Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,…
To most, if not to all of us, the fact that our Saviour prayed is in itself a wonder. This does not, however, seem to have struck the gospel-writers. Prayers of Christ precious, as showing how completely human He became, living like ourselves, a life of dependence, of communion, and of submission.
I. THE OCCASION ON WHICH THE SAVIOUR IS HAS SAID TO HAVE PRAYED. AS undergone by Christ, the rite of baptism would seem to have had a twofold meaning.
1. It was intended to be symbolic of His entire oneness with the race He came to save.
2. It was intended to be emblematic of His complete consecration to the salvation of the race to which He came.
II. THE REASONS WHICH LED HIM TO PRAY.
1. We are not to suppose that Christ's praying on this occasion
(a) arose from any doubt in His mind as to the propriety of the work on which He was entering;
(b) sprang out of any misgiving as to His own appointment to it;
(c) was due to any uncertainty as to His personal fitness for it. No, but —
2. Bearing in mind the meaning of the baptism with which His prayer was associated, we may imagine that His prayer on this occasion would spring —
(a) from His pure passion for the glorification of the Father;
(b) from His intense longing for the salvation of the world;
(c) from His vivid anticipation of the difficulties which lay before Him;
(d) from His keen prevision of the sorrows that awaited Him.
III. THE RESPONSE WHICH CAME TO OUR SAVIOUR'S PRAYER.
1. There was a special communication of the Divine Spirit.
2. There was a special assurance of the Divine complacency. Practical lesson: PRAYER A PREPARATION FOR SERVICE.
(B. Wilkinson, F. G. S.)For the first, He was now baptized, and in regard of that He prayed, and teacheth us —
1. In that He first was baptized, and then prayed, that we must be first cleansed and sanctified, and then pray: men must lift pure hands with pure hearts in every place (Isaiah 50:16). In receiving the sacrament a holy heart knows that he hath to do with God, and lifteth itself above sensible elements; it labours to approve itself to God, and looks not at men, but at God and His covenant, and renews itself with faith, repentance, and invocation.
2. In that Christ goeth to God for a blessing upon the sacrament received, we learn that all the grace, holiness, and efficacy of any sacrament is to be obtained, continued and increased by the means of prayer.For the second, Christ prayed in respect of that He was to do.
1. He was now to be declared that great Prophet of His Church (Deuteronomy 18:18). And the whole ministry of the New Testament was now to be delivered and consecrated in Him, and therefore undertaking this great work, He goeth to His Father for blessing and success in it.
2. He was now in a solemn manner by sundry testimonies from heaven to be set apart for the work of redemption, and the salvation of man being lost: a ministry which men and angels were all too weak for; and no marvel, if He pray to His Father for sufficient strength and grace to undergo the same.
3. He knew that the heavens were to be opened, and therefore He will be in prayer, to show the power of prayer, that it pierceth the heavens, and entereth the presence of God, and prevaileth for a blessing.
4. The Spirit was to descend upon Him, and therefore He would be in prayer to teach us that the prayers of God's children are of that force that they bring down the Holy Ghost with all graces upon earth.
5. That faithful prayer doth cause God to give some evident testimony upon those with whom He is well pleased.
6. That whatever we take in hand, we must reverently undertake it with prayer, but especially two things above others.
(1) The part of God's holy worship.
(2) The duties of our callings.
2. Such is our weakness, as when we do anything the best we can, we had need to pray to do it better, and for pardon that we have done it no better: which if it be true in external things and duties, wherein we are better acquainted; much more in spiritual, wherein our ability is much less.
3. We never receive so much favour from God, but we still stand in need to crave more; nor never so little, but that we have much to be thankful for. This doctrine serves to reprove such as content themselves with the work of God's worship; that come to the word and sacraments, but beg not a blessing of God beforehand; whereas Christ Himself contented not Himself with the outward means, but prayed for a blessing. And this is the very cause why men find so little taste, strength, and power in these ordinances, because God's blessing goes not with the means; and therefore it is sundered from His own ordinances, because it is not asked. Is it any marvel, that when men come carelessly, carnally, and profanely, without reverence and religion to the exercises of religion, that they go away as brutishly as they come; and the longer they thus profane God's holy things, the more senseless and incurable they grow by them, more hardened and hopeless. What good hath many a man gotten by customable coming to the word and sacraments many years together? for their knowledge, babes may pose them in principles; for their conscience, we may as soon prevail with children of three years old, to sit reverently and attentively, as some of three or fourscore, who in the morning are so sleepy, as it were fitter they were at home in their beds, or take order to bring their beds with them: and for their profitableness in their places, or reformation of anything in public, or in their private families, or their own person, God nor man can see no such thing. Now would I ask these men as old as they be, how often they can remember they have humbled themselves before God, that He would bless the Word unto them, and them to understand it, and make conscience of it, to reform their ways, to comfort their consciences? Alas, dead men! this is a strange motion to them; and now we conclude, no blessing asked, none obtained, but a curse accompanied them further to harden them: whereas humble and feeling prayer would have opened the heavens and fetched down the Spirit to have accompanied the ordinance; and so some testimony would have been seen, that God had been better pleased with them and their work.
3. It is a notable fence against sin: for, as the more sin prevails, the less can a man pray; for the more he prays, the less is he overtaken with sin. When the true man is assaulted, if he cry for help, the thief runs away; and so doth sin (a thief which ever doggeth and besetteth us to rob us and steal away grace) if we can cry mightily to God.
4. Acquaint thyself with God; for the times come when nothing will stand by thee but His help; and therefore use prayer, to be familiarly acquainted with Him: know Him now in the time of thy prayer, that He may know thee in the day of thy distress.
(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,