Something that most parents want is to see their adult children successfully launch. When they are young, defenceless and needing your direction the child is a dependent. What we hope for is that they will first gain their adult independence. Once that happens, we would like for them to be interdependent. We want to help them with those things that they need, and we want them to help us at times, especially as we age out.
The journey is from dependence, to independence, to inter-dependence. And at the end, we may need to depend on our children and become their dependent in some way. There is a family structure and hierarchy, but the honour goes in both directions. The mutual mission of the family includes the mutual submission.
The baptism of Jesus gives us a public window into the private relationship of Father, Son and Spirit. It illustrates something about the God family that invites us to learn how we should be received and how we should love.
The story starts with two cousins—Jesus and John. Upon Jesus’ request that John baptize him, the baptizer responds that it should be the other way around. Because John had some insight to Jesus’ being sent from God, he viewed him hierarchically.
I can imagine John saying, ‘Jesus, you are better than me. I’m not worthy to be the servant that takes your sandals off and washes your feet.’
And here is how God educates the sons and daughters that are adopted into his family… Jesus says that this is the way God plans it to be. This is the right thing to do at this time.
What does that mean?
By Jesus letting John baptize him, he is reversing the expectations of hierarchy. He is showing John that he is identifying with the feelings of unworthiness and estrangement so common to humanity. He is submitting himself to baptism to say to all of us, that he understands our reasons for coming to God in baptism.
The muddy waters of Jordan River could not be clearer than in this moment. Jesus baptized tells us that the sinless one understands and identifies with the desire to be immersed into God’s forgiveness. That mercy is desirable and effective.
From Heaven he came down and further down Jesus goes into the water. This rite of passage is into the downward journey toward the Cross. The greatest among us has identified as the least and become the servant willing to suffer in love. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
So if Jesus shows a cousin what love and mutuality looks like, where is the rest of the Godhead at this time? As Jesus comes out of the water, the Father and Spirit decide to photo bomb the picture.
The heavens open and the Father’s voice speaks up with an ‘Attaboy! You are my son and I love you. I am very pleased with who you are and what you are doing here.’
Isn’t that something that every son and daughter may long for? A father that says I love you and I give you my blessing—my approval.
There’s a parental picture to put in your photo album.
Holy Spirit descends and rests on Jesus’ shoulder like a dove. A sensitively natured bird, the dove is there reminding us of God’s Shalom. God’s peace and well-being rests upon the child of God. The Spirit comes to us backed by the Father’s voice of approval.
Again, the Spirit is giving us a parental, perhaps maternal picture of closeness, trust and presence.