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Matthew 3:13-17

At the beginning of all things, we see God’s spirit hovering over the water (Genesis 1:2). As the creation narrative unfolds, we see God’s intention to not only have creation structured by peace, but also by an abundance of goodness and mutual love. God’s created world was created with right living as its purpose. It was created for righteousness.


The Hebrew word for spirit is ‘ruach’, which can also be translated as breath and wind. It is through ruach that God brings creation into existence and breaths life into all living things. Just as when we speak, we cannot separate our breath from our words. This is also true with the one true God. It is through divine breath that all God’s words are spoken. In reality, God’s spirit, God’s character, God’s essence are tied to every word God speaks. Words of creation, words of life, words of covenant, words of command, words of wrath, words of mercy, and words of love. The ruach of God is tied to the word of God. It is no mistake then that we believe it was the word of God that was made flesh to be fully God and fully human in Christ Jesus our Lord. The Word through which all things were created (John 1). God breathed the first word over creation to bring peace and order to chaos and formlessness. Through Jesus, God breaths the Word to end all words in order to establish peace and righteousness over a creation that has been thrown into chaos and formlessness by sin. Jesus is God’s final word over creation.


Matthew is not the first time we have seen a dove enjoined with the announcement of peace and reconciliation in the Bible. In Genesis 8:11 we see a dove bringing an olive branch to Noah, which signals to him that the flood waters were receding from a now peaceful, reconciled, and dare we say baptized world. God’s spirit hovering yet again over troubled waters. Fast forward to the Israelites fleeing for their lives from the Egyptian army in Exodus 14. The waters of chaos are parted by a ‘strong wind’ (ruach) in order to bring them safely to peace and reconciliation. Joshua 3-5 shows Israel yet again on the run from their enemies. They cross the Jordan river on dry land. This time it was not the presence of God’s spirit, but the spirit’s counterpart: the word. The miracle of dry land occurred due to the presence of God’s word in the Ark of the covenant, the very river Jesus the Word made flesh now stands to be baptized. The evidence seen from Matthew’s gospel connecting Jesus to the God who has been relentlessly concerned about bringing peace, reconciliation, and righteousness from the beginning of all creation is bountiful. The reality of Jesus is inescapable.


Perhaps this is why John the baptizer is said to “deter” Jesus in verse 14. He understands Jesus to be the one who has come to baptize the world not with water, but with the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11). Jesus is the fullest expression, the epitome of the fruit John is demanding to see in keeping with full conformity to the will of God (Matt. 3:8). John thinks that Jesus then should baptize him rather than he baptize Jesus. Jesus however commands to “let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt 3:15). Through this, Jesus declares unto the entire world that righteousness only comes through an unswerving commitment to God’s will. Therefore, Jesus submits to the chaotic waters of baptism in order to become one with God’s will for righteousness.


As soon as Jesus leaves the baptismal waters, we see an immediate approval from God over what just occurred. The heavens open revealing God’s intention for Jesus. Just as we see in last week’s and this week’s texts from Isaiah (42:1; 60:1), the spirit of God descends on Jesus as an affirmation of equipping and sending a servant of righteousness into the world. Moreover, this is not just any servant of God; this is the Son of God. God’s Word made flesh. Here in the river Jordan, the spirit of the creator is made one with the Word as the created. With this profound revelation from heaven, chaos and formlessness do not stand a chance. Peace, reconciliation, and righteousness will be victorious now and forever through Jesus Christ.