I’ve been at some memorable baptisms over the years. In fonts, baptistries, birthing pools, swimming pools and oceans. I’ve seen people baptised wearing all sorts of apparel – and I’ve seen people baptised wearing absolutely nothing at all! (Ok, they were babies!) Once when baptising one of my infant children by full immersion I took the lid off the large font to be greeted by the sight a rubber duck floating on top of the water! The curate who’d got things ready said he thought it would be a nice touch.
But there’s one baptism that stands out above all others. It’s a baptism I’d have loved to have attended. It’s the baptism of Jesus. We read all about it in Luke chapter 3.
At this baptism the lid was taken not off the font, but off the very dwelling-place of God, as ‘heaven was opened’. And at this baptism it wasn’t a duck that appeared, but something resembling a dove – the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus in bodily form. I suspect it was all so amazing that it was hard for the gospel-writers to fully describe the scene. And in the midst of it all, the voice of the Father is heard. The voice of Almighty God, speaking out of heaven, addresses Jesus. What does he say?
First, the Father speaks affirmingly. He confirms Jesus’ identity, telling him ‘You are my Son’. He reminds Jesus that their relationship is close. Personal. Familial. Intimate.
This is how God sees Jesus – as his son. And when we put our trust in Christ and are adopted into his family, the Father sees us in just the same way. As his children. As his sons and daughters (Romans 8:15-17).
Second, the Father speaks affectionately. He is not afraid to use emotive language, telling Jesus that he is the one ‘whom I love’. Their relationship is more than functional. It is deep, caring and adoring.
The Father feels great love for Jesus. And he feels the same way about us. He is full of passion and compassion towards us (1 John 3:1). We need never feel lonely or isolated because we have a God who sincerely loves us, wherever we are and whatever we’ve done.
Third, the Father speaks contentedly. He’s pleased – dare I say ‘proud’ of his Son! He’s not afraid to tell not only Jesus but all those listening: ‘with you I am well pleased.’ The Father is delighted in Jesus (Zephaniah 3:17) – rather like a new dad who walks around with a huge smile on his face, tickled pink as he thinks of the child he loves!
These amazing words from the Father are an enormous encouragement to Jesus. Because Jesus hasn’t actually done anything of significance (yet). He’s not started preaching. And he hasn’t healed anyone either. So the encouragement is based not on what Jesus has done, but on who he is. And that’s exactly how the Father encourages you and me – not on the basis of our actions but on the basis of his love for us as his children. You see, God’s love can never be bought or earned by our actions. He simply loves us for who we are. His children. Such is his love.
For many of us this is too much. It is so simple that it seems too simple. But it’s not. It’s just love. Pure love.
This unadulterated kind of love is called grace. And from time to time we see glimpses of it in the world. But it’s source is always God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. By the Spirit, God pours his grace into his Son, so he can give it to all those he meets. And that’s exactly what Jesus does with his life. He gives away grace by treating the broken and hurting with dignity and compassion. He is the true grace-giver.
What is amazing is that the same Spirit that filled Jesus with grace is offered to you and me. The same Father who spoke grace into the life of his Son, speaks grace into us. Why? So we too can be secure in the Father’s love and be grace-givers, like Jesus, in all our relationships. This is how the world is transformed. Starting where we are. At home. At work. With our friends. With our neighbours.
So today hear the voice of the Father speaking affirmingly, affectionately and contentedly over you and into you. And knowing the security of being God’s deeply-loved child, allow the Spirit to guide you into opportunities to be a grace-giver, like Jesus.