Today’s Bible reading
Read Matthew 3:16-17
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him 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, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
More thoughts for meditation
Yesterday, we meditated on Jesus’ humility, his humble submission to “fulfill all righteousness.” He collects his honor from God, not from the world. That’s a theme in this chapter, in the Gospels, in the life of John the Baptist, and in the life of Jesus too. But Jesus bears fruit for his humility.
God is declaring approval of Jesus during his baptism. The heavens part, a display of God’s revelation and deliverance, but also one that might be recognizable to even a non-Jewish audience. And then the Spirit of God descends as a dove onto Jesus. This too is another image, drawing from Genesis 8, that signals the coming of a new age. And God also shows approval by delivering a voice from heaven. It is a public voice, declaring to the crowds, that indeed, Jesus is God’s son. This is declaration, not a personal revelation. This voice is broadcast to the people around Jesus, and it’s not just in his mind. The audience has heard this pronouncement.
What’s more is what God says here. Jesus is God’s beloved son, one with whom he is pleased. This connection between Jesus and God, and God’s approval of Jesus, unites the Father and Son in a way that makes separating them impossible. You cannot love God and not love Jesus. You can’t serve one and not the other. Jesus is the ultimate tool in God’s hands who will provide peace and justice, obedient even to the point of death. One writer said, “He willingly divested himself of his proper honor by identifying with his people in baptism and death.”
Suggestions for action
What does Jesus do to collect this approval and honor from God? He humbles himself, not only to be baptized by John, but also by becoming a human at all. He condescends to relate to us, and as a result receives a blessing from God, approval from God, honor from God.
This last passage wraps up the theme for the week. Receive your commission from God. Be welcomed into God’s fold. It is a gift freely given to you, the fruit of your acceptance of it is your life-altering humility. Who knows? Maybe you’ll start wearing camel, and eating honey and locusts. What a radical witness that might be.