I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon Him. I didn’t know He was the One, but when God sent me to baptise with water, He told me, ‘The One on Whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the One Who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.”
Christ was the sinless, spotless Lamb of God – undefiled and separated from sinners. He did not sin. He knew no sin. He was without sin. He was the sinless Son of God. Jesus paid the price for sin and He broke the power of sin when He died on the cross. John the Baptist was calling Israelites to repent of their sins because their Messiah-King was moving in and out among them, for the kingdom of God was very near. Oh, Israel believed in God; they believed that a Saviour was going to come and rescue them – and John was pointing them to the One, identified to him – as their Messiah.
They were not without a God like the pagan gentiles. They had a great hope in their coming Saviour. They believed in God – but now they must believe in the Lord Jesus. They had been disobedient children, but now they must turn from their sin to Christ. John gave this testimony: “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon Him. I didn’t know He was the One, but when God sent me to baptise with water, He told me, ‘The One on Whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the One who will baptise with the Holy Spirit” – “Behold the Lamb of God….”
Imagine John’s dismay when He saw the sinless Son of God on Whom the Spirit was to rest coming to him to be baptised in water. “I need to be baptised by You,” he protested. But God always has His reasons and all that Christ did was under the guidance of the Spirit of God and in perfect harmony with the will of the Father – and for God’s glory. Jesus reassuring His humble herald said to the faithful John, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness,” and so He was baptised.
There were a number of reasons that Jesus said, “Allow it for now,” and perhaps the most poignant reason was that He had come to this earth to be the sinner’s Saviour. He had come as a Man to identify with the ones that He was to save. He was willing to stand in the place of you and me – for although He was God’s sinless Son, He was able to sympathise with each of us, in all our struggle with sin – in every single way.
The baptism in water of Jesus was also a marker that pointed to the beginning of His public ministry. The silence of His early years and young adult life was broken forever, as He stepped out into three and a half years of blessing for humanity – joining His voice with that of His herald - Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand – the King was here.
The beautiful picture of the Holy Spirit descending and resting upon Christ as the Father’s audible voice proclaimed: “THIS is my Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased,” must have been a staggering baptism of understanding to John – that this was God’s promised Messiah.
Were John and Jesus alone when He was unveiled as the Christ or were there other onlookers? We will never know – but this sign unquestioningly convinced John of His office as Messiah – Who on a future day would baptise with the Holy Spirit. And we see the glorious fulfilment of that first Spirit Baptism – on the first Day of Pentecost.
It is a beautiful picture of the triune Godhead uniting on the banks of the Jordan to encourage the Lord Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man to fulfil His unique role as Prophet, Priest and King – as He took His first step on the road that led to Calvary. Let us never be content to skip through the pages of Scripture without a deeper look into the gracious soul of our Saviour – Who gave His life as a ransom for you and me. Let us be filled with awe and wonder.
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