Words of Affirmation
Matthew 3:11-17 (ESV)
[John the Baptist continued] 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Digging into God’s Word
This passage is rich in meaning and theology. We’re going to focus on the last part of it, but first notice the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus. They were relatives by earthly birth, forerunner and Messiah by heaven’s perspective. John understood the difference between himself and his Savior more deeply than we seem to be able to do in our own relationship with Jesus, acknowledging that in light of Jesus’ holiness, he was not even worthy to carry Jesus’ sandals.
Although John the Baptist understood who he was baptizing, the crowd had no idea the glory that stood in their presence. At the same time, Jesus, who was both fully God and fully human, was about to embark on a path that would lead to the excruciating pain of the cross. Could it be for those dual purposes–to publicly confirm Jesus’ deity for the crowd and to affirm their oneness with Jesus–that God the Father and God the Holy Spirit show up in this extraordinary moment?
All three persons of the Trinity appear in this fascinating passage. The Holy Spirit alighted on Jesus in the physical form of a dove, and God the Father spoke. Very rarely do we hear the audible voice of the first person of the Trinity in scripture, and it is telling how God the Father uses His voice in this passage: in affirmation:
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Imagine what those words meant to Jesus, to John the Baptist, and to the people watching this historic event. Can’t you just sense Jesus’ wholeness at hearing those words and being together with the full Godhead? For John the Baptist, what a word of encouragement that his years of sacrifice and ridicule had been of worth and truth!
Oh, that we would affirm people in the same way. If you’re like me, it’s easy to use positive words in some areas of our lives, and then there is the area of life–say, at home–where words are often less than affirming. I even have what I call a “monster voice.” You never want to hear that one! It comes out when the house is cluttered and I’m the only one who seems to care, we’re not getting out the door on time, or I’m being pulled in twenty (OK, two) directions. Someone tell me I am not the only one!
What if I kept my mouth quiet except for moments when I could express genuine words of affirmation? That probably won’t occur this side of heaven, but maybe as the Lord shapes and molds me, what comes out of my mouth will tend toward the affirming more often than the critical.
Do you need a word of affirmation today? From God to you:
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Reflect on these questions. If you have time, journal your answers.
- Can you think of a time when you received a word of affirmation? Who did it come from? How did it make you feel?
- Is there someone in your life who you have trouble affirming? How might you speak life into them? With confidence, ask the Holy Spirit to change your heart toward this person.
- What did you learn about Jesus in today’s passage from the book of Matthew? How does that help you in your faith walk today?
Several months before my dad died, he spoke unexpected words of affirmation into me. It meant the world to me and made his earthly death easier for me. You can read more about that in the blog article “A Parent’s Blessing.”
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