“There was a lot more of this – words that gave strength to the people, words that put heart into them. The Message! But Herod, the ruler, stung by John’s rebuke in the matter of Herodius, his brother, Philip’s wife, capped his long string of evil deeds with this outrage: He put John in jail.

“After all the people were baptised, Jesus was baptised. As He was praying, the sky opened up and the Holy Spirit, like a dove descending, came down on Him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: ‘You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.'” Luke 3:18-22.

What an amazing series of events! John preached “fire and brimstone” and the people flocked to him. Words that put strength and heart into them? How did that work?

Then Jesus appeared to be baptised. The Son of God – baptised? How could He be answering the call to repent? What did He need to repent about? And then the Holy Spirit came in visible form and enveloped Him; and then the Father Himself affirmed Him! Nothing like this had even happened before. What did it all mean?

In John’s Gospel the writer tells us that these things were a sign to John the Baptist that this was the Messiah. It would seem then that though they were related, Jesus and John did not have childhood connections. One lived in Galilee and the other in Judea. This was not a family affair. Each was involved in his own preparation for this climactic event. John needed to be absolutely sure of the one he was presenting as Messiah to the world.

Jesus’ baptism was not about repentance. It had much deeper significance than that. Baptism was about initiation into something – an office, a movement – and identification, agreement, with what was being presented. It was the right thing for Him to do – to make a public statement through baptism that He was one with John in what he was preaching and doing. He could not stand aloof as though He had no part in this prophetic action. After all, He was the subject of John’s message.

Just like Zachariah, who pronounced his fatherly blessing over his new-born son, affirming him as his son and speaking the prophetic words of the angel Gabriel over him, so the Father spoke His Fatherly blessing over Jesus as He stood at the brink of His ministry that would take Him on a road of submission, obedience and suffering.

Jesus was the Son of God. Did He need the Father’s blessing? Like any other human child, it was His Father’s affirmation, ringing in His ears over and over again, that energised Him to fulfil His commission with absolute loyalty. How could He state with such confidence, ‘I and the Father are one”? The Father was the stake to which He was tethered and to whom He gave unswerving obedience because the Father had owned him as “My Son”.

Just imagine how different the lives of many “fatherless” children would be if they could hear those words, “My son; my daughter.” Fathers may be present but absent in the lives of their children – measuring their worth only by what they can produce or achieve. “If you are good, I will love you. If you measure up, I will own you. Otherwise you have no value to me.” What a tragedy that children are valued only for what they can contribute to a father.

God’s love is not like that. There is no clearer picture for humans to understand the nature of the Father’s love than the simple story Jesus told of a rebellious and wayward son whom the father loved anyway because he was his son. To him his son had worth because he was his son, not because he measured up. That bond can never be severed, no matter what. A son is a son is a son.

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Luella Campbell

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