I. His baptism, which was his first public appearance, after he had long lived obscurely in Nazareth. O how much hidden worth is there, which in this world is either lost in the dust of contempt and cannot be known, or wrapped up in the veil of humility and will not be known! But sooner or later it shall be known, as Christ’s was.
1. See how humbly he owned God, by coming to be baptized of John; and thus it became him to fulfil all righteousness. Thus he took upon him the likeness of sinful flesh, that, though he was perfectly pure and unspotted, yet he was washed as if he had been polluted; and thus for our sakes he sanctified himself, that we also might be sanctified, and be baptized with him, John 17:19.
2. See how honourably God owned him, when he submitted to John’s baptism. Those who justify God, and they are said to do, who were baptized with the baptism of John, he will glorify, Luke 7:29, 30.
(1.) He saw the heavens opened; thus he was owned to be the Lord from heaven, and had a glimpse of the glory and joy that were set before him, and secured to him, as the recompence of his undertaking. Matthew saith, The heavens were opened to him. Mark saith, He saw them opened. Many have the heavens opened to receive them, but they do not see it; Christ had not only a clear foresight of his sufferings, but of his glory too.
(2.) He saw the Spirit like a dove descending upon him. Note, Then we may see heaven opened to us, when we perceive the Spirit descending and working upon us. God’s good work in us is the surest evidence of his good will towards us, and his preparations for us. Justin Martyr says, that when Christ was baptized, a fire was kindled in Jordan: and it is an ancient tradition, that a great light shone round the place; for the Spirit brings both light and heat.
(3.) He heard a voice which was intended for his encouragement to proceed in his undertaking, and therefore it is here expressed as directed to him, Thou art my beloved Son. God lets him know, [1.] That he loved him never the less for that low and mean estate to which he had now humbled himself; “Though thus emptied and made of no reputation, yet he is my beloved Son still.” [2.] That he loved him much the more for that glorious and kind undertaking in which he had now engaged himself. God is well pleased in him, as referee of all matters in controversy between him and man; and so well pleased in him, as to be well pleased with us in him.
II. His temptation. The good Spirit that descended upon him, led him into the wilderness, Mark 1:12. Paul mentions it as a proof that he had his doctrine from God, and not from man—that, as soon as he was called, he went not to Jerusalem, but went into Arabia, Gal. 1:17. Retirement from the world is an opportunity of more free converse with God, and therefore must sometimes be chosen, for a while, even by those that are called to the greatest business. Mark observes this circumstance of his being in the wilderness—that he was with the wild beasts. It was an instance of his Father’s care of him, that he was preserved from being torn in pieces by the wild beasts, which encouraged him the more that his Father would provide for him when he was hungry. Special protections are earnests of seasonable supplies. It was likewise an intimation to him of the inhumanity of the men of that generation, whom he was to live among—no better than wild beasts in the wilderness, nay abundantly worse. In that wilderness,
1. The evil spirits were busy with him; he was tempted of Satan; not by any inward injections (the prince of this world had nothing in him to fasten upon), but by outward solicitations. Solicitude often gives advantages to the tempter, therefore two are better than one. Christ himself was tempted, not only to teach us, that it is no sin to be tempted, but to direct us whither to go for succour when we are tempted, even to him that suffered, being tempted; that he might experimentally sympathize with us when we are tempted.
2. The good spirits were busy about him; the angels ministered to him, supplied him with what he needed, and dutifully attended him. Note, The ministration of the good angels about us, is matter of great comfort in reference to the malicious designs of the evil angels against us; but much more doth it befriend us, to have the indwelling of the spirit in our hearts, which they that have, are so born of God, that, as far as they are so, the evil one toucheth them not, much less shall be triumph over them.