And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." ~ Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV)
And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." ~ John 1:32-34 (ESV)
Yesterday was the day in the church calendar set aside to commemorate the Baptism of Jesus. This is an important event for us because it marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry on earth. Jesus’ message to the people was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” He could say this because he himself came from heaven. God the Father set his seal of approval on Jesus and spoke from heaven. This event is recorded in Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and all of the accounts match closely. In the Gospel of John, however, we get the story from the point of view of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist came from out of the wilderness and his message was the same as Jesus’ message, although he preached it first – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” John was told by God the Father to baptize the people who turned to the Lord and repented. He was also told that, while baptizing, the Son of God would be revealed to him. The Father revealed the Son to Israel through his baptism. He used baptism as a mark of identification for Jesus. As Christians, we still practice baptism as the symbol of identification with Christ. It is the outward sign of an inward change.
Baptism didn’t make Jesus the Son of God, but revealed him as the Son of God. So baptism doesn’t give us faith in Christ, but reveals to those around us that we have put our faith in Christ. But baptism in water is also a picture of a much deeper identification with Christ. Water baptism is symbolic of our deep union with Christ through faith. A union so deep that Christ’s death becomes our death and his life becomes our life. The old way of life for us was buried with Christ. The power of the resurrection gives us the power to live new lives, lives of devotion to God rather than devoted to sin.