Study 1 WITH JOHN AT THE RIVER JORDAN
OUR LORD’S INTERVIEWS
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Matthew 3:13-17)
This series of ten studies consists of a selection from the four Gospels of instances where Jesus met individuals or groups of people and revealed Himself and His truth to them. Two things may be said: first, He revealed Himself to them; and second, they were never the same again after their interview with Him. Because our Lord Jesus Christ is our risen, living and exalted Lord, these things can be true of us (Hebrews 13:8).
The first interview marks the beginning of His public ministry, the occasion when He went to the banks of Jordan where John the Baptist was baptising, and asked that He might be baptised – compare Mark 1:1-11; Luke 3:21-23; John 1:31-34. We know little about Jesus’ early days in Nazareth, but look up Luke 2:40 and compare Mark 6:3, where we are told that He was a carpenter. When Jesus was about thirty years old great crowds were attending John the Baptist’s ministry (Matthew 3:5-6), and when Jesus came and asked John to baptise Him, John at once recognised the Lord. How was this? It must have been (1) because of the radiance of His personality, (2) being first cousins they would have met previously in Jerusalem at the annual feast; or (3) he may have known Him by divine discernment. What lessons can we learn from the Lord’s interview with John the Baptist? What lessons must John have learned about the Lord’s submission to the ordinance of baptism?
1. John the Baptist heard a declaration from heaven that Jesus was God’s Son.
This declaration could not have been given on any higher authority, because God Himself gave testimony to the absolute deity of His Son (Matthew 3:17). Compare Matthew 17:5; John 12:28. Years before, the prophet Isaiah had written – Isaiah 9:6; at the Annunciation to Mary, the angel had said – Luke 1:35. After His baptism, John said – John 1:34. Notice that the Trinity is revealed in this baptismal scene: the Son is being baptised, the Spirit is descending as a dove, and the Father is speaking from heaven.
2. John the Baptist saw a demonstration of the truth of Jesus’ words, “I am gentle and humble in heart.”
(Matthew 11:29). Jesus was God’s beloved Son, yet He voluntarily submitted to this ordinance of baptism. He asked John to baptise Him (compare Matthew 3:11,15). Now read carefully Matthew 20:27-28; Philippians 2:5-8; 1 Peter 3:4. Do we possess this priceless quality of humility (1 Peter 5:5)? One of the most impressive passages in scripture is John 13:1-17. A proud Christian is really a contradiction; a Christian is a follower of Christ, the “gentle and humble” One.
3. John the Baptist witnessed the public dedication of the Lord Jesus to His supreme purpose for which He had come into the world.
This was His public inauguration to the redeeming work He had come to do. In one sense He certainly did not need to be baptised because He had no sins to confess or of which to repent, but in order to identify Himself with sinful man and lay His spotless life at the disposal of the Father, He submitted to this rite. This was His offering of Himself as God’s Lamb (John 1:29), and showing His willingness to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).
4. John the Baptist knew the way in which the Saviour’s redemptive work was to be accomplished.
It seems clear from the record that Jesus, when He was baptised, was immersed. (1) The Greek word “baptizo” signifies this. (2) Matthew 3:16 and Mark 1:9-10 surely imply immersion (notice “coming up out of the water”). (3) look up John 3:23; and (4) compare Romans 6:4. Baptism is a picture of death, burial and resurrection. Now read 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and compare Paul’s description of the Gospel. Our redemption was secured by His death, burial and resurrection, so His baptism shows the manner of His redemptive work.
5. John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus and anointing Him for His earthly ministry.
Compare Luke 3:21-22; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38. How deeply significant this anointing was! See Hebrews 9:14. Before we are ready for service we must have the same anointing – Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8 – and see what Zechariah 4:6 tells us. If the Lord Jesus needed this holy anointing before He began His public ministry, how much more do we!
6. John the Baptist saw a picture of the way all believers should follow Christ.
Jesus was baptised in order to “fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15), or, in order to do what was pleasing in God’s eyes; His word to us is “Follow Me!” – compare John 21:22 with 1 Peter 2:21, then look up Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:15-16. Baptism is not a denominational matter; it is a New Testament matter – compare again these two last references, then trace the following references to baptismal services in the Book of Acts:-
Acts 2:37-47; Acts 8:12; Acts 8:36-39; Acts 9:17-18; Acts 10:44-48; Acts 16:14-15; Acts 16:30-34; Acts 18:8; Acts 19:1-7.
7. John the Baptist learned the most important lesson of all.
That lesson is this – the full blessing of God can only be experienced when we are ready and willing to obey Him absolutely. It is only in response to such complete obedience and full surrender that He says, “I am well pleased.”