Jesus didn’t baptize himself. John was in a direct line from the prophets—those men and women who kept God’s Word alive in the community of God’s people. Jesus volitionally entered that stream of the past, accepted its truths, and became a companion to his ancestors. For all his originality and all his uniqueness, Jesus did not begin a new religion. His life did not begin something new but fulfilled something old.
The life in Christ is unique—you are not fitting into someone else’s mold, meeting anyone’s expectations, or trying to conform to a model. You will become more yourself and less like anyone else in the whole world as you do this. But you begin by trusting your ancestors in the faith.
The first words Jesus heard as he came out of the water were that God was pleased with him. What is basic for Jesus is basic for us, and we can only make a good start if we start with the right words: the words are from God, and they are, “With you I am well pleased.”
This affirmation is not self-evident. Many other people have said things quite different from this, and some of them have been the exact opposite: “With you I am not at all well pleased,” “With you I have some hopes, but only if you shape up considerably will I ever be well pleased with you,” or “I might be well pleased with you if you quit doing this and start doing that.”
We are not affirmed by the people around us but are blamed and rebuked and bribed. And the reason, of course, is that in the eyes of the people around us, we need quite a lot of fixing up before we are satisfactory. But God affirms us just as we are. He accepts us without condition. This is a great mystery, and we have difficulty handling it. But it is the gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s affirmation doesn’t condone our sin, and it doesn’t acquiesce in our mediocrity. He calls us to repentance and holiness and discipleship. But he begins with a simple, unconditional affirmation: I love you. You are my daughter. You are my son. With you I am well pleased. Amen.