Focal Passage: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Since the days of Malachi, the people had not heard a
prophetic word from the Lord. John the Baptist broke the silence. Speaking like
a prophet of old, John delivered God’s message. Great throngs came to the
Jordan Valley to hear his preaching and to accept his “baptism of repentance
for the forgiveness of sins” (3:3).
John made it clear that by repentance he meant no mere
declaration or ceremony, but that each person must genuinely turn from their
sin. Though its literal Greek meaning is “change of mind,” the New Testament
usage of “repentance” carries the idea of conversion, a turning to God and away
Some of those influenced by John’s ministry began to wonder
if he might be the Messiah. John resolutely pointed people instead to the one
whose ministry would follow his. As Karl Barth suggested, John the Baptist was
content to be a signpost pointing others to Jesus.
Why did Jesus, the sinless Son of God, submit to John’s
baptism of repentance? John knew enough to realize that Jesus did not need the
forgiveness of sin, and therefore needed no sign of repentance. But Jesus
insisted, choosing to place Himself alongside all of the sinful ones for whom
John’s baptism was ordained.
What an incredible act of humility!
The King became the obedient servant to identify with His
people. He who knew no sin obediently took on the sinful plight of all people.
What a role reversal our obedience in baptism becomes! Our
humility in acknowledging our need for Christ’s redemption and following Him in
baptism leads us not to identify with one far below us, but one far greater
At Jesus’ baptism, “the heaven was opened” (3:21). The Holy
Spirit descended upon Jesus at His baptism. In baptism, Jesus yielded Himself
to His appointed service and God’s power descended upon Him. He had identified
Himself with the sons of men, and now He was assured anew that He was the Son
of God as He heard a voice from heaven say: “You are my Son, whom I love; with
you I am well pleased” (3:22b). With these words, it is revealed that God’s
best thought and purpose were expressed in Jesus.
We see revealed in Jesus’ baptism His identification with
fallen humanity, His empowerment to serve God, and the seal of His kingship and
servanthood. Verse 23 states, “Now Jesus…began His ministry.” Baptism is a
beginning, the start of our journey with sisters and brothers of faith that
will take us only God knows where!