From Nazareth, the Savior joined a group of travelers following the winding course of the Jordan River southward to where John was preaching and baptizing near Bethany beyond Jordan.
They arrived in the afternoon of one of those brilliant days that sometimes ends in thunder. John was standing waist deep in the river surrounded by his followers on the shore. As the penitents came to him, one by one he immersed them in the water, raised them up again, and spoke a few words of help and comfort. The streaming sunshine danced on the rippling water as the people came into it and lit with beauty the wet faces of the penitent men and woman who, knowing themselves forgiven of God, turned to smile at John as they said goodbye. As time went on he became very tired, and the light partially blinded him.
There was a pause in the stream of penitents, and he shut his eyes for a moment. Then he heard a quick, firm footfall. It had a dear familiarity about it and his heart leaped.
John! called the voice coming toward him.
He swung around and opened his eyes. It was Jesus coming down the path through the trees, taking off his outer garment as he came. His eyes met Johns, and his smile flashed like light over his face. Making himself one with the company of the penitents, he had come to John to be baptized.
Jesus and John were not entirely strangers, but had never metuntil now. When he saw Christ standing before him, John remembered the things Elisabeth had told him about his cousin. However, he seemed more like a carpenter of Nazareth than the Messiah sent from God. John was both surprised and filled with joy. Uncertain just what course he should follow, he hesitated.
The slender man came down into the water. The afternoon sun silhouetted his head as a halo while water swirled about his waist, the ripples growing in ever increasing circles. Waiting before him he said softly, Baptize me, John.
When the baptizer saw Christs appearance of quiet dignity and the majesty of unsullied purity, it only became a question of who was the more worthy, even to the misunderstanding of his special calling as forerunner of the Messiah. As he stood facing Jesus, he protested, I need to be baptized by you!
The Lord reassured him, Let it be so for now because we have to fulfill all righteousness.
In Jesus case, baptism was not an act of repentance, or acknowledgment of sin and washing away of all uncleanness as it had been with the others. His physical act of baptism represented the total cleansing of the spiritual baptism to come. Christ was the true Baptizer who would make it all possibleby redemption of humankind through his death and resurrection, and baptism by the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecostbringing eternal life. In completing his mission and work on earth, he would fulfill all righteousness.
John understood the Saviors words, however softly spoken, as a command from God and made no further objection. He lowered his kinsman into the Jordan, and raised him up with deepest reverent humility.
As Christ stood in the water, he paused for a moment with his eyes closed, conscious of a presence and a deeply felt communion unlike anything he had ever experienced. He opened his eyes, lifting them to heaven, and for a moment was blinded by a great light, a glory and warmth stronger than he had ever known. In the midst of it he saw what seemed to be a vision, yet clear and distinct, the shape of a white dove descending upon his shoulder like the Spirit of God and coming to rest upon him. It may have looked like a dove, but they both knew it was the Holy Spirit.
While John was staring at this spectacle, a voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. It was the voice of God the Father.
In that very moment was unification of the Trinity on earth: Jesus the Anointed One, Gods own words, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. Christ was heavenly ordained and fully qualified for his Fathers business. With this confirmation, his inner assurance soared and he sensed the bursting forth of power.
Immediately after this, he came out of the water, put on his outer garment and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. It was a disappointment for John not to be able to identify the Divine One whose advent he had been predicting right then, but the opportunity would come soon.