Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
He knoweth truly how to live well, who knoweth how to pray well. But best actions without prayer, which obtain grace to them, are like bodies without spirits: yea, as the body without breathing cannot live to do any work competent to a natural life: so the soul, without prayer, can do no work that truly is spiritual.
(Bishop Cowper.)The heaven was opened. — No wit followeth, that we speak of those three admirable events, which followed the prayer of Christ.
1. The sensible opening of the heavens.
2. The visible descending of the Holy Ghost.
3. The audible voice of God the Father, witnessing to many both eye and ear-witnesses the solemn instalment and induction of Christ into His office and work of mediation and ministry. Wherein we must know, that as there never was in all the world so high and excellent an office as Christ's was (for the greatest of kings, and the high priest, who yet were with great state and observation anointed and deputed to their offices, were but shadows of this), even so God would have Christ entered into it with such magnificence and glory as never man was, nor creature is capable of. At the coronation of a prince, with what glory, pomp, and sumptuousness, even to admiration, is he brought forth with his nobles and subjects! But all this is but earthly glory, from earthly men to an earthly king. But now at the coronation of the Prince of Peace, God sets Himself from heaven to honour it; and for this purpose He doth more familiarly, and yet more gloriously reveal Himself unto all mankind, than He had ever before done from the creation of the world; and never was any ceremony in all the world so honoured as this baptism of Christ was. The ancient sacrifices of God's institution were honoured by- manifest signs of His gracious presence, as by the fire which came from heaven continually to consume them: the Ark was honoured with special signs of His glorious presence, sitting between the cherubims, answering by oracle and voice unto cases propounded: the Temple itself at Jerusalem, at Solomon's prayer and dedication, was filled with the glory of God, manifested in that cloud that filled the House of the Lord (1 Kings 8:10), and this cloud still watched over the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34). But these were all but shadows to this, wherein the Lord did not cloud and vail His presence, or reveal His presence in some sign; but the Divine Majesty manifested itself distinctly, as we may say, in person, yea, in the distinction of all the three Persons, the Father testifying His delight in His dear Son, the Son standing in Jordan, and receiving His Father's testimony; and the Holy Ghost descending in the visible shape of a dove. It seemeth therefore to be true, that the heaven was sensibly divided and rent in twain, even as the earth was when Korah and his company were swallowed up.Now the reasons why the heavens were opened were sundry.
1. To manifest the truth and certainty of the other signs which followed, that seeing the heavens opened, they might not conceive that either the dove or the voice came from any other place.
2. To show that howsoever Christ stood there as a weak man, and in similitude of sinful flesh, yet He was the Lord from heaven heavenly, of whom was verified (John 3:31) " He that is come from heaven is above all."
3. That as His person, so likewise His doctrine was Divine and heavenly (ver. 34). He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God: and this was the special work of His doctoral office, to reveal the will of His Father. "No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared Him" (John 1:18). The power also and grace, whereby He wrought miracles, was not from Beelzebub, but from heaven.
4. To show that His office, into which He was now entered, was and is to open heaven again for us, who by sin had shut it against ourselves; He hath made our way unto the throne of grace. And thus this second Adam standeth in opposition with the first; He shut us out of paradise, a token that we were shut out of heaven: but this lets us into the paradise of God again. The heavens are opened by His passion, not by His baptism (Hebrews 10:19). They are opened by His death as by a common cause, which must be specially and singularly applied, and that is by baptism: therefore it is said, "We are baptised into His death " (Romans 6:3, 4), that is, to have benefit by His death. Note hence, that Christ by fulfilling all righteousness, hath set heaven open unto us, and consequently the justification of a sinner is not only by the obedience of His passion, but also by His active obedience in fulfilling the law.
(T. Taylor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,