[This chapter is based on Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11;
Luke 3:21, 22.]
Tidings of the wilderness prophet and his wonderful announcement,
spread throughout Galilee. The message reached the peasants in the
remotest hill towns, and the fisher folk by the sea, and in these
simple, earnest hearts found its truest response. In Nazareth it was
told in the carpenter shop that had been Joseph's, and One recognized
the call. His time had come. Turning from His daily toil, He bade
farewell to His mother, and followed in the steps of His countrymen who
were flocking to the Jordan.
Jesus and John the Baptist were cousins, and closely related by the
circumstances of their birth; yet they had had no direct acquaintance
with each other. The life of Jesus had been spent at Nazareth in
Galilee; that of John, in the wilderness of Judea. Amid widely different
surroundings they had lived in seclusion, and had had no communication
with each other. Providence had ordered this. No occasion was to be
given for the charge that they had conspired together to support each
John was acquainted with the events that had marked the birth of
Jesus. He had heard of the visit to Jerusalem in His boyhood, and of
what had passed in the school of the rabbis. He knew of His sinless
life, and believed Him to be the Messiah; but of this he had no positive
assurance. The fact that Jesus had for so many years remained in
obscurity, giving no special evidence of His mission, gave occasion for
doubt as to whether He could be the Promised One. The Baptist, however,
waited in faith, believing that in God's own time all would be made
plain. It had been revealed to him that the Messiah would seek baptism
at his hands, and that a sign of His divine character should then be
given. Thus he would be enabled to present Him to the people.
When Jesus came to be baptized, John recognized in Him a purity of
character that he had never before perceived in any man. The very
atmosphere of His presence was holy and awe-inspiring. Among the
multitudes that had gathered about him at the Jordan, John had heard
dark tales of crime, and had met souls bowed down with the burden of
myriad sins; but never had he come in contact with a human being from
whom there breathed an influence so divine. All this was in harmony with
what had been revealed to John regarding the Messiah. Yet he shrank from
granting the request of Jesus. How could he, a sinner, baptize the
Sinless One? And why should He who needed no repentance submit to a rite
that was a confession of guilt to be washed away?
As Jesus asked for baptism, John drew back, exclaiming, "I have
need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?" With firm yet
gentle authority, Jesus answered, "Suffer it to be so now: for thus
it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." And John, yielding,
led the Saviour down into the Jordan, and buried Him beneath the water.
"And straightway coming up out of the water," Jesus "saw
the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon
Jesus did not receive baptism as a confession of guilt on His own
account. He identified Himself with sinners, taking the steps that we
are to take, and doing the work that we must do. His life of suffering
and patient endurance after His baptism was also an example to us.
Upon coming up out of the water, Jesus bowed in prayer on the river
bank. A new and important era was opening before Him. He was now, upon a
wider stage, entering on the conflict of His life. Though He was the
Prince of Peace, His coming must be as the unsheathing of a sword. The
kingdom He had come to establish was the opposite of that which the Jews
desired. He who was the foundation of the ritual and economy of Israel
would be looked upon as its enemy and destroyer. He who had proclaimed
the law upon Sinai would be condemned as a transgressor. He who had come
to break the power of Satan would be denounced as Beelzebub. No one upon
earth had understood Him, and during His ministry He must still walk
alone. Throughout His life His mother and His brothers did not
comprehend His mission. Even His disciples did not understand Him. He
had dwelt in eternal light, as one with God, but His life on earth must
be spent in solitude.
As one with us, He must bear the burden of our guilt and woe. The
Sinless One must feel the shame of sin. The peace lover must dwell with
strife, the truth must abide with falsehood, purity with vileness. Every
sin, every discord, every defiling lust that transgression had brought,
was torture to His spirit.
Alone He must tread the path; alone He must bear the burden. Upon Him
who had laid off His glory and accepted the weakness of humanity the
redemption of the world must rest. He saw and felt it all, but His
purpose remained steadfast. Upon His arm depended the salvation of the
fallen race, and He reached out His hand to grasp the hand of Omnipotent
The Saviour's glance seems to penetrate heaven as He pours out His
soul in prayer. Well He knows how sin has hardened the hearts of men,
and how difficult it will be for them to discern His mission, and accept
the gift of salvation. He pleads with the Father for power to overcome
their unbelief, to break the fetters with which Satan has enthralled
them, and in their behalf to conquer the destroyer. He asks for the
witness that God accepts humanity in the person of His Son.
Never before have the angels listened to such a prayer. They are
eager to bear to their loved Commander a message of assurance and
comfort. But no; the Father Himself will answer the petition of His Son.
Direct from the throne issue the beams of His glory. The heavens are
opened, and upon the Saviour's head descends a dovelike form of purest
light,--fit emblem of Him, the meek and lowly One.
Of the vast throng at the Jordan, few except John discerned the
heavenly vision. Yet the solemnity of the divine Presence rested upon
the assembly. The people stood silently gazing upon Christ. His form was
bathed in the light that ever surrounds the throne of God. His upturned
face was glorified as they had never before seen the face of man. From
the open heavens a voice was heard saying, "This is My beloved Son,
in whom I am well pleased."
These words of confirmation were given to inspire faith in those who
witnessed the scene, and to strengthen the Saviour for His mission.
Notwithstanding that the sins of a guilty world were laid upon Christ,
notwithstanding the humiliation of taking upon Himself our fallen
nature, the voice from heaven declared Him to be the Son of the Eternal.
John had been deeply moved as he saw Jesus bowed as a suppliant,
pleading with tears for the approval of the Father. As the glory of God
encircled Him, and the voice from heaven was heard, John recognized the
token which God had promised. He knew that it was the world's Redeemer
whom he had baptized. The Holy Spirit rested upon him, and with
outstretched hand pointing to Jesus, he cried, "Behold the Lamb of
God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
None among the hearers, and not even the speaker himself, discerned
the import of these words, "the Lamb of God." Upon Mount
Moriah, Abraham had heard the question of his son, "My father, . .
. where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" The father answered,
"My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt
offering." Gen. 22:7, 8. And in the ram divinely provided in the
place of Isaac, Abraham saw a symbol of Him who was to die for the sins
of men. The Holy Spirit through Isaiah, taking up the illustration,
prophesied of the Saviour, "He is brought as a lamb to the
slaughter," "and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us
all" (Isa. 53:7, 6); but the people of Israel had not understood
the lesson. Many of them regarded the sacrificial offerings much as the
heathen looked upon their sacrifices,--as gifts by which they themselves
might propitiate the Deity. God desired to teach them that from His own
love comes the gift which reconciles them to Himself.
And the word that was spoken to Jesus at the Jordan, "This is My
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," embraces humanity. God
spoke to Jesus as our representative. With all our sins and weaknesses,
we are not cast aside as worthless. "He hath made us accepted in
the Beloved." Eph. 1:6. The glory that rested upon Christ is a
pledge of the love of God for us. It tells us of the power of
prayer,--how the human voice may reach the ear of God, and our petitions
find acceptance in the courts of heaven. By sin, earth was cut off from
heaven, and alienated from its communion; but Jesus has connected it
again with the sphere of glory. His love has encircled man, and reached
the highest heaven. The light which fell from the open portals upon the
head of our Saviour will fall upon us as we pray for help to resist
temptation. The voice which spoke to Jesus says to every believing soul,
This is My beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear
what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be
like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." 1 John 3:2. Our Redeemer
has opened the way so that the most sinful, the most needy, the most
oppressed and despised, may find access to the Father. All may have a
home in the mansions which Jesus has gone to prepare. "These things
saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David,
He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
. . . behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut
it." Rev. 3:7, 8.
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