, (the waters were held back some sixty miles upstream, at Zaretan), and the inheritance could be entered. So in the baptism of Christ we may see an illustration of what would happen at Calvary. Did He not speak of His death as a baptism, Luke 12:50? There is a difference, however, for not only did the people in Joshua’s day not have to battle with the waters, the ark did not either, for the waters were driven back from it, see Psalm 114:3,5. Not so with our Saviour, for He felt the full force of the flow of the waters of judgement, (Jordan means “river of judgement), so that we may pass over into our inheritance. It had been the same in Noah’s day, (remember that Peter links baptism with the ark of Noah, 1 Peter 3:20,21), for the ark was pitched within and without with pitch to repel the entrance of the waters, so that those inside never saw the waters of judgement. How different was it for Christ, in one sense, for He could say, in the language of the psalm, “Save Me, O God, for the waters are come in unto My soul”, Psalm 69:1.
Demonstration of harmony of Godhead
The baptism of Christ also gave opportunity to the persons of the Godhead to show that each was fully in harmony with Christ and His mission. The Father is heard, and the Spirit is seen. Never before had the Triune God manifested Himself in such a way. In Old Testament times the unity of the Godhead was in view, especially since the nations were sunk in polytheism, in direct defiance of the Only True God of heaven. The nation of Israel were charged with the duty of upholding the uniqueness and oneness of God amongst the heathen world.
With the coming of Christ, however, another feature of the Godhead comes into prominence, namely its triune nature. Each of the persons of the Godhead may rightly be called God, and may represent God. This change of manifestation came about because the Son came from heaven to reveal and manifest God.
So it is that at His formal introduction into public ministry, the three Persons make their presence felt. The Father speaks to the Son; the Spirit descends upon the Son; the Son sees the Spirit descending; the Son prays to the Father.
Endorsement of John the Baptist
Another result of the baptism of Christ was that John the Baptist and his baptism were endorsed by heaven. The comment of Luke later in his gospel is that the Pharisees refused to be baptised by John, and thus showed that they rejected the counsel of God against themselves, Luke 7:30. And still later, as His earthly ministry came to a close, Christ Himself challenged the chief priests and elders about their attitude to John the Baptist. He had purged the temple, and they had asked His authority for so doing. It was in fact the same authority that John the Baptist had, for God had sent and commissioned him, Matthew 21:23-27. If they received not John’s testimony, they would not receive Christ’s. It was a form of judgement upon them when Christ refused to answer their demand.
Fulfilling of all righteousness
So it is that coming to be baptised by John supported what he was doing, that it was of God. When John protested that he was not worthy to baptise such a person as Christ, the Lord Jesus insisted with the words, “thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness”, Matthew 3:15. Several things are involved here. First, it was a righteous thing for John to demand that the people repent of their sin. The Law and the prophets demanded this also, and “all the prophets and the law prophesied until John”, Matthew 11:13.
Second, the ministry of John was of God, and therefore was a righteous ministry. Christ ever supported that which was righteous before God.
Third, His baptism in the Jordan was a preview of Calvary, and Romans 5:18 (margin) calls that “an act of righteousness”. What He did at Calvary in obedience to His Father was in direct contrast to Adam’s single and momentous act of disobeying God by sinning.
Fourth, by His death at Calvary Christ would lay the foundation whereby everlasting righteousness could be brought in and maintained, Daniel 9:24, and a new heavens and a new earth could be established in which righteousness could dwell, 2 Peter 3:13.
Fifth, His baptism was the introduction of the King to His people, and He will reign in righteousness, Isaiah 32:1. His baptism by John was a sign of this. It was followed by His anointing with the Holy Spirit, showing He was God’s Approved one. David had been anointed king in relatively obscure circumstances, and then anointed again when he began to reign, 1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Samuel 5:3. So it is with Christ, for He was anointed of the Holy Spirit at His baptism, and will also be hailed as God’s anointed in a day to come, when God introduces Him into this world again, Hebrews 1:9.
Gaining an entrance
The baptism of Christ was also His entrance into the fold of Israel as the true and good shepherd. The Lord Jesus contrasted Himself with those who had gained position in Israel by climbing up “some other way”, John 10:1. He had come by way of the door, and the porter had opened to Him. If we link this with what Paul said in the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia, Acts 13:24, we learn that John preached before Christ’s coming, and the word used for coming is “entrance”. He is confirmed as the genuine shepherd as John heralds His arrival and introduces Him to Israel at His baptism.
Humbling Himself in readiness for Calvary
In Philippians 2 the apostle Paul divides the period of Christ’s manhood before the cross. He was “made in the likeness of men”, signifying His conception and birth, so that He is “found in fashion as a man”, and men have the opportunity to realise that He is a real man as He lived amongst them for thirty years in obscurity, verse 7. Then the apostle declares that “being found in fashion as a man He humbled Himself”, verse 8. This marks the point where He deliberately re-affirmed His commitment to the work of the cross, for His self-humbling involves obedience to his Father even the extent and extremity of Calvary. His baptism therefore marks a critical point in His movements down here, as He made His way to there.
Indication of Sonship
So it is that John immerses the Lord Jesus into the waters of the Jordan. It is interesting to notice that when John baptised all the others who came to him, no mention is made of their coming up out of the water. They did come out, of course, but is surely significant that it is not mentioned. John was the last representative of the Law and prophets, and as such could only condemn sinners, for the law was a ministry of condemnation, 2 Corinthians 3:9, not salvation. Christ, however, came to introduce a new era, where grace would reign, and this not only because of His death, but also His resurrection. So it is said of Him alone that He came up out of the water.
Furthermore, He came up “straightway”, for there was no delay. Peter was able to tell the nation on the Day of Pentecost that death was not able to hold Christ. Death holds the bodies even of God’s saints, for their full redemption has not arrived, but with Christ it was not so. Having met every claim that sin and death could make, He rose quickly from the grave, and this was pre-viewed at His baptism. He was “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father”, Romans 6:4, for the Father’s glory demanded that such a person be raised from the dead.
The fact that He comes up from the water straightway shows His eagerness to begin His public ministry, and also that He has nothing to fear from the wilderness temptation that will come so soon after He has emerged from the waters of baptism. The Father’s commendation ringing in His ears will be replaced by the jarring sound of the Tempter’s crafty attempts to drive a wedge between Him and His Father, with manifest and total lack of success.
The descent of the Spirit
As He emerges from the water, there is the two-fold attestation of Him from heaven. The Spirit descends and the Father speaks.
As we consider the sight of the Holy Spirit descending upon Christ, we remember that His coming into manhood raised questions. Can one who is God really come into manhood without being tainted? Does He remain God, even though become man? In view of these questions, the Spirit needs to move to vindicate Him, and assure us of His integrity. So it is that He is “justified in the Spirit”, 1 Timothy 3:16, as the Holy Spirit descends upon Him. Again, we notice the ways in which the gospel writers present this, each with his own point to make.
Matthew tells us it was the Spirit of God that descended on Him; that He descended like a dove; that He saw the dove descend. He is being marked out as king; heaven’s king, God’s king, so it is appropriate that the dove should come from heaven, and that He should be designated the Spirit of God. One day Christ also will emerge from heaven to take His kingdom. That kingdom, although manifest on the earth in that glorious millenial day, does not derive its authority from men, either by right of succession or popular vote. Rather, as Pilate learned, that kingdom is not of this world at all, or else His servants would use worldly methods to bring it in, as Peter was guilty of doing with his sword in Gethsemane, John 18:36.
This is not one of the angels that God makes spirits, Psalm 104:4, but one of the Persons of the Godhead, clearly designated, so there is no reason to doubt the genuineness of His claim to kingship. And He sees the Spirit descend. Many will there be who will doubt His claims, but here at the outset there is the confidence given to Christ by the personal sight of the Spirit descending unto Him from heaven.
Note that the Spirit descends like a dove; He does not swoop like a hawk. How fitting that He should come in this gentle way, for the one upon whom He comes is noted for His meekness and gentleness, Matthew 11:29; 21:5; 2 Corinthians 10:1.
Mark says that He saw the heavens opened. The word he used signifies that the heavens parted asunder, as if the whole of the heavenly host were being invited to see the sight of God’s Son on earth in servant’s form. God had made the angels to serve Him, but none could or did serve so well as His Son, and the Father is pleased to show them this supreme example of servant-hood. After all, we have already noted that the baptism of Christ is the point at which He commits Himself to Calvary, and Philippians 2:8 refers to this moment when, having been found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself still further to the death of the Cross. The apostle sees in this the supreme example of obedience on the part of the one who had taken the form of a servant.
Luke adds his own detail to the account. The Spirit came “in bodily form as a dove”. It is as if the Spirit takes a form which suits Christ’s condition and character. In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, Colossians 2:9, and He gave form and substance to spiritual things, and the Spirit acknowledges these things in the way He came.
It is also appropriate that He should come upon Christ as a dove, for the dove is the holy bird, being allowed for sacrifice; is the harmless bird, Matthew 10:16; the undefiled bird, Song of Solomon 5:2; the separate bird, Song of Solomon 2:14; and the one who flies away to be at rest, Psalm 55:6. Fitting bird, therefore, to mark out Christ, “who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens”, Hebrews 7:26.
In John’s gospel there is no account of the actual baptism of Christ, but there is given the conclusion that John the Baptist reached after it had happened. Although a relative of Christ, he did not realise that Jesus was the Messiah until a word from heaven came to him about the matter. His testimony was, “I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptise with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptiseth with the Holy Spirit”, John 1:33. As a result of seeing this happen, John goes on to say, “And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” So it is not especially the word of the Father that John highlights, but the sight of the Spirit, and in particular, that the dove abode on Him. There was nothing in Christ to disturb the Spirit, and the Spirit was pleased to associate with Him fully and publicly. Thus John was convinced, and therefore testified.
The word from heaven.
Centuries before, the word from heaven had been, “I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of Hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand”, Malachi 1:10. Who was there to remedy this? Only one from heaven, become man, who could give to God the pleasure from man that He looks for, and eventually give Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour”, Ephesians 5:2.
The words “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased”, are literally, “This is My Son, the beloved, in whom I have found delight”. This shows that the Father had been deriving pleasure from His Son during the years when He was in relative obscurity. He was growing up before Him as a tender plant, Isaiah 53:2, and as such gave God delight. He was like an oasis in the midst of a barren desert. It is relevant to Matthew’s presentation of the king to notice that both David and Solomon had a name which meant “beloved”, see 2 Samuel 12:24,25. David was a man after God’s heart, Acts 13:22, (and as such is a faint picture of Him “in whom I am well-pleased”), and Solomon was promised that God would be a father to him, and he would be His son, corresponding to “this is My beloved Son”, and illustrating this relationship in a feeble but instructive way.
Matthew associates the Lord Jesus with the nation of Israel. He has already linked the words “called My son out of Egypt”, (originally spoken to Israel in reference to the Exodus, Hosea 11:1), to the coming back from Egypt after Joseph and Mary were forced to flee with the child Jesus, Matthew 2:15. He has related the sorrow when Herod killed the infants, 2:16-18, to the future day of tribulation foretold in Jeremiah 31:15, and now we find that Matthew describes Him crossing the Jordan, as Israel did. There is a difference, however, for Israel came out of Egypt, were taken into the wilderness to see what was in their heart, Deuteronomy 8:2, and then crossed the Jordan into the land. With Christ the order is different, for He comes out of Egypt, crosses the Jordan, and then is tempted in the wilderness, for the Father already knew what was in His heart before He went there.
Note that the word used is not only begotten Son, although He is that; He is more, however, for He is firstborn Son as well, and the expression leaves room for this thought. Room is also left for the fact that Christ is God’s dear Son, Colossians 1:13. Perhaps there is not only a prior notice of His kingdom rights in these words, but also of His Calvary rights too, for it was Isaac, just before he was taken to the altar, who was described as Abraham’s son, his only son, whom he loved, Genesis 22:2.
The expression “This is”, in Matthew, is directed to the nation, and to John, so they may be in no doubt as to His identity and authority, whereas in Mark’s account, the words are more directly to Christ. As the Servant of Jehovah He receives the personal commendation of the one He has come to serve. He has been about His Father’s business during His private years, serving Him in the carpenter’s shop and by attendance at the synagogue and temple, but now He is about to serve publicly, and does so confident of His Father’s approval. This is all the more noteworthy because Mark tells us, not just that He came to Jordan from Galilee, but that He came to Jordan from Nazareth in Galilee. Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? asked Nathaniel, John 1:46. He made Himself of no reputation by living in a place of evil reputation, but is now vindicated as being of excellent reputation by His Father.
In Luke the word is even more personal, with the double use of the pronoun. “Thou art…in Thee”. This suits Luke’s approach, for he presents Christ as a real man down here, with feelings and emotions. How needful for Him to be assured as He involves Himself in public service amongst men, that He is indeed loved by His Father, for He will be hated of men. And even those who profess to love Him will prove unreliable at times.
It is also in character for Luke to be the only one to tell us that He came up out of the water praying. Luke’s gospel is the gospel of the Dependant Man, and we are reminded of this now. Here, He is in one of the lowest spots on earth, the Jordan valley. In Luke 9:29 He is on the high mountain, yet is found praying. His baptism is a preview of Calvary, the low spot. His transfiguration is a preview of His kingdom, the high point, see 2 Peter 1:16-19. But whether in suffering or in glory, He acts in complete submission to His Father. No wonder He has not only risen from the grave after His Calvary-baptism, but has ascended up far above all heavens; for He is worthy.