Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
I. St. Matthew gives us THE REASON WHY THIS BAPTISM TOOK PLACE. "Suffer it to be so now," He said to John, "for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." He was anxious to obey every Divine law, to conform to every Divine institution, to work out and complete a righteousness extensive as the Divine commands. And this answer exhibits the Saviour to us in two characters, each illustrating the propriety of His baptism.
1. He stands here as the Representative of His people. Now they are an unclean people. We argue from His appearing in their form, that He was the Representative of His sinful people; and then we argue from His being their Representative, that it became Him to be baptized.
2. He was also their Head; standing in the relation to them of a Leader or Chief. The Captain of our salvation puts on Himself the garb in which He arrays His soldiers. The Commander submits first to the oath that He enjoins on His followers.
II. Let us look now at His BAPTISM ITSELF.
1. The first circumstance that strikes us in it, is His simple obedience to the Divine law. It bids you obey the Divine law, not scan it. It bids you do the will of God, not criticise it. The will of God must be done, and every command of God obeyed.
2. And notice the humility manifested here, the amazing condescension of Christ. He was now coming forth among men to make known His high pretensions. And how does He appear? Working miracles and doing wonders? Bursting forth like the sun in his brightness, "glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength"? No; "He cometh from Galilee to Jordan unto John to be baptized of him." We can hardly form one faint idea of the extent of this degradation. Not indeed a sinner, but appearing as one, assuming a character He had bidden angels and archangels loathe. The manger, the stable, the carpenter's hut and the carpenter's toil — they were all as nothing; no word of His had poured contempt on any one of them: but to be the thing He had branded; to come forth into sight as though He were the character He abhorred; verily, brethren, this was the infinite abasement of an infinite God.
3. And mark also the devotion the Saviour manifested on this occasion.
III. We come now to our third subject — THE WONDERFUL EVENT WHICH ATTENDED THE SCENE OF HUMILIATION WE HAVE BEEN CONTEMPLATING. "It came to pass," says the evangelist, "that Jesus also being baptized and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased."
1. Observe here the greatness of Christ; His dignity. And it is a remarkable fact that throughout His life, whenever we see Him signally abased, we generally see His Father putting on Him signal honour. He is born in a manger, but a star in the heavens proclaims His advent, and over Him are ringing the songs of angels.
2. We see here also the Messiahship of Christ. First comes the voice of prophecy, marking out the future Messiah as one on whom the Spirit of the Lord was to descend and rest; one who, at His entrance on His office, was to be anointed with the spirit, just as earthly monarchs and priests were anointed with the holy oil. Besides, in all this there was a special reference to John himself.
3. But this event establishes another point. While it proves the reality of our Lord's Messiahship, it declares His qualifications for the discharge of this office. The Spirit descended on Him in Jordan to qualify Him for what we may call the moral part of His great work; to enable Him to reach the mind of man, and influence and rule it. He Himself tells us so. Led by the Spirit He had received, He first goes into the wilderness to have His own faith and obedience put to the test; and when He had been taught there by His own experience, what this Spirit could do for the suffering and tempted, He begins His public ministry at Nazareth by declaring the qualifications bestowed on Him for the discharge of His office. "The Spirit of the Lord," He says, "is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised." And this Spirit abode on Him. St. Matthew informs us that the dove "rested," as well as descended on Him; and St. Luke speaks of Him as going up from the river into the wilderness, "full of the Holy Ghost." His blessed gifts are made over to Him, placed at His disposal; and for this purpose, that He may communicate them to whomsoever He will.
4. We are taught also here the high estimation in which the anointed Saviour is held by His Father; the complacency and delight with which He regards Him. From a review of this history we learn, first, the importance which God attaches to His own ordinances, the honour He puts on them. "We see here also the insufficiency of ordinances. Baptism, though administered by a prophet and received by Christ, was powerless; or if it had any efficacy, that efficacy was limited; it evidently left much undone. It could not touch the soul of Jesus; it did not qualify Him for His mediatorial work. To accomplish these ends, the Holy Ghost comes down from on high, rests and abides on Him.
(C. Bradley, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,