Several years ago, I attended a Bible Study service in one familiar church. The study that fateful evening had centered on the baptism of Jesus Christ at the River Jordan.
For the most part, I was tremendously enthralled by the descriptive heavenly experience Jesus had at His baptism as recorded in the Gospels. The heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit openly descended upon Him like a dove.
On the other hand, I could not help but ponder over the fact that this spectacular experience of Jesus’ at the Jordan has remained a very unique experience in the history of Christianity till date. Matthew’s account of that event tells us that:
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him (3:16, NIV).
Luke puts it this way, “…the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased”” (3:22, NIV).
“Does anyone have any question arising from this study today?” the Bible study facilitator had asked at the end of the study.
I flung my innocent hand up in the air. And having been acknowledged, I asked, “Why is it that the heaven does not open unto us and the Spirit of God does not descend bodily upon us during water baptism in this era like it did on Jesus Christ as we saw in the study?”
“Victor, are you comparing yourself with Jesus?” yelled one church elder from the far corner of the hall where he was sitting.
He must have felt that my question was controversial or ill-conceived. But I was convinced I asked the question because I wanted to know more, without any ulterior motives.
“Jesus is Jesus and we are not Jesus… We as mere humans should not expect to have a water baptism experience with the heavens opening and the Holy Spirit descending as on Jesus the Son of God,” he further stated.
In my heart as a young adult then, I felt that was not the best answer I could possibly get for that question. But I could not really push any further, else I could have been accused of challenging an elder inappropriately.
Thankfully, the Bible study facilitator stepped in and tried to salvage the situation by giving what I could call a more acceptable explanation to me. He explained that we can receive the Holy Spirit even before, during or after water Baptism.
“What matters”he opined, “is that we can receive the Holy Spirit, irrespective of whether or not He came upon us in a very spectacular way, as was the case of Jesus.”
I can identify with that summation because from my own water baptism experience, the heavens did not tear open (smiles), neither did the Holy Spirit descend on me in a spectacular way like it did on Jesus. But I still was baptized and I still have received the Holy Spirit.
Actually I had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit before I even had the opportunity of having the baptism by immersion in water.
What was your own experience? I hope you would not mind sharing.
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