Tuesday, December 16, 2008
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Words We Long to Hear
John the Baptist had appeared on the scene and begun preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. Along with his preaching, John began to baptize the people in water as a visual symbol of their repentance, forgiveness and cleansing. And, large crowds of people went out into the wilderness where he was proclaiming his message, to listen, but also to be baptized by him (see Luke 3:1-18).
We are told that, "when all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too" (Luke 3:21). Matthew alone records that John actually protested and said that he needed to be baptized by Jesus rather than the other way around. Jesus replied that it was supposed to be this way, "to fulfill all righteousness," at which point, John consented (Matthew 3:13-15). Luke records that Jesus was praying as he was coming up out of the water, but all three gospels record something like,
"As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him live a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased' " (Mark 1:10-11).
Whether everyone present saw heaven opened and the Spirit descending on him and heard the voice does not really matter, Jesus heard it. And, there were two baptisms this day: one in water, and one in the Holy Spirit. John himself had prophesied that this would happen. "I baptize you with water," John said, "be he [the one who is coming] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (Mark 1:8). Here in Jesus' own baptism, we see the first instance of this double baptism.
We are to be baptized in water. It is a command of Jesus (Mark 16:16). But we are also to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. It is was Jesus came to bring us. And, the New Testament is filled with references to people being "baptized" in the Holy Spirit, sometimes related to water baptism and at other times separate from it. And, at the same time that we are to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, we are to continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit as well (Ephesians 5:18). Without getting into a huge debate about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and what that all means, it is sufficient to say that it is something that Jesus came to do. It involves receiving more of what God has for each one of us with respect to relationship with him, gifting and power to minister, and ability to go out into the world and preach the good news. And, these are all wonderful things. Today, I simply want to focus on the first of these.
As Jesus was coming up out of the water, and I am sure that he was praying as Luke records, committing himself to the Father and opening himself to all that God had planned for him, heaven was opened. When we move in obedience and willingness, heaven opens for us too. Mark says that heaven was torn open. And I can't help but wonder if God doesn't long for us to turn to him with this kind of attitude so that he can tear into our world as well? Is he simply waiting for you and me to look up? Jesus received the Holy Spirit here. Matthew says that it descended and lighted upon him, rested there (Matthew 3:16). We need to and can receive this as well. It is what Jesus came and left to make available to us. Come, Holy Spirit. Be in me and on me. Fill me and use me, today.
And then, the voice from heaven. Jesus heard it. "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." And, while I know that when we are done with our mission on earth, we all want to hear the words, "Well done thou good and faithful servant," don't we need to hear these words as well. You are my Son. You are my daughter. I love you. I think that you are amazing! You are awesome! Did God say these words to Jesus before or after he had accomplished all he was given to do? It was before. This was at the very beginning. It had nothing at all to do with performance. It was plain and simple love.
God's word says that, "to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children [sons and daughters] of God" (John 1:12), and that we, "received the Spirit of sonship [or daughtership if that is a word]. And by him we cry, 'Abba [daddy], Father' " (Romans 8:15). It has little if anything to do with what we do. Do we realize that God has already spoken those words over you and me. Will we hear him? They are words we all long to hear. Hear him today.
"You are my son, whom I love; You are my daughter, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."