The Manifesting Role of John: Matthew 3:13-17
“13) Then Jesus *arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14) But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15) But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he *permitted Him. 16) And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17) and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”” Matthew 3:13-17
If I could travel back in time to biblical history and be present for key historical events, this story would make my top ten list. What transpires in these few verses literally attracted the undivided attention of every eye in heaven. Let me try to unpack these verses.
We now come to the climax of John’s entire ministry. Keep in mind, his main mission was to introduce or manifest the Messiah to the world. Without understanding the full script, his baptizing would somehow set the stage for one of the greatest Revelations of God in the Bible. Let’s try to grasp a panoramic view of the broader scene unfolding in this chapter.
Against the backdrop of many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to John for affirmation and receiving scorn, Jesus suddenly shows up at the Jordan. As the text unfolds, all eyes are focused on John and Jesus, but to the dismay of everyone, the demeanor of John totally changes. He switches from loud and animated with disdain toward the Jewish religious leaders, too being meek, humble and even shy in the presence of Jesus. Certainly the crowd noticed this unprecedented mood change in John. They could sense something unusual was happening.
IniItaly, John was reluctant to baptize Jesus for two reasons. First, he viewed himself as being in need of being baptized by Jesus. I assume this is a reference back to his words in Matthew 3:11 that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John viewed himself as being in need of that baptism. That greatly intrigues me!
But second, John was stuck in a genuine theological crisis. Because Jesus was sinless, He was not a candidate for a baptism of repentance. The thundering prophet suddenly stood speechless with no clear pathway foreword. This was a huge affirmation of the utter holiness of Jesus Christ. “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
The issue was resolved when Jesus pointed out the higher righteous mission of John’s baptism. According to John 1:32-34, the Messiah would be manifest to John and Israel through baptism. At the moment the Messiah would be baptized, the Holy Spirit would descend from heaven and remain upon Him. That’s exactly what happened!
As John proceeded with the baptism, the most significant heavenly manifestation recorded in the Bible took place. The crowd was obviously transfixed as the scene unfolded. I cannot imagine the impression made on any religious leaders lingering in the crowd. Let’s briefly examine four components of this manifestation.
First, the heavens were opened. I do not know how to paint this scene or what it looked like. It must have included marvels beyond human comprehension surpassing the vision in the book of Revelation. This may have been an actual glimpse into the heavenly realm.
But let me make an observation, Jesus is the One who opens heaven to sinful people. He became the mediator between heaven and earth. Jesus is still the door to the heavenly realm. Acts 4:12 says; “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given to men, by which we must be saved.” At the moment of salvation, the new believer is spiritually seated with Christ in the heavenly places. I can only imagine.
Second, the Spirit of God descended as a dove and remained upon Jesus. (John 1:33) What was the significance of this? In John 1:34 John the Baptist said; “34) And I have seen and bear witness that this is the Son of God.” This sign confirmed the Deity of Christ! He did not become Deity at His baptism, it merely confirmed His true identity. Jesus became the Son of God because of His immaculate conception, not because of His baptism. Baptism always confirms what already exists. It is an outward sign of an inward reality.
Third, the Father Spoke. “17) and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”” (Matthew 3:17) This was an auditable voice not unlike the voice that thundered from heaven when the Children of Israel came out of Egypt and stood before Mt Sinai to receive the Law. (See Exodus 19:18-20:21) Seldom in the Bible does God speak from heaven with an auditable voice. When He does, He expects people to listen. Something much greater than Moses and the Law had come.
His message was loud and clear; “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” God was speaking to mankind. He was affirming Jesus Christ as His only begotten son. All else that follows in the book of Matthew and the four Gospels is based on this Revelation of the true identity of Jesus Christ.
A final observation is often made from this text. All three members of the Godhead are present in these verses. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are seen as separate and distinct from each other in this story and yet Scripture presents the mystery that they are one and the same. I simply point out the evidence of the Trinity encased in these verses.
You cannot read these verses without wrestling with the true identity of Jesus Christ. Apart from a right relationship with Him, heaven will forever remain close to you!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global.
The Manifesting Role of John: Matthew 3:13-17