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The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”


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Mt 3:13-17. Baptism of Christ and Descent of the Spirit upon Him Immediately Thereafter. ( = Mr 1:9-11; Lu 3:21, 22; Joh 1:31-34).

Baptism of Christ (Mt 3:13-15).

13. Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him—Moses rashly anticipated the divine call to deliver his people, and for this was fain to flee the house of bondage, and wait in obscurity for forty years more (Ex 2:11, &c.). Not so this greater than Moses. All but thirty years had He now spent in privacy at Nazareth, gradually ripening for His public work, and calmly awaiting the time appointed of the Father. Now it had arrived; and this movement from Galilee to Jordan is the step, doubtless, of deepest interest to all heaven since that first one which brought Him into the world. Luke (Lu 3:21) has this important addition—"Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus being baptized," &c.—implying that Jesus waited till all other applicants for baptism that day had been disposed of, ere He stepped forward, that He might not seem to be merely one of the crowd. Thus, as He rode into Jerusalem upon an ass "whereon yet never man sat" (Lu 19:30), and lay in a sepulchre "wherein was never man yet laid" (Joh 19:41), so in His baptism, too. He would be "separate from sinners."

14. But John forbade him—rather, "was (in the act of) hindering him," or "attempting to hinder him."

saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?—(How John came to recognize Him, when he says he knew Him not, see on John 1. 31-34.) The emphasis of this most remarkable speech lies all in the pronouns: "What! Shall the Master come for baptism to the servant—the sinless Saviour to a sinner?" That thus much is in the Baptist's words will be clearly seen if it be observed that he evidently regarded Jesus as Himself needing no purification but rather qualified to impart it to those who did. And do not all his other testimonies to Christ fully bear out this sense of the words? But it were a pity if, in the glory of this testimony to Christ, we should miss the beautiful spirit in which it was borne—"Lord, must I baptize Thee? Can I bring myself to do such a thing?"—reminding us of Peter's exclamation at the supper table, "Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?" while it has nothing of the false humility and presumption which dictated Peter's next speech. "Thou shalt never wash my feet" (Joh 13:6, 8).

15. And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now—"Let it pass for the present"; that is, "Thou recoilest, and no wonder, for the seeming incongruity is startling; but in the present case do as thou art bidden."

for thus it becometh us—"us," not in the sense of "me and thee," or "men in general," but as in Joh 3:11.

to fulfil all righteousness—If this be rendered, with Scrivener, "every ordinance," or, with Campbell, "every institution," the meaning is obvious enough; and the same sense is brought out by "all righteousness," or compliance with everything enjoined, baptism included. Indeed, if this be the meaning, our version perhaps best brings out the force of the opening word "Thus." But we incline to think that our Lord meant more than this. The import of circumcision and of baptism seems to be radically the same. And if our remarks on the circumcision of our Lord (see on Lu 2:21-24) are well founded, He would seem to have said, "Thus do I impledge Myself to the whole righteousness of the Law—thus symbolically do enter on and engage to fulfil it all." Let the thoughtful reader weigh this.

Then he suffered him—with true humility, yielding to higher authority than his own impressions of propriety.

Descent of the Spirit upon the Baptized Redeemer (Mt 3:16, 17).

16. And Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water—rather, "from the water." Mark has "out of the water" (Mr 1:10). "and"—adds Luke (Lu 3:21), "while He was praying"; a grand piece of information. Can there be a doubt about the burden of that prayer; a prayer sent up, probably, while yet in the water—His blessed head suffused with the baptismal element; a prayer continued likely as He stepped out of the stream, and again stood upon the dry ground; the work before Him, the needed and expected Spirit to rest upon Him for it, and the glory He would then put upon the Father that sent Him—would not these fill His breast, and find silent vent in such form as this?—"Lo, I come; I delight to do Thy will, O God. Father, glorify Thy name. Show Me a token for good. Let the Spirit of the Lord God come upon Me, and I will preach the Gospel to the poor, and heal the broken-hearted, and send forth judgment unto victory." While He was yet speaking—

lo, the heavens were opened—Mark says, sublimely, "He saw the heavens cleaving" (Mr 1:10).

and he saw the Spirit of God descending—that is, He only, with the exception of His honored servant, as he tells us himself (Joh 1:32-34); the by-standers apparently seeing nothing.

like a dove, and lighting upon him—Luke says, "in a bodily shape" (Lu 3:22); that is, the blessed Spirit, assuming the corporeal form of a dove, descended thus upon His sacred head. But why in this form? The Scripture use of this emblem will be our best guide here. "My dove, my undefiled is one," says the Song of Solomon (So 6:9). This is chaste purity. Again, "Be ye harmless as doves," says Christ Himself (Mt 10:16). This is the same thing, in the form of inoffensiveness towards men. "A conscience void of offense toward God and toward men" (Ac 24:16) expresses both. Further, when we read in the Song of Solomon (So 2:14), "O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rocks, in the secret places of the stairs (see Isa 60:8), let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely"—it is shrinking modesty, meekness, gentleness, that is thus charmingly depicted. In a word—not to allude to the historical emblem of the dove that flew back to the ark, bearing in its mouth the olive leaf of peace (Ge 8:11)—when we read (Ps 68:13), "Ye shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold," it is beauteousness that is thus held forth. And was not such that "holy, harmless, undefiled One," the "separate from sinners?" "Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into Thy lips; therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever!" But the fourth Gospel gives us one more piece of information here, on the authority of one who saw and testified of it: "John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and IT ABODE UPON Him." And lest we should think that this was an accidental thing, he adds that this last particular was expressly given him as part of the sign by which he was to recognize and identify Him as the Son of God: "And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending AND REMAINING ON Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God" (Joh 1:32-34). And when with this we compare the predicted descent of the Spirit upon Messiah (Isa 11:2), "And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him," we cannot doubt that it was this permanent and perfect resting of the Holy Ghost upon the Son of God—now and henceforward in His official capacity—that was here visibly manifested.

17. And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is—Mark and Luke give it in the direct form, "Thou art." (Mr 1:11; Lu 3:22).

my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased—The verb is put in the aorist to express absolute complacency, once and for ever felt towards Him. The English here, at least to modern ears, is scarcely strong enough. "I delight" comes the nearest, perhaps, to that ineffable complacency which is manifestly intended; and this is the rather to be preferred, as it would immediately carry the thoughts back to that august Messianic prophecy to which the voice from heaven plainly alluded (Isa 42:1), "Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; Mine Elect, IN WHOM My soul delighteth." Nor are the words which follow to be overlooked, "I have put My Spirit upon Him; He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles." (The Septuagint perverts this, as it does most of the Messianic predictions, interpolating the word "Jacob," and applying it to the Jews). Was this voice heard by the by-standers? From Matthew's form of it, one might suppose it so designed; but it would appear that it was not, and probably John only heard and saw anything peculiar about that great baptism. Accordingly, the words, "Hear ye Him," are not added, as at the Transfiguration.




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