Here in Matthew, we start the ministry of Jesus. The Old Testament prophets spoke of a man preparing the peoples hearts for the coming Messiah. We read in this chapter about a man named John. You may know him as John the Baptist, he was given that name as he has known for baptising people preparing them to meet God. John was teaching that people must repent of their sins and the baptism was an outward sign of an inward change of heart, very different from the sacrifices of old. Why then would Jesus who had no sin need to partake in such an activity?
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
As we read we see that John recognized Jesus right away as the one who would save them. We know from reading Mary’s account of pregnancy that Jesus and John had met briefly when they were yet born, and Jesus had made an impression on him then. We know they were cousins, yet we have not record of any encounters between them after they were born. We know at some point in John’s life he departed into the desert to seek God and received his calling to teach repentance and baptism. But here on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, they meet once again. Jesus asking for the baptism that John has been performing.
John hesitates, asking why Jesus would need this baptism, instead John wants the baptism that Jesus will provide. We see here that John was hungry for more. He had received his calling and knew that he was only the foreshadowing of one to come, his whole life was about preparing the hearts of the people for Jesus. In essence, he was the preshow to the main headliner, he knew it and never once wanted to take his place. So, when the one who he has been preparing for asked him to baptise him, it took him by surprise. Jesus reassured John that this was needed to be done so that the calling could be fulfilled. John was once again obedient and did as Jesus asked.
Jesus went down into the water a sinless man, he was not being baptised to show and outward sign of an inward change, but as an act of obedience that each believer should follow. He came up from the waters in triumph as a symbol of what he would do in three years time. This moment when the Spirit of God descended on Jesus could very well be the kickstart to his early ministry. All his preparation and prayer leading to this point where God said ‘go’.
As believers in Christ, we have accepted Jesus into our lives, asking Him to forgive us of our sins. We go through our lives and as sinful beings we continue to sin, we must daily ask for forgiveness. Not as if the sin we do breaks our relationship with God, but that the sin hinders our walk with God and slows down growth. We also called to water baptism, to go under the waters as an outward sign of an inward change. In the early church believers did this almost immediately. Today we wait and wait and some never make this statement of faith. They wonder why things fall apart and their relationship with God is rocky. This is an important step for any believer and helps cement your heart. The baptism sprinkle as a child does not have anything to do with this event. This choice must be yours something you do freely to show others the change you have made and who you serve. If you are putting off water baptism or just never knew you needed to, I pray today that you don’t delay, talk to your Pastor or mentor and encourage them to help you.
Father, thank you for everything you do for us. You prepared the way for Jesus so perfectly. Sending John ahead to prepare the hearts of the people, instituting baptism as a symbol of repentance. I pray that we see hearts changed, lives transformed and people renewed in their faith. Let their lives be an example of your love in this world. Use us to share your love, let any fears that bind us be taken away and replaced with strength and wisdom. Give us opportunity after opportunity to reach the lost. Amen