John, a cousin of Jesus, turned up on the scene baptising the people of Judah with a baptism of repentance for the remission of sin. Jesus came along insisting that John baptise Him also (Matthew 3:1-17). Why?
Jesus didn’t need His sins washed away. In fact, His sinlessness was crucial to His Mission. So why run the risk of implying that you do need baptism when your purpose in coming to earth is to demonstrate that as a Man, you’re the one person who doesn’t?
Jesus’ baptism, along with His death and resurrection, is one of the few things that all four gospels record. That should tell us something of its importance.
The Gospel of John tells us where the scene occurred,
These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptising. (John 1:28)
This is the same place where Joshua crossed the river and entered Canaan. Later, the prophet Elijah crossed the Jordan on dry ground with Elisha just before he was taken up to heaven. Elisha then returned to Israel the same way, crossing the Jordan on dry ground to begin his own ministry.
The fact that Jesus also began his ministry by “crossing the Jordan” portrays Him as a new Joshua. An Elisha to John the Baptists’ Elijah.
Jesus will be the Son who completes the work foreshadowed in these men.
God Speaks To Us
God the Father only speaks twice in the Gospel. Both times He is acting as a witness to His Son and giving approval of His work. Both occasions also involve an Exodus.
The first Exodus mission is reflected in the fact that Jesus is just about to head out into the wilderness for 40 days like Moses and Elijah. After 40 days he will then return, like Joshua and Elisha, to fulfil His ministry and conquer an enemy.
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The other Exodus moment is the transfiguration on the mountain in Luke 9:31 where Jesus is having a conversation with Elijah and Moses about His impending departure (literally, ‘Exodus’) from Jerusalem.
On both occasions, God speaks. “Behold, this is My Beloved Son …”
What is the significance of this? Jesus is not just the Son, He is the Beloved Son.
God Delights In Us
It is one thing to be a son and another thing to be loved. But it is another thing again to be a delight.
Though only a man in the eyes of the people, and truly a man in every sense of the word, He is truly loved by God and is the Son in whom God thoroughly delights.
True, baptism is a ritual, but it is a ritual commanded by God and carries weight (Luke 7:30). In baptism, God binds us to Himself.
And so, baptism is not first and foremost man speaking to God about what man thinks, but God speaking to us about what God thinks. It is God reassuring us and declaring His delight in all those who are united to Christ in baptism.
This truth rattles many with a complicated emotion. It raises the question, “Does God love me for me or just on account of Jesus? Does He delight in me for me or just because of Jesus?
The answer is found all over the bible. God loves this world. There are no games being played here.
…you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:3-5)
The supreme evidence of His delight in us is that He became one of us. God has entered into our struggle and into our pain and tasted death for every one of us.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. (Ephesians 2:4-5)
At His baptism, God enfleshed was joining with the rest of humanity for no other reason than that He loved and delighted in us.
And now we, the objects of His delight, are invited to delight in Him by joining with Him in baptism and hearing once again His strong and sure words of comfort to us, “My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”