By @johnvinod | March 4, 2021
Let us begin today by reading Matthew 3: 13 – 17. Before kissing goodbye to his mother, Jesus toiled for long as an industrious artisan in Galilee, where he had to dirty his hands daily stooping down to sweep the floors as he lived like us. However, after he left the home to do what he had come to accomplish on this Earth, Jesus did not immediately step into a busy ministry. Instead, he stepped down into the Jordan Valley.
He must have known the ministry of his relative, John the baptizer, who had a weird sense of fashion. Jesus knew that the core part of John’s heart searing message was a call to repentance, a call that echoed in the Jordan Valley like thunder capable of splitting rocks! But Jesus knew that John’s goal was to open and prepare the hearts of his people to receive his Messiahship.
So, why did Jesus come down to the Jordan Valley to John the baptizer when he had nothing to repent of? He was sinless from his birth. As a matter of fact, John the baptizer himself testified about Jesus saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1: 29 ESV). And yet, Jesus is going down to the Jordan Valley.
This was a symbolic act of Jesus as he slowly makes his way to the Jordan Valley. It was part of his mission on Earth, which began when Jesus stepped down from heaven and took flesh. Then, as we read two days ago (see here), Jesus stepped down into the ordinary life of people like you and me, that is, toiling hard with his hands to make ends meet. Jesus stooped down to work with stones, wood, or mud, in order to completely identify with us, the working-class people. And now, as Jesus stepped down into the Jordan Valley, he was stepping into the space of sin and repentance.
Arriving where John was, Jesus did not just stand on the bank of the Jordan River observing others. He does not just stand on the side with us in our human sinfulness and brokenness. Jesus has not only stepped into the Valley from as he came from Galilee, but he also stepped down even further into the muddy waters of the Jordan River and was baptized there. In doing so, Jesus stood with us in our sins. He took our shame upon himself. This is who Jesus Christ our Savior is! He does not lecture us on our failings and moral decadence; rather, he steps down to where we are to meet us there. He is willing to be humiliated. He is willing to be counted with us a sinner in need of repentance for the grace and forgiveness of God when he did not have to do so (Matthew 3:14-15).
That is why, Matthew notes for us:
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” (Matthew 3: 16 NRSV).
Therefore, to affirm who he was and all that he has been doing, the Holy Spirit descended on the baptized. In fact, we find ourselves in the presence of the Triune God who testified and approved the work and mission of Jesus Christ. Why did Jesus’ father declare that he was “well pleased” with him? What had Jesus done to please him? Nothing much in terms of preaching, teaching, healing, or performing amazing miracles. None of these had started yet. Nevertheless, God was pleased with Jesus’ submission, obedience, his stepping down to the lowliest places on earth, working hard to support his family, dirtying his hands, bending knees to clean up the floors, and wading into the grimy waters of the Jordan to completely identify with us. These are the actions that so pleased the Lord!
Today, let us praise God for who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for us. Likewise, let us also take a step further and imitate him, his actions and attitude, so that our heavenly Father may be pleased with us (Ephesians 5: 1-2). Amen.