The events surrounding the early ministry of Jesus are instructive. They provide insight into successful living, especially for those of us who are imitators of Christ.
Paul makes this amazing declaration about Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11) in what is almost certainly an early Christian hymn –
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the very nature/form of God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found is appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
In heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
The most astonishing thing has happened: the Son of God, the second persona of the Triune Creator & Sustainer of the Universe, has left behind his divine position & prerogatives and poured himself out into the form of a human bond-slave – Jesus of Nazareth!
- This ultimate act of humility serves as the template for those of us who would be called by His name.
- This astonishing act provides the basis for understanding not only the ministry of Jesus, but also the ministry he has delegated to his People.
Before his baptism, Jesus lived an unremarkable, conventional life. He grew up in a very small mountain village. His father was a small business owner. He had brothers and sisters. As the eldest son, he most probably took over leadership of the family business when his father died. He bore the responsibility for his widowed mother and siblings. He was a regular participant in the local synagogue.
There is no record Jesus preached one word or performed any sign or wonder prior to his baptism.
All that changed when he went to the Jordan River to meet John the Baptizer. Everyone in Israel believed (based on the prophecy of Daniel, 9:20ff) that the season had arrived for the appearing of the Messiah.
Messianic expectations were red hot. Israel’s ‘hope’ was almost certainly among them. But how could God’s Anointed One be recognized? Exactly who would he be? What would he do to free Israel from bondage to Rome and establish God’s kingdom on the whole earth?
John identified himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
John had a clear Mission Statement, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me. …the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
And how would John and everyone else recognize this Messiah? “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”
When Jesus came for baptism, John at first refused, recognizing one superior to him. But Jesus persisted in order to set the precedent that Jesus always goes first and invites us to join him in what he is doing. “…it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15)
Matthew describes what happened next (3:16-17) –
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”
God’s Anointed One is now anointed. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are manifest and unified in the proclamation of that anointing.
John testified, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.”
So that the crowd might understand what was happening with Jesus, John explained, “Look, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
Jesus is now empowered with the presence of the Spirit and authorized by the affirmation of Father God. His private life is over. From here he engages the work for which he came.
- Jesus waited for the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit and the clear affirmation of God before he attempted any ministry. He would make it clear along the way that he could do nothing apart from the Spirit.
- How much more do we–as the followers of Jesus–need that same Spirit in order to do the ministry of Jesus in our day. Jesus’ last words to his disciples certainly apply to us as well, “…wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water but…you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)
- As current expectations run red hot for the appearing of Christ Jesus to establish his kingdom over all the earth, we should heed the cry of John and prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts and lives by walking in repentance and newness of life in Christ Jesus.
So…the Anointed One is anointed. Jesus is now ready to preach and do miracles, right?
Well, not exactly.
The story continues in THE MISSION STATEMENT OF JESUS (Pt 2) — All Things True are Tested
(Coming soon to a blog near you.)