Real Humility - The Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
How do you imagine the baptism of Jesus?
When you read this account, what picture does your mind paint? Do you see John the Baptist with Jesus early morning on a sunny day or it’s cloudy in the afternoon? Do you imagine a very quick flowing river that is pretty deep, or do you imagine a shallow lazy river that is a bit muddy? Are people crowding around Jesus, or are they giving Jesus some space? Is Jesus put all the way under the water or is he half in and half out when he is baptized? Is God talking in a booming voice when he says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Or is it only audible to a few people like Jesus and John?
Lots of questions about this text, you have answered already in your mind without even realizing it. Some of them you are spot on and others you might be entirely off, we just have no idea. However, there is one part about this baptism most everything you think is built around. We know what was said by God, John and Jesus, and everything they say really shows Jesus to be rather humble.
This baptism was not a big show by any means. Jesus didn’t gather the people around and say “look at me” or “it’s now about to happen, pay attention!” The glory of this moment would not come from him, but it would come from John who would point to him as the “Lamb of God” and the Lord who said, “This is my son.” Jesus starts his ministry on a very humble note.
Why was Jesus as humble as he was at his baptism?
Perhaps it's a simple answer, but I see this humility of Jesus as keeping John the Baptist in very high regard. Jesus is not going to come to the Jordan river and “bench” John the Baptist because he is determined that he is the new starting Quarterback. John had much work still to do, John was doing a good and faithful job. Nobody walked away from Jesus and thought less about John, much the opposite. Now, I suppose that is one good reason Jesus didn’t baptize John, even though that would have seemed appropriate. It would have caused confusion; it might have upset his ministry. John was faithful, and Jesus’ humility really is a compliment to that truth.
Another reason you see Jesus’ humility here at the river was because God the father was doing something special for Jesus: God was anointing his son like a king would be anointed or installed into a special position. This was not a self anointing by Jesus.
Think back to Old Testament times when the priest, by God’s command, would be told who the next leader of God’s people would be. Samuel anointed king Saul after the Lord told him to do it because he would defeat the Philistines; the Lord also had Samuel anoint king David. After looking at all of Jesse’s boys, the Lord said the last one he saw was to be the future king and this was even before he slayed Goliath! God gave such blessings, and this is very similar. John is the priest of God and the oil of anointing now takes the form of water because of what Jesus was going to do: take away the sins of the world. Our Savior, he was perfect in every way, and you see his perfect service and a perfect understanding of this role in our salvation as he is humbly being anointed like so many others. Only later, more publicly, would it become more evident what God was doing to the masses with a humble servant such as Jesus!
And lastly, why was Jesus humble at his baptism? I can’t help but think that this anointing is also a marker of what his life would become. Jesus was anointed, he was called the Lamb of God, and he was anointed to die. This is a moment of somber reality for Jesus. The ministry of Jesus is one that will not “end” well if you know what I mean; but between his Baptism and the empty tomb, there is nobody in the world who will endure the pain and suffering he will.
If Savior was a job that a person could have today, we would say, “Who would want that job?” The stress, the heartache, the continual struggle to love the unlovable, not to mention the fact that God would forsake him on the cross, turning his back on Jesus, utterly leaving him there to die alone. It could be that the humility is very much an acknowledgment of the hard road ahead.
These reasons for humility, while not something you and I could have personally, do hold some truths for our lives.
While Jesus was humble toward John out of great respect for him and his work; respect is a great reason for you and me to be humble and work to get better at. I like how in the commandments we have the command to respect our parents. It doesn’t say they have to be great parents to earn that respect, they get it because they are God’s representatives. I love how Jesus talks about respecting kids, even though they don’t perhaps further the lives of adults all that visibly at times, but in many ways slow them down and cause many fustrations. I love how Jesus respects sinners with very visible sins, because he knows that every one else is just better at hiding theirs. I love how Jesus respected the government, not because they where noble or just, but because God put them in that position and would use them to the glory of his Kingdom anyways. In so many ways, Jesus is the example of humility for us, and we greatly benefit from Jesus showing humility even on the day he get’s so many compliments and take such a public stage in his life.
Greater than being humble for others sake, because it is the right thing to do, there is also the reason to be humble because the Father is watching over us. As Jesus was humble in reverence to his Father in heaven all of his life, what great reason for you and me to be humble also. God sees all we do, what does he want our lives to look like? I’m sure it’s a life “peppered” with humility for his sake. Jesus said, For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11). That tells you everything you need to know about humility being something very important to the Lord. It means you will follow him, listen to him, put your hope and faith in him. A person of faith is a person of humility, it’s just as simple as that. A person of pride is a person of self-faith, and that is detestable to the Lord. So we say things like, “If it is the Lord’s will” and “Thy will be done.” Humility is a fruit of our faith that God loves to see.
Not to leave out the last reason to be humble, we said that Jesus was anointed to suffer and die, that was a cause for humility. Well, we are humble because we too have a long journey of trial ahead of us. Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow him, that is a very humbly truth for us also. Who of us can say we can do that on our own? Who of us can say we can take temptation by the horns and “rule the day”? Such lack of humility means we have already fallen into the devil’s trap and are heading to real despair or damning pride. Humility is a virtue that means our confidence is in the Lord and not ourselves, humility is a knowledge that the devil is not a roaring lion behind three inches of glass (like in a zoo) but he is roaming around looking to devour and bite and scare anyone he can get close to. Humility is our best defense, until we get to heaven and such trials are removed from our path, as one day we know they will be.
While the details of Jesus’ baptism are a bit up to interpretation, like how cloudy or deep the water was. How great it is that he was humble on this day and his entire life. May the Lord grant us the strength and wisdom to be humble like him, for it is a future that will not only bless the lives and souls of others but our own as well. Amen.