A young lady on a volleyball team is diagnosed with cancer. And when the treatment makes her hair fall out, every one of her teammates goes and gets their heads shaved. There is something beautiful here isn’t there? There was absolutely no physical reason for these young ladies to become inexplicably bald. But there is an emotional reason; a spiritual identifying with; a resounding statement: “we are you – you are us – we belong to each other.” And doesn’t it tug at us when we see similar stories on the news? It is Casper ten Boom wearing a yellow star during the German occupation of the Netherlands even though he was not Jewish so that he could make a show of solidarity with his Jewish friends. It is the group of teenagers on a mission trip to work in an orphanage in Mexico who ate with the orphans as opposed to those who brought their own food and ate secluded in a different building.
Luke’s account of the baptism of Jesus is sparse to say the least. Two verses (Luke 3:21-22). But there is some interesting points here. In both Matthew and Mark the baptism of Jesus is almost set apart from the baptism of the people. Luke joins the baptism of Jesus with the baptism of all the people. While baptism was taking place, Jesus was baptized. It’s barely mentioned. Matthew tells us that Jesus was baptized to fulfill righteousness. Everyone else who showed up in the desert was baptized for forgiveness of sins, to prepare for the coming of Jesus. Are we intended to wonder if Jesus also received forgiveness of sins? Probably not. Jesus is the ideal man, the fulfillment of God’s expectation for mankind. Why then? Jesus, even though he is the Son of God, came in solidarity with man. He doesn’t have the sin problem, but he allows himself to be baptized in a beautiful display of identification with us. And if our Lord and Savior consented to being baptized why do some balk at the idea for themselves? If Jesus was willing to identify with us, shouldn’t we be willing to identify with him? I mean, it is more than that for us. We need the forgiveness, the dying, the resurrecting. But baptism is about us saying that we want our story to be shaped by his story. We are willing to die, be buried, and raised to walk in newness of life. Again, I say, die!
Luke is the only source that tells us about Jesus praying at the baptism scene. But Luke mentions Jesus’ prayer life much more than the other gospels, so no surprise there. Heaven opening up is an apocalyptic image. When heaven opens up one of two things is about to happen: either a revelation from God or judgment from God. Both represent glory coming from the presence of God. Here the revelation comes in the form of a dove. Interestingly Luke uses two words to make sure his readers understand that this was not some kind of mirage. Form and bodily are used often in the context of appearance. In the Old and New Testaments angels are said to appear in the form of a man. Why a dove? It probably has something to do with purity and gentleness. Mostly we are reminded that the Spirit came upon the prophets and upon God’s Messiah. Jesus is being prepared for ministry, first by identifying with mankind and then by being set apart by God’s anointing Spirit.
The message that comes out of heaven is probably a combination of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. In Psalm 2:7 we have “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” And in Isaiah 42:1, “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” It seems likely that God said these words specifically to call to mind these two passages. Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, the servant of God. The word “well-pleased” can mean “enjoy, prefer.” I don’t think this message was for Jesus. I mean, maybe Jesus, in his humanity, needed confirming. But mostly the Jews needed to know that Jesus is the one they had been waiting for.
Jesus did not stand in need of baptism. He had no sins to be washed clean. But we need to see him identifying with us, taking our medicine, beginning his ministry where it would culminate – with a death, burial and resurrection. We need to see God’s affirmation. We need to see that Jesus’ ministry is spirit filled and led. Why? Because if our ministry is to mean anything it must also begin with a death, burial and resurrection. It must also be spirit filled and spirit led. And maybe if we see our Lord identifying with us, we will identify with others. I am cleansed by the blood, but I am not superior to those who are still lost in their sins. Can we eat with the orphans or will we bring our own food and seclude ourselves off in a room away from them? Can we wear a yellow star of shame? Can we shave our heads? Can we follow? Peace.