Father in heaven, we ask now that You would open our ears that we might hear all that You have to say to us, all that You want to show us from this Holy Word, to teach us that we might know Christ more. In His name we pray. Amen.
We are starting a new series this morning on seven of the famous 3:16 passages in the New Testament. I’ve thought about this series for years and years, having noticed, as I’m sure some of you have, that there are a lot of well-known 3:16’s in the New Testament. Of course, most well-known is John 3:16, but besides that it’s uncanny how many well-known and key verses are 3:16.
Now you need to know if you don’t know already that there’s nothing inspired about the chapter and the verse divisions in our Bible. They date to the 16th century and the story is told, though it may be apocryphal, that the man who was doing the verse divisions did some of it on horseback and occasionally there would be a hiccup in the road and that’s why some of them are right in the middle of a sentence and doesn’t seem to make sense.
So there’s nothing sacred about how the chapters and verses are numbered, but we’ve all encountered the Bible, if we have, and we’ve encountered these chapter and verse divisions. So we see a number of 3:16’s, third chapter, 16 verse.
There are several of the most famous ones we are not going to look at. For example, 1 Corinthians 3:16 – Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells within you?
Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, spiritual songs.
2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training, and righteousness.
I’m sorry. We had to cut some. We’re not looking at those. They’re great.
What I want us to do, and there’s a method to my madness, is focus on the 3:16’s that deal explicitly with the person and work of Christ. So, Lord willing, this is where we’re going over these seven weeks, and there’s a couple of breaks coming up in these two weeks, and this will lead us through Christmas and through the end of the year.
This morning, from Matthew, we’ll look at the beloved Son of the Father, and then from Luke, the giver of the Holy Spirit; John 3:16, Christ the object of our faith; in Galatians, Christ the promise of the covenant; from 2 Thessalonians, Christ the Lord of peace; from 1 Timothy, Christ the mystery of godliness; and finally from 1 John, Christ, the lover of our souls.
My aim is to have us focus then coming into the Advent, I know it’s coming up to Advent in a month, coming through the rest of the year on the importance of knowing Christ. Now that may seem obvious. This is a Christian church, after all. Don’t we focus on knowing Christ every single Sunday? Every season of the year? Well, I hope so, but sometimes it is easy to miss what is most obvious. And it’s easy, if we’re not mistaken, to think, yeah, yeah, yeah, we love Jesus, we need to know Jesus, but get on to the really important things.
Sometimes, though we wouldn’t dare to say it, we can almost feel as if knowing Christ better is sort of somewhere down the list of important, relevant things to know as a Christian. Wouldn’t it be more important to have a very deliberate political action scheme? Or to have practical steps for daily living? To have 10 or 12 or 3 or 5 action points to do over the course of the week? Well, there’s certainly a place for all of those things. But think about what comes after the seven churches in Revelation. Maybe sometime we’ll pick up with Revelation again and do chapters 4 and 5 and maybe even feeling courageous we’ll go through the book, sometime.
But think about after these seven churches, which we’ve been looking at for the past seven weeks. With all of their myriad of problems, and some of the lack love and some of them lack discernment and some of them are small and weak and some of them look impressive and some of them are apathetic and fooling themselves. What comes after chapters 2 and 3? Chapters 4 and 5. What do we see in chapters 4 and 5? Immediately we are drawn with our gaze upward to the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb. It’s not by coincidence that that is the next scene, the next vision, that John is given.
It’s as if to say, “What is the most important antidote to everything that can befall you as a church? To every struggle that you may have this morning as a Christian?” See more of God, know more of God and His glory. Get a glorious glimpse of the One who sits on the throne with the 24 elders and the 4 living creatures and the 7 spirits of God and the flashes of lightning and peals of thunder and then the One, the Lamb who approaches, the worthy One to open the seals on the scroll. See this God.
That’s what the churches in Asia Minor needed. That’s what we need. That’s what you need. You may not know that’s what you need this morning, but it is our deepest need – a vision of God, a heavenly reality above and behind whatever your earthly situation is.
Many of us confess faith in Jesus but we can live like practical atheists, because when it comes down to it, we think we need a hundred other things more than we need to know Christ better.
So at the outset of this series, I want you to be alerted that there will be times where it’s more explicitly theological than on some Sundays we’re used to, looking at the intricacies of Christology and going from the text to think about the Church’s theological exploration, so it may be a bit more theological at times, and you may find yourself thinking, “Well, where is the immediate application?” And there will be application, I hope, but one of the things that important for us to realize is knowing Christ better is application.
When I was engaged to Trisha and she was studying overseas for the year, and some of you have been separated from a loved one or engaged or espoused for a period of time, and I loved to just look at her picture, read her letters, hear her voice on the phone. I wanted to just know her and think about her. Wasn’t that enough?
Wives, if your husband said to you, “I have planned a wonderful trip, taken care of the childcare. They’re going to fend for themselves,” that’s how the husbands think it through. “It’ll be okay. We’ll slide cereal under the door. But it’s all taken care of. Come. I have a trip, uninterrupted time together.” I hope you wouldn’t say to your husband, “Okay, what’s the payoff? What’s the application for me?” Because hopefully it’s the communion and the communication is the payoff, uninterrupted time together. We get to know each other better.
So no apologies to have sermons focused largely and simply on knowing Christ better.
This morning, then, Matthew 3:16, the beloved Son of the Father. Turn in your Bible if you’re not there already, Matthew’s Gospel, the first book in the New Testament, and we’ll read verses 13 through 17.
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.””
When we think of Jesus’ life and ministry, we naturally think of His birth we celebrate at Christmas, His miracles, His teaching, His death on Good Friday, His Resurrection on Easter. It’s possible, however, we’ve not spent much time thinking about His baptism, and yet His baptism is mentioned in all four gospels and it’s referred to again in the book of Acts, so there’s no doubt that this was seen as an essential event in understanding who Christ is and what He is about. In all five accounts, the gospels and Acts, the baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of His ministry, and that tells us something about its significance. This baptismal event said something, and also showed something, powerful and necessary about the identity and the mission of Jesus.
Says something, shows something, about the identity and the mission of Jesus.
I have no memorable outline for this sermon, and leave it to yourself if you’re thinking, “When have you had memorable outlines before?” But there’s no memorable outline to this sermon. What we’re going to do is walk through these five verses and reflect upon what we learn about Christ.
Verse 13. We encounter the ministry of John the Baptist. Now what was John’s ministry about? Well, look at the beginning of the chapter. You see in the ESV a heading “John the Baptist Prepares the Way.” The first verse, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” And then he quotes from Isaiah, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way.’”
John was a forerunner. He was not the point but he was a pointer, and his message focused on repentance.
We see in verse 6 – they were baptized by him, that is John, in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. And then again in verse 11 – I baptize you with water for repentance.
So John’s ministry was a forerunner. His ministry was one of baptism and he baptized for repentance. The imagery is obvious, that the waters were symbolic of washing away your sins. You need to repent and you need to be made new.
Jesus made a point to travel from Galilee to Judea, so that’s where John is. Look at verse 5, Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to Him, so we presume that John is still in the region of Judea around Jerusalem by the Jordan River. Verse 6, he tells us he’s baptizing in the river Jordan.
So Jesus goes to see him. Verse 13 – Jesus came from Galilee, that’s in the north, to the Jordan, if He’s going to Judea that’s in the south, to John to be baptized. So Jesus knew what He was doing. Something needed to be done. This was not an accident, this was not a burst of religious enthusiasm, “Hey, we’re here, let’s do this thing.” It was a deliberate act. Jesus knew that this baptism was a necessary element to begin His God-given mission on earth.
Verse 14, there’s an understandable reticence. John isn’t so sure about this. It seems to strange to us, as well, okay, given everything we just saw about John’s baptism for repentance, for the remission of sins, Jesus doesn’t have sins to be forgiven, we know that clearly from the rest of the New Testament. So why does He need to be baptized? And not only that, but John recognizes there’s something of a superior/inferior relationship, and it doesn’t seem right that John would be the one baptizing Jesus. Remember, they’re related. Their mothers were cousins, which can be a general word for relationship in the ancient world, so they were maybe second cousins. They were related. Surely John, even if he didn’t know everything about Jesus, had heard the stories about his supernatural birth, about the timing of his own birth and then shortly thereafter the birth of Jesus. It’s a bit speculative, but if they’re relatives in a small town and they’re hanging out together, maybe John noticed over those many years, “Hey, I’ve been around Jesus a long time. He doesn’t seem like the guy who’s got sins to be forgiven. So frustrating for me as his second cousin.”
John recognizes he is the forerunner. He is a pointer and the one after him is the point. “If anything, ‘cuz, you should be baptizing me, not me baptizing you,” that’s what he says in verse 14. But Jesus knew what He was doing. His baptism was unlike other baptisms in that He didn’t have any sins to be forgiven, and yet as we’ll see, it was like other baptisms in what He needed to symbolize and enact. Jesus didn’t have sins to be forgiven, He was John’s superior, but there was still a reason Jesus needed to be baptized.
So verse 15, here’s what convinces John. You see the end of the verse, “He consented. Okay, I’m convinced, I will baptize You.” What Jesus says is this, “Let it be so now for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” That persuaded him – it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness.
Fulfill. That’s a key word in Matthew’s Gospel. It occurs over and over again. You see it, for example, in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is talking about the purpose of the Scriptures. In chapter 5, verse 17 – Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets, I’ve not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
There’s a regular cadence in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus is said to fulfill some part of the Old Testament, some prediction or prophecy from the law or the prophets.
“Fulfill” doesn’t have to mean narrowly just to do something that was predicted. It means more broadly to accomplish, to bring to reality, to fill up. Fulfill. That’s a key word in Matthew’s gospel.
So is the word “righteousness.” When you hear “righteousness” here, don’t think a good person, though that’s part of it. Don’t think personal holiness. Think more broadly. Think what is right and proper and true.
Later in chapter 21, Jesus will say that John came “in the way of righteousness,” he came on the right path. He was a real disciple, the way of the truth and right and what is proper and good.
Jesus is saying, in other words, in verse 15, “John, we need to do this in order to embrace the proper plan and mission that God has for both of us.” Notice it’s plural. “For thus it is fitting for us.” There’s something you need to do, John; there’s something I need to do. For John, it was fitting because as the forerunner preparing the way, he needed to be the one who would literally anoint the Messiah. The Messiah, and Christ is just the Greek word for “messiah” which is the Hebrew word, both of those words mean “anointed one.” So he’s literally going to anoint the anointed one. That’s what John needs to do, his part.
And for Jesus fulfilling all righteousness means demonstrating what sort of Messiah He is and will be. This event begins the ministry of Jesus in a public sense, and in one sense brings to close the ministry of John. This is the baton pass, for our UK friends, the baton is passed. From one public ministry to the next. John’s the pointer, and now the point is here.
Still leaves the question, “So what exactly did the baptism of Jesus fulfill? What was the righteousness? What was this proper way? Why did Jesus have to receive this baptism?”
Well, there’s many ways to answer that question. I think it happens in several layers. So one, He had to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness in order to fulfill certain Old Testament texts. For example, Isaiah 42:1 – Behold, my servant whom I uphold, my chosen in whom in my soul delights. I put my spirit upon him. He will bring forth justice to the nations.
So there’s a text about the spirit will come upon this chosen one.
Psalm 2, verse 7 – I will tell of the decree. The Lord said to me, “You are my son. Today I have begotten you.”
Notice Isaiah is a spirit text, Psalm 2 is a father/son text. We’re going to see both of these things displayed. One visually with the descending of the dove, and then one audibly as the Father announces that this is His beloved Son.
So this baptismal event is to fill up and bring to reality texts like this that declare that the Christ will be anointed by the Spirit and He will be the begotten One of His Father.
There’s another layer. The baptism of Jesus also was a way for Him to embrace His role as the new Israel. I think we’ve looked at this before in sermons here or there. Let me remind you of this. There are several points, especially in these opening chapters of Matthew’s gospel, where very deliberately Jesus is cast as the new Israel.
You turn back to Matthew 2, verse 15. This is one of the most difficult Old Testament fulfillment passages – This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” That’s a quotation from Hosea, which has to do with the Exodus, and here Jesus is fleeing because Herod wants to kill Him and they go to Egypt and then they are safe and then they come back. Many commentators say, “Well, that’s doesn’t make sense. Matthew’s just king of playing word association, Egypt, yeah, I got an Egypt text, and so he just puts it in there and it doesn’t quite fit.”
Well, that’s the conclusion only if you don’t understand the deeper theology. Matthew is pulling that text which has to do with the Exodus because he’s aligning Jesus as the new Israel, who is like God’s Son, as Israel was depicted as God’s son, and just as Israel had an exodus out of Egypt, so Jesus as the new Israel, He, too, has an exodus out of Egypt.
Well, what happens to Israel in the Old Testament after their exodus out of Egypt? They pass through the waters and the Red Sea. Well, what comes with Jesus as He embodies and embraces His identity as the new Israel? Out of Egypt, here in chapter 3, passing through the waters, not the Red Sea but the Jordan River. What happens to Israel in the Old Testament after the Exodus, after the Red Sea? They end up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, tempted.
Look at chapter 4. What happens to Jesus after He passes through the waters of the Jordan? He’s in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. He will withstand temptation where Israel fell in temptation.
You could keep going. In chapter 5, Jesus, and here He’s like Israel and He’s like Moses, just as Israel in the Old Testament exodus out of Egypt through the Red Sea, wandering in the wilderness, the Lord gives to them a law on the mountain so in chapter 5 Jesus will give a new expression of the law on the mountain to His people.
Throughout these early chapters in Matthew, Jesus is explicitly identified. He is reliving Israel’s story and He will prove to be the faithful Son that Israel was not.
Which leads to the third layer of fulfilling righteousness. Jesus is meaning to identify with God’s sinful people. Jesus did not have sin, He didn’t need to be baptized in order to be forgiven of sins, but to fulfill all righteousness. That is, in order to show what is necessary for someone living in a covenant relationship with God. To embrace the righteous act of what God has required and will fulfill.
What He’s doing, in other words, though born of a Jewish mother, He’s a Jewish boy, He’s identifying not just with the Jewish people, but with all of sinful humanity. So He’s not just Israel, God’s Son, He’s also a new Adam. He is identifying with all of God’s chosen people who need to have their sins forgiven. So this baptism is a pointer ultimately to His death, to God’s righteous judgment upon sin.
In Luke 12, verse 50, Jesus says, “I have a baptism to be baptized with and how great is My distress until it is accomplished.” There explicitly He likens His death to another baptism.
So He must be baptized to fulfill all righteousness because the Scriptures needed to be fulfilled, because He’s embracing His identity as the new Israel, and also that He might identify with sinful humanity. This is what sinners need to do, and though I am not Myself a sinner, I’m identifying with sinners and so I, too, will receive a baptism from you.
Immediately, there are signs from heaven. Verse 16 – a dove descends. Verse 17 – a father speaks.
So first look at the descending dove. “And when Jesus was baptized,” verse 16, “immediately He went up from the water and behold, lo, the heavens were torn apart.” This is like Ezekiel’s vision, Ezekiel 1:1 where the prophet there sees a vision of the heavens opening up. There is, in other words, a heavenly counterpart to this earthly event. The way Matthew describes them with “immediately” and “behold,” it’s to see that they’re almost simultaneous.
As Jesus is baptized, and incidentally when it says He’s coming out of the water, it’s talking about them walking out of the Jordan River, we don’t actually know whether He was immersed in the Jordan or what would have often been the practice of some kind of pouring or sprinkling or christening, anointing as it were, but the coming out of the water is the two of them walking out of the Jordan River, immediately the heavens are opened.
The coming of the Spirit testifies to Jesus’ identity and to His mission. He is the Spirit-anointed Christ of Isaiah. I already read Isaiah 42, but listen also Isaiah 11 – And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
In Revelation chapter 4, it speaks of the seven spirits of God, which is probably a reference back to Isaiah chapter 11, because if you count it up, there’s a sevenfold description of the Spirit – Spirit of the Lord, Spirit of wisdom, Spirit of understanding, Spirit of counsel, Spirit of might, Spirit of knowledge, Spirit of the fear of the Lord. A sevenfold Spirit, coincides with the seven spirits of God in reveals 4.
Also Isaiah 61:1 – the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
Jesus will read from that at the beginning of His public ministry in Luke’s Gospel. In other words, His life is to be consecrated, to be set apart, and more than that, it is a life to be identified with the long-awaited Messiah. He is that Christ they were waiting for who would be anointed by the very Spirit of God.
He’s also the One from whom salvation will come. Now we know this from the Isaiah texts, which speak of the prophet and the Messiah speaking good news to the poor, preaching Gospel. But we also see hints of this in the very form that the Spirit takes. Matthew tells us he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove. Now just from Matthew’s Gospel, you might wonder, well, does it mean the Spirit, it looked like a dove or it was just maybe gentle and peaceful as a dove would be? But Luke’s Gospel tells us explicitly it was in the shape of a dove. It looked like a dove coming down on Jesus.
Why a dove? Some people draw a connection to Genesis 1:2, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and then 1:2 says, “The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
You ever notice the trinity is there right in the opening verses of Genesis? God created, He created by His speech, “let there be light,” that’s His word, and also the Spirit is hovering over the deep. It’s the sort of language of a bird brooding over a nest, and so some people think there’s a connection here. The Spirit comes as a dove because it’s connected to the Spirit’s work at creation in Genesis 1.
I think there’s a more immediate connection. If you’ve grown up with a Bible or you’ve learned stories in the Bible, kids, you remember from Sunday School classes. We’re too big of a classroom here to have you shout out an answer, but just think to yourself, if you think “dove,” okay, I want a story from the Bible that has to do with a dove, okay? Get it in your mind. Right? You got it? Now some of you said, “I’m thinking of the priestly sacrifices.” No, you’re not. You’re not thinking of that.
You’re thinking of Noah. You’re thinking of Noah and the flood. In Genesis 8, Noah sends out a dove, first a raven but then a dove, three times to look for dry land. The first time the dove returns with nothing. Noah waits seven days. Again, three times, seven days, all of these biblical numbers, seven days. Then the dove returns with a freshly plucked olive leaf. Waits another seven days. The dove goes out, doesn’t return, tells Noah that there is dry ground. Deliverance is coming. Salvation was night.
So what role does the dove play in the story of Noah and the flood? Think in particular when the dove returns and alights upon Noah with a freshly plucked olive leaf. That dove descending to Noah is a sign that salvation is here. He’s got an olive branch. There’s land, there’s plants, there’s new life. It means deliverance has come. Salvation is right around the corner. That’s what the dove signifies in Noah’s story.
So the reason the Spirit comes as a dove is as if to communicate that with this Christ, salvation is right around the corner. Deliverance is nigh. The waters of God’s judgment are subsiding and abating, if only you will know from whom salvation comes. Indeed, that’s Jesus’ name. His name means “Yahweh saves.”
The Spirit comes as a dove and Jesus receives, willingly, obediently, receives this priestly work that God gives to Him.
So there’s a sign of the dove, and then verse 17, the voice of the Father.
In Jewish tradition, there had been age of silence from Malachi the prophets were silent. Of course, the early Church understood that the silence was over and in some ways the silence was broken with the ministry of John the Baptist, but in another sense he was a forerunner. He was preparing the way. So you could say that it’s at this moment at Jesus’ baptism, after 400 years of the prophetic ministry gone silent, that now after four centuries, finally the heavens open and God again speaks to His people. And He speaks by means of His Son.
This is what Hebrews will tell us. Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers in all sort of different ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son. That’s how God speaks now.
So the first thing as the silence of God is obliterated is to hear a voice from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” ‘
We’re probably meant to hear echoes of Abraham and Isaac. Genesis 22:2 – Take your son, God tells Abraham, take your son, your only son, whom you love. Abraham, I want you to take your beloved son, the son in whom you are well pleased.
But of course, with Abraham he would not finally have to sacrifice his son. There would be a ram caught in the thicket. But with God’s own Son, no suitable substitute would be found. His beloved Son would be the sacrifice Himself.
This voice commending the Son is not only a word of commendation, it’s a word of commissioning. You know our English word “mission,” comes from a Latin word “mittere,” meaning “to send out.” A dismissal is a sending out. Mission is an English word, it doesn’t appear in our Bibles, but it’s the equivalent to apostolene in the Greek, to be sent out. The mission, we hear the term and we think of church plants, evangelism, discipleship, going out, and that’s good, but we ought to realize that that mission is predicated on this mission, the mission which is prior to all of the Church’s mission is the mission of the Father sending the Son.
In fact, in the history of theological development, that’s where the word is first used. The trinitarian missions, that is, the sending forth the persons of the trinity, the Son from the Father, and the Spirit from the Father and the Son.
So this voice is to commend Him and also to commission Him. Don’t miss how important this announcement is. For the voice to say, “This is my beloved Son,” it means that there is no rupture between the Father and the Son, everything that is going to transpire in this plan of salvation never entails the rending asunder of Father and Son, even on the cross where He experiences God forsakenness, it’s not the blowing apart of the trinity. The Father is never out to demean His Son. There is not a Son who does His ministry because He has a Father wound and He’s desperate to please His Father. Everything they do inseparably, they do together with the Holy Spirit, and they do in pleasure with one another.
Now notice something else interesting in verse 17. I’ve been speaking about the Father and the Son, but notice there is no language of “father” here. Now it is a father, but notice the Father reveals Himself as the One who has a Son. In fact, His name is not given but we know Him as Father because He has a Son. And the Son is known only as Son because the Father reveals Him. He can be revealed as Father only in relationship to His beloved Son.
In fact, in the synoptic gospels, and that just means Matthew, Mark, and Luke because they follow a similar pattern and narrative arc and John’s quite a bit different, in those Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke, God never introduces Himself as Father. He only speaks of His Son, and Jesus never speaks of Himself as Son, He only speaks of Himself as relating to the Father.
So we know in Matthew, the Father because Jesus is the Son. And we know the Son because of his relationship to the Father. That the two are introducing each other by introducing themselves.
This baptismal event, though John administers the water and the Spirit comes, the event is culminated with the voice of the Father. He’s the source, He’s the culmination. He announces His divine approval. This is the Son’s act of filial, that just means son-ly obedience, it’s also the revelation of His identity. So not only is He a prophet and a priest and a king, not only is He one anointed, christened to be the Messiah, but he is also the Father’s only begotten Son.
We see how important it is because in chapter 4 the “Son” language is immediately picked up. Look at verse 3. This is what the tempter grasps on. The snake, the tempter, came, and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.”
Verse 6 – He said to Him, “If you are the Son of God.”
Underscores what a key moment in Revelation this is, and so the tempter will jump on that and say, “Aha, You have been revealed. You have a Father, He’s called You his beloved Son. If You really are this only begotten, divine Son of God, then why are You hungry? Why don’t you have the angels bow down? Why don’t You throw Yourself off the pinnacle of the temple?”
Don’t miss how important this announcement is, that Jesus is the beloved Son.
What, then, I promised you not very much application, but a teeny, what can we say by way of conclusion? What do we know and learn about Christ in this passage?
Number one – We see that Christ knew who He was and what He had to do.
Some commentators or theologians think that He didn’t really know and maybe He was disappointed at the end and He was confused about His mission. He knew something special, but He wasn’t really aware of His messianic identity. No, we see from the very beginning He has a purpose, I need go to John, I need to be baptized. He understands who He is and what His mission is about.
Second. We see from this baptism that His mission was to identify with sinners and save them from their sins by His death.
We already saw that that, if we had gone through the Gospel in Matthew chapter 1:21 – She will bear a son, you shall call His name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.
So He embraces in His baptism what is His mission chiefly about. It is the deliverance of sinners.
Now you say, “That’s, we all know that.” But listen, the Church easily and quickly deviates and mission creep happens. Yes, it’s important that we would be salt and light into the world. Politics matter, elections matter. I think about those things; sometimes I write about those things. Some of you are involved in those things and we want Christians involved in those things.
Other people, perhaps, say, “Well, the Church ought to be transforming the culture, or ought to be working for great societal transformation,” and indeed there is a role that Christians dispersed throughout our world have a role to play in bringing about what is good and true and beautiful.
But let us not miss Christ’s own identification and sense of mission at the very beginning was to save sinners. Now you emphasize this in a church, you emphasize it in your missions budget, you emphasize it in the pulpit; no one’s against that. But they’re against it when it means you don’t do some other things, or you don’t say some other things. Because people want, oh, it’s just your salvation gospel, your so cross gospel, your Soterian gospel.
Well, yes, that’s Jesus’ mission. That’s what He came to do. He shows at the very beginning, I need to be baptized to identify with sinful humanity because the reason I’m here, because the central problem in the universe, is not the Roman government, it’s yours sins. You need to be forgiven and you need to be set free and you need to be born again and you need the work of the Spirit in your life.
Then finally, notice what we learn about Jesus. We see that the work of Christ is irreducibly trinitarian. To know Christ truly is to know Him as the beloved and incarnate Son of the Father who is endowed with the Spirit of the Father.
There are two signs of heavenly approval at Jesus’ baptism. One is the descent of the Spirit and the other is the declaration of the Father. The descent of the Spirit, the declaration of the Father. The Spirit of the Father commissions, and that same Spirit then is received and is the Spirit of the Son, and the Spirit binds them together as loving Father and loving Son.
There is a threefold act. The Father sends the Spirit to commission the Son, the Spirit is the one through whom the Father’s commission is bestowed and the act of the Son in welcoming His Father’s divine commission and communication with the Spirit.
I know when you talk about that trinity, it seems like something to give professors a job or a difficult math problem that can’t be solved. But I hope you see throughout this series, and you’ll have some more when we come to the passage in Luke, but from this very beginning, that our God is trinity, and the work of Christ is irreducibly trinitarian.
What’s the payoff? Well, the payoff is that’s how we worship. That’s how we pray. That’s how we sing. That’s the God that we love and the God who loves us.
This baptism of Jesus is signed and sealed by the Father’s final declaration. The Father is pleased with the Son because He has embraced in the Spirit the mission appointed for Him and don’t miss the fact that all of this, this high symbolism, this declaration from heaven, is said about a man who looked like everyone else around Him. In fact, He wasn’t particularly good-looking, had no form or appearance that we should be drawn to Him. In John’s Gospel, they’ll guess His age and they think He’s older than 30. He maybe had a homely look about Him. Looked like another Jewish young man.
Indeed, some of them had grown up with Him, knew His parents. He’s undoubtedly a man, and yet He receives the Spirit as a dove and a voice, God Himself, declares that He’s not just a man, He is God’s own Son. All of this is said about the man Jesus of Nazareth.
So friends, you cannot know this man Jesus rightly until you know Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we give thanks for Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the gift together with Him of Your Spirit, and we pray that we might be drawn now and forever to praise Your holy name . Amen.