Jesus’ Closest Companion.
Isaiah 43: 1 – 7; Luke 3: 15 – 17, 21 – 22.
Reading the Bible is like doing a large puzzle. Each bit of the Bible you read is a piece of the big picture. Each piece fits into another to make up the whole. It is a big task to do this jigsaw puzzle. It is bigger that a 1000 piece puzzle.
I think the Bible is a little like that. Last Epiphany Sunday I decided to put the ‘piece’ about the Gentile wise men coming to see the Christ child into the larger picture. So I built up an overview of the story of Scripture beginning with Abraham and Sarah through to Jesus and the Gentiles being welcomed into the company of Jesus and his followers. I think it helped a few of us.
We have the same problem this Sunday. We have a Biblical jigsaw piece – Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We looked at the birth of Jesus and that is manageable. He has got to be born before he dies and is resurrected. But now we’ve jumped, it seems, to his baptism. We’ve got this piece in our hand, so to speak. Where do we put it? We’ve got Jesus being baptised by John the Baptist – Jesus’ cousin. John believed Jesus didn’t need baptism. John was popular. The people thought John was the Christ. John distinguishes between his ministry and Christ Jesus’ ministry saying that Jesus would baptise us with the Holy Spirit. Jesus comes to John for baptism. John baptises him in the Jordan and afterwards the Holy Spirit falls on Jesus. The piece we’re holding right now is about the Holy Spirit. How / where does ‘she’ fit in?
Today I want to respond to the Holy Spirit’s presence in the Baptism of Jesus, by connecting this ‘piece’ about the Holy Spirit with all the other ‘pieces’ about the Holy Spirit.
All four Gospel accounts provide us with the same basic details about the Baptism of Jesus [Mt 3: 13-17; Mark: 1-9; Lk 3: 15-22; Jn 1: 28-34].
- John was reluctant to baptise Jesus.
- John baptised with water but the Christ would baptise with the Holy Spirit.
- When Jesus was baptised the Spirit came upon Jesus.
- Jesus confirmed as the Son of God.
We should note that Jesus’ baptism is an historical fact equivalent to the historical fact of the crucifixion. There is no debate that it happened. Where the discussion lies is in the reason for Jesus to be baptised by John. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, forgiveness and being made spiritually right with God. We find it hard to work out why Jesus needed to repent, be forgiven and made right with God.
I am conscious that we can never understand perfectly the wonder of Jesus’ baptism, because we do not have every single detail before us. However we can come to an understanding that will help us grow as Christians and fulfil God’s mission to be a blessing to others. So let’s have a go.
Firstly it seems that Jesus wanted to be baptised by John because Jesus wanted to identify with humanity. In being baptised Jesus is saying I am human I need to identify with sin and experience forgiveness, because I will take on the sin of the world and confront it and break its power. That is one of the significant results of Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. That seems to be the best conclusion we can reach. We can certainly be sure that the Incarnation – the coming of God in the Christ child – is statement of God’s commitment to us and ownership of us. The presence of Christ Jesus confirms that God is for us.
Secondly, we cannot avoid the obvious conclusion that the Holy Spirit is important in Jesus’ life. Here I want to return to the metaphor of the jigsaw puzzle. Let us put some of the pieces together. Pastor Sinclair Ferguson helps us when he says; “The best way to think about the Holy Spirit is to think of ‘her’ as the closest companion of the Lord Jesus.” Not only has the Spirit been the Son’s eternal partner in the uncreated fellowship of the Trinity, but also the Spirit was there with the Father and Son at creation [Gen 1:2]. The Spirit was instrumental Jesus’s conception [Lk 1:35], there at both his baptism [Lk 3: 22] and temptation [Lk 4: 1-2].
Luke mentions the Holy Spirit many times. We can be very grateful to Luke for that. For instances Luke tells us that, Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone [Lk 4: 14-19]. But Luke is not the only one to make this point that Jesus ministered in power of the Holy Spirit. Mark makes the same statement in a different way. Mark tells us that after Jesus’ baptism when the Spirit came and affirmed him as the Son of God, the Spirit took Jesus into the wilderness [Mk 1:12]. Mark leaves out a lot of details about the temptation and other things and shows us very quickly the power of Jesus’ preaching [1:15], his call of the disciples [1:16], the authority of his teaching [1:22], his power over the demons [1:24] and his power to heal [1:31]. In the space 16 verses we are given all this information. In other words Jesus’ authority and power resided in the fact that the Holy Spirit was with him.
We are left with no doubt from the four Gospel accounts that the Holy Spirit is one with Jesus. We can easily say that the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ closest companion. Jesus had companions. They were good companions, but they wavered in their commitment, didn’t quite understand him, let their interests come between them and Jesus, and betrayed him and ran away. However they did come back. They did prove to be wise and brave followers of Jesus, but that was only after the Resurrection and the blessing of the Holy Spirit coming upon them at Pentecost. Just putting that all together tells us that our companionship with Jesus at times falls short. It seems we are at our best when we let the Holy Spirit dwell in us.
I think it is useful to look at the Spirit as Jesus’ closest companion and naturally ours. We can recall Jesus’ teaching in John chapters 14-17 about the importance of the Spirit as the One who will lead us into truth, empower us, convict us of what is right and wrong and keep us close to Jesus.
We know we need companions along life’s journey. They come in many ways to us. We have occasional companions who have supported and guided us. I can think of the companions I had at school, both teachers and students, the companions I have at the yacht club, the companions I have in the church, my friends, my wife and family. How impoverished my life – our lives – would be without these companions. Some travel with us for just a short while, others for the long haul. I also know that all the wonderful companions I have had in life have had their own needs and responsibilities to address. But imagine having a companion who is always there. Always there to bring out the best in us. A companion that is honest and loving. Honest enough to tell us we’ve got it wrong. Loving enough to forgive and nurture us. That kind of companion is hard to get, if not impossible, amongst humans. We need a companion who is solid, secure, sensitive and safe. Jesus talks about having such a companion in his farewell messages to his disciples in John chapters 14 through to 16, which is the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus’s closest earthly companions betrayed him, denied him and scattered, the Spirit walked with him all the way into the jaws of death, empowering him to offer himself freely. That is how the writer of Hebrews understood Jesus’ sacrificial death saying that Jesus through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God [Heb 9:14]. Paul tells us that Jesus
was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead [Romans 1:4]. The early Christian writers clearly understood that the Holy Spirit was Christ Jesus’ constant companion.
Let us be wary. If our Christianity is made up of worship services and doing kindnesses to others, we run the risk of limiting the Holy Spirit’s influence on our lives. In so doing we deny ourselves and the Church of God’s full blessing.
A.W. Tozer said, “The Spirit filled life is not a special delux edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of God’s total plan for Christians.”
Paul writes in Romans 5:5, God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Let us welcome the Spirit into our lives.
Peter C Whitaker, Leighmoor UC: 13/01/2019