A Savior of Power and Humility
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist serves as one of the most significant turning points in God’s story of redemption. This is so much the case that every Gospel writer makes note of this day’s event. The reason for this emphasis is that this event served as the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry—one that would eventually lead to the cross, resurrection, and ascension to heaven.
Given the significance of this event, the details noted by the Gospel writers are important. While there are many, consider three in particular. First, note how God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are focused on God the Son, who is Jesus. The most complex mystery in the universe—the Triune God—is presented in verse 22!
Second, notice how, in verse 21, Jesus is baptized along with others. This is important because, as Luke notes earlier in the chapter, this baptism was “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (verse 3). However, we know that Jesus was without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). Why then is Jesus being baptized? As a foreshadowing of Jesus going to the cross for the sins of his people, in his baptism, Jesus is in solidarity with those He came to save. The Son of God desires to be near His people!
Lastly, notice the way in which the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus. Jesus is anointed for ministry through the Spirit descending in the form of a dove. Why a dove? The dove was a bird of meekness, purity, and innocence. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the dove was a bird sacrificed by those who were too poor to sacrifice larger animals.
Should not Jesus, the Son of God, the one who will come to judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1), the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16), be anointed with a symbol of power and dominion? Would not a king of such power deserve a bird that conveys that same power? For example, the symbol of the Roman Empire that conveyed the power held by Caesar was not a dove, but an eagle. Jesus, however, identifies not with those in power, but rather with the poor and meek.
Why then are these details so important? To put it succinctly, Jesus is both a King of immense power as the Son of God and, at the same time, He is also a King of love and compassion who wants to be near his people. He is a King who is meek, humble, and pure. He is a King who can say to His people, I have the power to save you, but I am also approachable because I have the Spirit of a dove, not the Spirit of an eagle.
Is this not the kind of savior we need? A savior powerful enough to restore the universe to its created purpose, yet willing to use his power to be near us.
With all that in mind, and for the purpose of how this applies to all of us, consider these questions?
1. How might our lives be different if we saw Jesus as both a powerful King worthy of deep reverence and a humble King who loves us enough to be near?
2. In our lives, like Jesus, do we seek to be identified with that which is poor and meek? Are we also willing to use whatever power we possess for the good of those who are without?
May we see Jesus in the fullness of His power and humility as our Savior. May we also seek to be like Him in the way we love and serve others.