The Baptism of Jesus (Luke 3:15-22)
The Situation of the Manifestation (3:15-20) As vs. 15 states, John’s ministry had created an expectation. Would he be the promised deliverer? In only a few months all of Judea, Jerusalem, and the district around the Jordan (Mt. 3:5) had gone out to him. There was clearly a stirring of the Spirit. He proclaimed coming judgment, obedience to the Law (in the previous passage), as well as a message about the coming Messiah. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” We learn that John had stopped preaching and “gone to meddling” in the life of Herod Antipas (called here, Herod the tetrarch). He lusted after Herodias, the wife of his brother who happened to be the daughter of Antipas’ half-brother Aristobulus, who had been married to another half-brother. Herod put away his wife for her, violating Lev. 18:16 and 21:21 and about 20 other texts. Luke indicates there was even more evil, “all the wicked things” (3:19) Herod had done. Luke wants us to have all these things in mind as the setting of Jesus baptism. Manifestations of God’s kingdom come in unexpected situations.
The Significance of the Manifestation (3:21-22) - Luke explains that the baptism was attended by heaven being opened and the Spirit descending bodily on Jesus in the form of a dove. Even more, a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” This is an extraordinary Trinitarian epiphany. The Son is being baptized and identifying with renewed Israel; the Spirit descends upon Him, and the voice of the Father speaks the word of confirmation. All three persons of the Trinity act in the ministry of Jesus and all three are present in the baptism. His baptism manifests (epiphany) His identity in three ways: 1) Jesus is recognized at the monumental event of a renewing of Israel (e.g., the symbolic exodus across the Jordan), fulfilling all the prophet’s themes of God’s promised action within Israel and return to Israel (Is. 40-66; Ez. 36:24ff). 2) Jesus’ baptism manifests that He was the “Anointed” (Christ/Messiah). This is His ordination. Christ was appointed “by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:10). He “appoints a Son, made perfect forever” (Heb. 7:28). This happened at Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:21, 4:18). 3) His baptism was the event in which Jesus was identified as true Israel (Mt. 2:15): “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” This echoes Is. 42: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” God is pleased with His Servant, Jesus, who is The Light to the nations and makes His Spirit-filled servants light in the world. The Manifestation of the God’s kingdom was Jesus whose foundational cross-work makes it possible for us to be light in the world as we reflect His glory.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more