Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. 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 alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17
Every time I read this passage of Scripture, I side with John. He knows the One he is asked to baptize. They have walked in similar circles. Relatives, attached to each other through aunts, uncles, and cousins. They may not have seen each other for a while. John has been busy fulfilling his calling – preparing the way for the One who is to come.
And now the One arrives. He joins the masses who are listening to John preach the baptism of repentance. Jesus blends in. In my mind’s eye, He slowly works His way closer to the front. This is no mad dash, but certain steps of obedience. Steps that continue the ball that has already started to roll. Steps that will eventually lead to a cross where the Father will not bear to look at the Son because of the sin burden that He bears.
The steps eventually take Jesus face to face with John. The rest of the crowd fades in importance. It’s just Jesus and John and I completely understand John’s hesitancy. He knows the One whom He is being asked to baptize and it is blowing his mind. His uncertainty isn’t meant to be offensive or rude. It requests a role reversal and Jesus will have none of it. Jesus’ focus is obedience to His Father. John is meant to baptize Him. Jesus humbles Himself to be baptized by John. John agrees.
I wonder what it must have been like to see heaven open. As Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens opened and God the Father acknowledges the Son in the most profound of ways. The Spirit of God in a dove descended. The audible voice of God announced, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” God’s stamp of approval was His announcement of love and affection.
I wasn’t there that day, but I would imagine that the crowd must have gasped in amazement. The hair on their arms must have stood up on end. Their hearts must have beat fast and their palms gotten sweaty. They heard God speak. They saw His manifest presence. They must have stood or fallen to the ground in awe, at least I hope they did. But the crowd’s reaction is not recorded for us. They witnessed the events, went home and continued on with their lives.
I know I am like that. I experience an amazing thing that God is doing in someone’s life and I too frequently brush it off. Good for them. That’s neat how God is working in their life. I usually follow it up with “He doesn’t do that for me …” and the grumbling begins. However, I am then completely missing the point. The “heavens may open” one way for me but for someone else, God’s presence reveals itself in a completely different way. He knows each of His children intimately. He knows what will make all of our hearts beat fast and our palms get slick. He continues to reveal His presence in ways that are specific and unique. The heavens open. But too often I miss it, caught up in my own agenda, schedule and habits.
This Advent season, (really always), I want to be aware. Aware of God working in my life. Aware of what He is doing in others. Aware of His opening of the heavens and revealing Himself in majesty and glory. And then I want to worship Him in reverence and awe.