Luke 3:15-17,21-22 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
Reflection While he was praying (after being baptized) Jesus experienced an altered state of consciousness. In other words, Jesus experienced a state of mind or awareness that is not usual in ordinary wakefulness. Jesus experienced God or Divinity breaking directly into his ordinary state of awareness; “The heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form...” Not only did Jesus have a visual experience of the Spirit of God in “bodily form” but he also heard “a voice from heaven.”
Wow! I imagine if that happened to me it would go straight to my head and I would sizzle, “Aren’t I special!” Perhaps that’s why the prophet John spoke of baptism by the Spirit and fire. Maybe the fire has to do with tempering the Spirit by seperating the wheat from the chaff, breaking the shell and getting rid of the hard edges of our human minds and personalities. You know, that of our human condition which is tempted to think of our selves as special, as god?
It makes sense that immediately following his baptism while “full of the Holy Spirit” (4.1) Jesus was “led into the wilderness and tempted by the devil.” (4.2) Three times Jesus was tempted to identify with or test God. Three times Jesus chose to be in humble dependent relationship with God. Jesus did not misappropriate his altered state experience. He did not count himself as equal to God. No wonder the voice from heaven was “well pleased” with him. The question for all of us (who by our baptism received the Holy Spirit) is, what dregs of our human condition, what presumptions, pretensions or pride need to be tempered in the refiner’s fire so that we too may embody our true identity as the beloved daughters and sons of God?