Our reading for this Monday, February 4, 2019 is Luke 3:21-22
21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 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.” – NIV
As far as can tell by a comparison of the chronology suggested between the Gospels Jesus had not called any of the disciples to follow him. According to John’s account Andrew and John were directed by the Baptist to consider Jesus to be the promised Messiah. They were the first two to check out Jesus and decide this was true and to follow him. Therefore, we must ask ourselves who heard the voice from heaven declaring Jesus was the Son of God?
Obviously it was the Baptist who told Andrew and John this. It says in John 1. 32 the Baptist saw the dove land on Jesus and heard the witness from heaven. He told his two disciples knowing they would check Jesus out on their own and confirm his witness. Luke, as a second generation follower of Jesus learned of these facts from Andrew or John for he testifies that he checked out the events from eyewitnesses.
Another possibility was Luke heard the testimony of others in the crowd being baptized who also saw the dove descend and heard the voice from heaven. The problem I have with that is if Andrew and John witnessed this then why did they need the Baptist to intentionally point Jesus out to them. No, I rather think John saw this and informed two of these followers of his because he was led by God to point them in Christ’s direction so they might become Jesus’ disciples. Andrew and John were God’s choice to be disciples of his Son.
The importance here for me is how we come to faith in Christ. We all hear the testimony of the faith of other people. Jesus is real to them and they are real to us. Because of our relationship to the people who witness to us we are encouraged or called to check it out the truth for ourselves. We do not become followers of Jesus on our own or by the witness of others but only by checking out Jesus for ourselves. God invites us through the testimony and witness of others but we must check out their story and confirm the truth for ourselves. We cannot live an authentic spiritual life upon the experience of others – we must have our own of Jesus.
Too many times I believe people accept Jesus out of faithfulness to the ones they love and who pointed to Jesus. Unfortunately that is not sufficient. As the song by the band Blood, Sweat and Tears says, “Momma may have and papa may have, but bless the child who can stand up and say, ‘I’ve got my own!’” I appreciate the witness of many people whom I trusted and who pointed me toward Jesus, however, I did not come to ownership of my faith in Christ until I took a good test drive with Jesus. He did not disappoint me.
All we can do is point people to Jesus and only they can verify the testimony we provide them with. We point and Jesus confirms to them that he is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” That takes a great burden off of me when I consider both my desire and obligation to witness for Christ. I am not responsible for sealing the deal of commitment – Jesus does that with them – I only point others toward Jesus’ direction. That’s something each of us can do.
The second thing I notice is that Jesus was baptized when the other people were baptized. This shows Jesus’ solidarity with us. When questioned by the Baptist why he needed to baptize Jesus he responded so all righteousness could be fulfilled. We each need to make our own commitment and even Jesus needed to publically declare his need as a human being to be fully committed to God. The dove and the voice were only confirmation of what was already true. The dove of God’s peace and the inner voice we hear from the Holy Spirit when we commit our lives to God through faith in Christ is the witness within us of our acceptance.
I have often heard people ask if someone has accepted Jesus. I know what they mean but I think it is rather that we are convinced God has accepted us. The peace faith gives is the assurance of our acceptance by God despite who we are. We too can hear that inner voice from heaven and experience the dove of God’s peace as we decide to follow Jesus. Sounds like a good title to a song, doesn’t it!