Standing with us
Standing with Us (Matthew 3:13-17)
The public ministry of Jesus began with His immersion in the Jordan by John the Baptist. No meeting between two men ever did more to change history. In His baptism, Christ stands with us in our need, but He stands above us in His uniqueness.
In His Baptism, Christ Stands with Us in Our Need
The baptism of John the Baptist was one of repentance because of sin. As such, it was a baptism that Jesus did not need. Why did He submit Himself to an act designated for sinners?
Jesus voluntarily chose to stand in solidarity with sinners. He identified Himself with the people He came to save. His baptism was an act of loving communion with us in our misery. The Sinless One chose to put Himself alongside the sinful ones.
Jesus still stands with us in our need. His example ought to motivate us to stand with other sinners in their need.
In His Baptism, Christ Stands for Us as Our Substitute
The exchange between Jesus and John (vv. 14-15) clearly states the sinlessness of Jesus. John stated his own unworthiness in the face of Jesus' character. Jesus did not disagree with John. Jesus never demonstrated a sense of personal sin.
As the Sinless One, Jesus stood in the waters of baptism for us. He clearly connected His baptism with His death on the cross: "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am straitened till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:50, KJV). When He emerged out of the water, it was a prophecy of the resurrection. He went into the water for us, just as He died for us.
In His Baptism, Christ Stands Above Us as Son of God
Three dramatic events immediately following the baptism of Jesus place Him above the human race as the Son of God. No other baptism ever witnessed these events.
Jesus' baptism opens the heavens. Instead of being a wall, heaven becomes an open door between God and man.
Jesus' baptism reveals the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of creation (Gen. 1:2) abides on Jesus as He recreates humanity.
Jesus' baptism resumes the voice of God. God speaks again after centuries of silence. He tells us that the baptism of Jesus is a coronation of a King and the ordination of a Suffering Servant. All of us should echo that voice.
Tested in the Wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11)
In the wilderness, Jesus took the conflict into the enemy camp. Jesus' friends considered the wilderness the very turf of evil itself. Whereas Adam fell to temptation in a perfect place, Jesus overcame temptation in a horrible place. In His victory there are two levels of truth: unique and universal. Because Jesus was Son of God and Savior, the temptations are unique. Because He is Perfect Man, they are universal. In Christ, we win over every level of temptation.
In Christ, We Win Over Temptation of the Shortcut
A shortcut, a sidetrack, from the way of the Suffering Servant belongs to the uniqueness of the first temptation. If Jesus could turn stones to bread, He could feed the mob and be hailed as Messiah.
The temptation to take the convenient shortcut is universal. Satan always suggests that a legitimate craving be satisfied in an illegitimate way. He always whispers that the privilege of a Son is that of selfish gratification rather than responsible living.
In Christ, We Win Over the Temptation of the Spectacular
The uniqueness of the second temptation rests in the appeal to dazzle, to sweep off the feet with the unusual. If Jesus could miraculously float into the temple court, He could be hailed as the Messiah at the beginning of His ministry. He could avoid rejection, betrayal, and Calvary.
The universality of this temptation is the desire to take fast track of the spectacular rather than the long march of daily trust.
In Christ, We Win Over the Temptation of Power
The uniqueness of the third temptation rested in its bald-faced appeal for Christ to join the powers of the age. Rome owned all power: money, politics, culture, connections. Why try to conquer the world with a gaggle of Galilean peasants? It was the temptation to go along in order to get along.
The universality of this temptation belongs to our obsession with power. Religious people are not immune. The way of the clenched fist always seems simpler and quicker than the long march of the faithful servant.