January 7, 2017 – Epiphany 1 – The Baptism of the Lord
Matthew 3: 13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. 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 lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Dear friends in Christ Jesus:
A beaming father stops at the preschool to pick up his little boy. “Johnny! What a wonderful elephant you colored!” “Dad, it’s a space ship.” “Oh. I mean, what a cool space ship you colored!” It doesn’t matter if Johnny’s space ship looks like an elephant. It still will end up on the refrigerator.
A glowing father embraces his son after the big game. “Great game, son. You played really well tonight.” It doesn’t matter if his son missed most of his shots or if he won the game with a basket at the buzzer. Like all fathers, he is just proud.
Another glowing and radiant Father also beamed with pride and joy. The heavens parted and the people trembled as he bellowed from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” With those mighty words of powerful importance, God’s Beloved Son Was Anointed.
“With him I am well pleased.” How often do you think God could say that about you? “With you I am well pleased.” “I am pleased with what just came out of your mouth.” “I am pleased with what you just watched on TV.” “I am pleased with the book that you are reading.” “I am pleased with how you handled that situation, how you kept your cool, and how you curbed your anger.” “I am pleased with how often you are in church, how often you pray, and how often you read my Word.”
If only God heard half the things we say! If God only saw some of the things that we do to one another! If God only knew the thoughts that run through our heads! That’s the scary thing. He does hear. He does see. He does know. How often we forget that God is everywhere, he sees everything, he knows everything!
“With you I am well pleased.” I don’t think God would say that about me. Rather, he might say, “Why did you do that?” “How could you be so uncaring?” “How could you do something so shameful?” “Why don’t you listen to me?” No, the Father in heaven would not be very pleased with me. I’ve sinned far too much. And so have you.
But that’s why he sent and anointed his Son, Jesus. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” When the Father spoke from heaven, he spoke in absolute truth. He had every reason to be pleased with his Son. Jesus had obeyed his Father perfectly.
As an eight-day-old baby he was circumcised according to the law. As a 12-year-old boy he refused to leave the temple—he wanted to hear more of Scripture and teach more of Scripture. Right after this baptism Jesus would go into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights to fast and to pray. There he would resist three powerful temptations from Satan, among others. The rest of his life he would show love and compassion for all people. He would do everything his Father commands in every way.
Even this baptism was part of his perfect life. When he came to the Jordan, “John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’” John had been preaching repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Why then would Jesus need to be baptized? He hadn’t sinned! But Jesus responds, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”
Jesus commands baptism. Jesus commands that all, of any age and of all nations, be baptized. Even though he didn’t need to be baptized, Jesus was baptized to “fulfill all righteousness.” He obeyed every command, so also he obeyed this command.
This moment is a significant moment of great importance—one worth worshiping Jesus for, as we do today. At his baptism, Jesus acknowledged what he came to do. He came to do what we cannot. He came to live how we could not and do not. He came to fulfill all righteousness and live perfectly in our place. He came to serve us with his life. It is no wonder that the Father proclaimed, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” With those mighty words, God’s Beloved Son Was Anointed as the chosen one who came to serve us with his life.
This moment is unique to all of Scripture. This is the one moment when in our world all three members of the Trinity were witnessed as present by human senses. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all are God. All three are always present everywhere. Yet this was the one time humans witnessed all three together. They saw the Son in human flesh being baptized. They saw the Spirit descending like a dove and lighting on him. They heard the Father speak from heaven. Clearly they are three separate and distinct persons, yet one true God.
But this event didn’t happen just to prove our belief in and teaching of the Trinity is accurate. All three revealed their glory at this one moment to show to all that Jesus is the One. He is the Messiah, the Messhiach as the Jews would say in Hebrew. He is the Christ, the Christos as they would say in Greek. Messiah and Christ mean the same thing—the Anointed One. The triune God revealed his glory at this special moment because they were setting apart and anointing the Son. They were installing him into his office of Savior.
You know, there is another moment similar to this one in the Bible. It happened three years later. Jesus took his disciples Peter, James, and John up a mountain. There Jesus was shining brightly with his true glory as God. There a bright cloud covered them and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Once more, the Father acknowledged his Son—that he loved him, that he was pleased with him, that he was the one whom he had chosen.
From there, Jesus would walk down that mountain and march into Jerusalem. Though he has all glory as God, he humbly rode into the city on a donkey. Though he has all power as God, he allowed himself to be arrested. Though he has all control over the universe, he allowed himself to be beaten, battered, and crucified. And though he has all love from his Father, the Father turned his back on his Son and abandoned him on the cross.
Why? I thought the Father loved the Son! I thought the Father was pleased with the Son! Why let him be humbled? Why let him suffer? Why let him be bruised and bloodied? Why abandon him? Why let him die? Why? I thought the Father loved the Son!
Oh, he does love the Son. But he also loves you. When God’s Beloved Son Was Anointed at his baptism, he wasn’t only anointed and chosen to serve you with his perfect life of righteousness. Jesus was also anointed and chosen to save you with his innocent suffering and death.
Though the Father loves the Son and is well pleased with him, he also loves us so much that he was willing to sacrifice his Son as the payment for our sins. The Father loves us so much that he wanted to erase our sins with the blood of his Son so that he could be pleased with us. The Father loves us so much that sent his chosen Son so that he could also choose us.
This moment is a significant moment of great importance—one worth worshiping Jesus for, as we do today. At his baptism, Jesus was acknowledged and anointed as God’s beloved Son, chosen to be the Messiah and the Christ. After his baptism he continued to live a perfect life for you. After living a perfect life he offered it in death to save you. Jesus’ baptism is the moment when God clearly pointed and proclaimed, “Look people. Here he is. He is the one. He is my Son. He is here. He is here for you. He is the Savior.”
What weighs on your mind? A death in the family? A loved one near death? A really difficult situation? Lack of work? No money? A busy life? A hectic schedule? Doubts? Worries? Confusion? A guilty conscience? A heart burdened by sin?
Look to the River Jordan. Hear the voice thunder from heaven. See the Son fulfill all righteousness. Know that the Father loves you so much that he sent his beloved Son so that you could become his child.
There are so many things in this life—so many things—that overwhelm us and burden us and hurt us. Yet we see the Son and hear the Father today and remember that we have been baptized. We have been adopted into God’s family. God now shines on us and proclaims, “This is my child whom I love, with him I am well pleased.”
The chosen one has come. He has served us and he has saved us. Through him, God has chosen us to be his own. Through his beloved Son, we have become beloved children. Come what may in life. We are brothers and sisters to Christ. We will join the Son and the Father for life in heaven. The Father loves the Son. But he loves you too. Amen.