Monday, January 31, 2011
"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him." (NIV)
There is so much going on in this scripture verse that many books could be written about it. Some would say that this is the first reference to the idea of the Trinity, but they would be in error. The first reference to the Trinity is in Genesis, with a look at the beginning of the book of John for further clarification. Genesis 1:1 reads, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." Thus, the very first verse of the first book of the Bible refers to God the Father (Creator) and the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of God. By taking a quick look at the first verse in the book of John, we see another perspective to the creation: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." Further explanation is found in John 1:14 :"The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us..." Thus, the Trinity was present at creation. Some people have problems with the idea that God is three-in-one - Trinity. The best way I can explain it is that I am a mother, I am a daughter, and I am a wife. All three are me; I am all three.
Matthew 3:16 refers to the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. As Malachi foretold, John the Baptist appeared preaching the imminent arrival of Christ: "After me comes He who is mightier than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie." (Mark 1:7) Imagine how John must have felt when Jesus appeared and asked to be baptized! The only sin-free person to ever walk this earth, asking John to baptize Him! John replied, "You should be baptizing me." But Jesus persisted, and was baptized.
The sacrament of baptism is not a new thing. From ancient days came the ritual cleansing of God's chosen people, the Jews, before they could enter the temple. This was called a "mikvah"; and, Jewish people still use this term today. A mikvah is always done in moving water (living water) such as a river or stream. And, the person dunked himself, while being observed by a priest or rabbi. Nowadays, most people consider baptism a spiritual bath through which believers are sanctified and washed in the name of Jesus; and, baptism is performed only after a public declaration of faith in Jesus as ones' personal Saviour.
John the Baptist and the disciples of Jesus baptized many, many people. But, the scriptures clearly state that Jesus never performed a baptism with water. I wonder why... Perhaps it was because He knew how the hearts of men are, and realized that people would somehow think they were better because they were baptized by the Master? Or, perhaps it was simply because He had so many disciples; He was the overseer, and they did the baptism in His name? Or maybe it was because He was destined to baptize in a much greater way, as proclaimed by John the Baptist: "I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Mark 1:8)