30 May 2010

Quite a Compliment

Religious 5 Comments

I love the story of Jesus’ encounter with John the Baptist (Mt 3: 13-17):

13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16As 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 lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

I do not know enough about Jewish law and tradition to talk about the overall significance of this event. However, I want to comment on two other aspects of it:

First, can you imagine the credibility Jesus thus attained, in the eyes of all those who were present? I mean, John the Baptist himself was pretty hardcore. He lived out in the wilderness, and had choice words for the Jewish leaders who visited him. And yet he told everybody that the Man now standing before them was so much his superior, that John wasn’t even fit to unstrap His sandals.

Oh, and then there’s the little matter of a dove descending from heaven and a voice from above saying Jesus is God’s Son in whom He is well pleased. Yikes. (BTW we are to assume that everybody else saw and heard that, right? From the translation above it’s not 100% clear.)

My second observation: Can you imagine how much confidence and joy this must have infused into Jesus, as He prepared to embark on His ministry? The God of the Old Testament did not screw around, and He had some very high standards. So can you imagine an incredibly devout Jew hearing a public declaration that He had pleased the Lord of the Israelites? Wow.

The following is not strictly Biblical, but my own attempt to fill in the gaps: I think there was a maturation process, as the human body of Jesus of Nazareth adapted to His realization that He was also divine. For example, I think the 12-year-old Jesus really was asking honest questions in the temple. In other words, I don’t think He already knew the answers at that point; He was still learning the Law from the experts. Of course, by the time the boy had grown into an adult, He could walk circles around the scribes.

So by the same token, I think it was necessary for Jesus to hear His Father say that after His baptism, in order to bolster Him as He set out to save the world.

5 Responses to “Quite a Compliment”

  1. Roger says:

    I’d say among Jewish tradition it has no significance whatsoever.

  2. P.S.H. says:

    It isn’t clear to me that there were other people present. But see John 1:29-34.

  3. Dirk says:

    Check out John 12:28
    Here God speaks audibly again, some say it only thundered while others say it was angels. It would not be to presumptuous to say something similar happened at the baptism.

  4. Robbie says:

    That goes to show you the significance of the ordinance of baptism in the Fathers plan.

  5. fundamentalist says:

    I think Jesus’ understanding of who he is and what his role is progressed with age and experience. If you read the incident in the garden the night of his arrest, it is clear that he received new information about what was about to happen that shook him and unsettled him tremendously. So yes, that affirmation from the Father would have been a huge boost and confirmation of who he is.

    The Sanhedrin has a committee to investigate people like John the Baptist to determine if they were potentially the expected messiah, much in the same way that the Catholic Church investigates miracles. They would have sent that committee to investigate John and would have heard the Father’s blessing of Jesus and John’s denial of being the messiah. Jesus fulfilled all of the criteria established by the Sanhedrin for recognizing the messiah, but they rejected him anyway.