“THE TRINITY: GOD IS THREE-IN-ONE”
Matthew 3:16-17 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water ; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (read also cf. Mk 1:9-11, Lk 3:21-22, Jn 1:31-34)
The foundational concept of the Trinity, which wasn’t specifically named until many years later, is very clearly, though mysteriously, in glorious display here at Jesus’ Baptism. Our God, the God of the Bible, is not to be simplistically identified in any modalistic or any other (subsequently discredited) reductionistic framework. Instead, in this Matthew 3 passage, and echoed across all four gospel narratives, the Trinity is evident: God is one, there are three distinct persons of the godhead, and they work together in unity to accomplish God’s good purposes throughout eternity.
In the baptismic scene captured in these gospel narratives, each individual person of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) has a distinctly separate and yet simultaneous activity. Packed into this dynamic narrative is a great deal of concise theological information, for at the moment Jesus comes up from the water, there is…
- The Father– speaking words of affirmation and approval to the Son (more on this in part 2).
- The Son– willingly fulfilling all righteousness by being baptized (more on this in part 3).
- The Holy Spirit– descending from the sky/heaven in bodily form, lighting upon Jesus, and signifying to John Baptist (by “remaining on him”) that Jesus is indeed the One whom history has been desperately waiting for; the Messiah.
In this baptismal scene at the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit took on the form of a dove. This dove image is packed with important concepts for us to discover. First, the dove is symbolic in biblical imagery referring to peace. Second, the dove was the very poorest Jewish family’s sacrifice for sin (as they could not afford any other animal for sacrifice). Third, the dove was the very item being sold in the Temple Courts by the moneychangers which infuriated our Lord so much upon arriving in Jerusalem.
In the Mark account of our Lord’s Baptism (1:9-11), Mark describes heaven as being “TORN open”; Mark writes using the Greek word “schizo” which means to be split into two and this was the very same word used later in Mk 15:38 of the veil of the Temple being violently ripped in half at the precise moment of Christ’s death on the cross … as he cried out, “It is finished”.
All three persons of the Trinity are at play here to launch Jesus’ public ministry, and all three persons of the Trinity always act in unity to accomplish God’s good purposes throughout eternity.
There is a lot that’s mysterious and unknown about all this, but the bit that we do know, much of it we get from these passages on our Lord’s Baptism.