By Philip Cottraux
Before Jesus could go into ministry, He had to be baptized by John. Matthew 3:3: For this is he (John) that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. This is one of the earliest Messianic prophecies fulfilled, and it was met by both Jesus and John. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God (Isaiah 40:3). Jesus found His cousin preaching repentance by the Jordan River. Matthew 3:13: Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John immediately refused, recognizing the sinless One who had no need to repent. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me (verse 14)?
Of course, it seemed unreal that the Messiah would ask him to be baptized. But Christ’s answer is very interesting. And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him (verse 15). Jesus had all power, but was God made flesh and subject to the same trials we have to endure. He was able to get thirsty, tired, and hungry. And He was our example.
But if John was preparing the way for Christ, Christ was preparing the way for us. There was nothing that we have to endure in life that He didn’t endure for us. And there was no job too lowly for Him. Some of us have to clean the church toilet; but He washed the disciples’ feet. He showed us the attitude we must have when we teach, preach, and serve others. In the wilderness, He was subject to the same temptation from the devil we have to face. He fasted for 40 days, enduring hunger for the greater glory of God.
If Jesus was the Son of God and Creator of the universe, did He really need to be submerged in the Jordan River to receive power? I don’t honestly know, but the question is like asking if He “needed” to fast or be tempted. Or crucified. It’s beside the point and overlooks His mission. If the Father determined that He needed to undergo all life’s hardships for us, then the Son’s unquestioning obedience should teach us a lesson.
Verses 16-17: And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. While the Trinity is referenced in the Old Testament, this is the first time it was completely revealed. The Son is baptized, the Holy Spirit appears, and the Father speaks His approval. Jesus didn’t view Himself as above baptism, and that pleased the Father. The Holy Ghost brought the message in the form of a dove.
The problem with so many Christians today is that we don’t have this attitude of obedience. Unlike Jesus, we view ourselves as too good or important to go through the necessary steps of ministry. We think that fasting is unnecessary, or that lowly jobs of cleaning and servitude are for new converts only, or that we don’t need the Holy Ghost. But if Jesus, the very Son of God, had to fast before He could enter ministry, who are we to say we don’t need to fast? If He had to receive the Holy Ghost before He could have power from on high, who are we to claim that we don’t have to?
This is the most famous incident where the Father’s voice spoke audibly to the Son. But it isn’t the only one.
In John 12, Jesus had just entered Jerusalem on a donkey. As He rode into the city, the people cried “Hosanna!” and laid palm trees before Him. This was a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. But Jesus knew the celebration would be short-lived. Within a week, the same people would form the crowd outside Pilate’s house crying for Him to be crucified.
He tried to explain this to His disciples in verses 23-26, but as we well know, they wouldn’t understand His mission until after it was complete. While their response isn’t recorded, we can imagine it was the same confused bewilderment displayed at the Last Supper. In fact, Jesus echoes the same sentiment in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He was crucified. We know that He would pray O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: (Matthew 26:39), but we overlook that a few days before He cried Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: (John 12:27).
Jesus was subject to great emotional distress before His death. The Son of God, the Creator of the universe, who will one day judge the world, was overcome by the very human emotion of fear. But in both cases, there is a second clause: but for this cause came I unto this hour (John 12:27). Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt (Matthew 26:39).
Jesus didn’t just come to die for our sins. He didn’t just take on our sicknesses and diseases at the whipping post. He didn’t just come to defeat the devil and conquer death, hell, and the grave. He also came to overcome fear. We have no reason to be afraid. Oh, don’t get me wrong; fear, anxiety, and other human emotions will come your way as long as you’re on this earth. But Jesus showed us what to do with it. The Bible tells us to “fear not” in some variation over 100 times.
And what was the result? In John 12:28, He reiterates: Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. This is the second time the Father spoke audibly to Jesus. Jesus only asked that the Father’s Name will be glorified in His death. The Father tells His Son that His name has been glorified in all that Christ has done, and will be glorified again in His death and resurrection. Where the first Adam had failed, the second Adam had succeeded.
It had never occurred until studying for this blog just how much that revealed about the relationship between the Father and Son, the first two members of the Trinity. It shows a tender bond that surpasses all understanding. Christ’s willingness to obey the Father showed just how much He loved the Father and would do whatever He said. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise (John 5:19).
If we love the Father as much as Jesus did, we would be just as eager to obey Him no matter what. But unfortunately, we’ve strayed so far that we don’t even recognize His voice. This is evident in the very next verse: The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him (John 12:29). Everyone around Jesus heard the voice from above. As Jews, they were supposed to be God’s chosen people. But they had no idea to whom the thundering voice belonged. They assumed it was an angel. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes (verse 30). In other words, it was their sins He would be dying for.
Then Jesus reveals another mystery: their inability to recognize the voice of God was a fulfillment of another Messianic prophecy: Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them (verses 39-40). This hearkens back to Isaiah 6:10: Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
We can look down on the disciples all we want. But we in the church today are in danger of the same thing. We have strayed so far from the Father, we may hear His voice and not recognize it. But even more frightening is that if we stray too far, He may no longer be able to hear us.