Where can we boldly go where no one has gone before? This passage comes up about three times per year (including Matthew and Luke), and I think it may be like we just don’t get it or something because otherwise God would not keep bringing it back to our attention.
We get the fact that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by John. It was not that he had to be cleansed from sin but it was the righteous thing to do. Thus when we submit to baptism, though we certainly need the cleansing from sin, we are also doing the righteous thing. Jesus never did just the right thing, he did the righteous thing. So should we. We get that, right?
So then the Spirit of God descends on Jesus in the manifest form of a dove. Thus when we rise from the waters of our baptism, the Spirit descends on us. It may not show up in the form of a dove, exactly, but we understand. Don’t we? I mean the church talks a lot about the promise of the Spirit. Maybe we should say, promises-shmomises and say the actual Spirit actually descends on us just like Jesus. Deal with it. The dove part, you know, was special for Jesus, and not because it was the dove of peace for the Prince of Peace, but because the dove was the sacrificial animal in the temple for the sin sacrifice. You see, the Spirit was physically showing us that Jesus was to be the sacrifice for our sins. (We better hope the Spirit does not descend on us at our baptism in the form of a dove).
But then there is the voice of God, the Father. So we have the Son, the Spirit and the Father all together. It is the trinity, right? And the Father declares right here at the very beginning that Jesus is God the Son. Son, Father and Spirit are in a loving relationship and please one another. Jesus did the righteous thing, right? And elsewhere, the voice of God adds, “Listen to him.” We should do that.
Yet, before Jesus can speak, he is driven into the wilderness for a considerable time of fasting and prayer. Curious that after our baptism we tend to go out for a big Sunday dinner. Be that as it may, Jesus spent his time being tempted by Satan, hanging out with wild animals and being attended to by angels. From the depths of Hell through the natural world to the heights of Heaven he traveled in a mere 40 days. I imagine it was a long journey, but I have thought maybe we should think about praying through all that ourselves. It would not hurt any of us to follow him in that journey. It might be a good idea to think of prayer more than what time Sunday dinner will be served.
After that time, after John got locked up, Jesus came back from the wilderness and started speaking the words the Father said we are to listen to. He called it good news. The Kingdom of Heaven is near (The Kingdom of God is at hand) – Heaven is at the door so repent and believe (that this is) the good news. Heaven is coming to earth: Repent and believe. We understand what he is telling us. We know what is required of us. The one on whom the dove fell – the sacrifice for our sins is saying we must repent and believe. Heaven is waiting on us. The Kingdom may manifest even now. We may be caught up in the clouds. We may pass on to that heavenly realm at any moment. All we need to do is repent (give Jesus our sins) and believe (in him).
We know this, right? We understand. We have heard all this before. But have we done it?
The believing part is hard enough. The repent part is even harder. The Father said, listen to the one with whom the Father is pleased, the one the Father loves. And we do listen? This passage keeps coming back up, over and over. We hear well enough, but clearly it is very hard to do. Maybe if we really did the repent and believe part, did our part, life would be a little more heavenly and this passage would not need to come up so often.