Baptism & Jesus

Baptism & Jesus

Today is Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany is that Greek word which means to show or to appear. We celebrate the light of Christ coming into the world. Typically, on Epiphany Sunday, we look either at the baptism of Jesus or global missions through the Magi. This morning, we are in Matthew 3, looking at the baptism of Jesus. As we look through the reading of God’s word, if you please join me in prayer. Father, indeed, you are our helper and we ask then that by your Holy spirit, you would open our minds, that as scriptures are read and your word is complained, that we would be led into your truth, that we would be taught your will. And this we ask for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. Beginning in verse 13, 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 open 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. ‘ The word of the Lord. As you are all aware, King Charles was officially crowned king of Great Britain last May. The distinguished guest list was a mere 2,300 people down from Elizabeth 8,000 at her coronation. Charles arrived at Westminster Abbey in the Royal Coach, drawn by six beautiful horses. And afterwards, he rode back to Buckingham Palace in a parade. It featured 4,000 members of the armed forces, 250 horses, 19 military bands. Of course, all of this happened with the whole world watching. Whether it’s a presidential inauguration or a royal coronation, these kinds of events have worldwide media coverage. Large budgets are given so that whole teams of people can carefully coordinate every move. Nothing is left to chance. No symbol is overlooked or missing. The baptism of Jesus is his inauguration. His coronation is Messiah. He had everything about Jesus coming, it ran counter to the world’s way of doing things. The advanced team, they got the celebrity singer part right. Entire chorus of angels announced his birth. The venue, a remote field in a rural area.

The distinguished guest list, a handful of laborers. That was it. Later, we do We see Simeon and Anna coming to say a few words prophetically of Jesus, but they say it mostly to Mary and Joseph. There were some out-of-state dignitaries, the Magi, but they were mostly overlooked. Their coming was another small gathering of people, mostly just Jesus’ family. Then Jesus ends up from this small remote area of Bethlehem to a small remote area in Nazareth. Now, at about age he enters into his public ministry. Jesus’ baptism is the formal start of his public ministry. It’s his coronation. The advanced team, no doubt, put this together. Where was it? It was in the wilderness next to the Jordan River. Again, mostly a small town affair. There had only been a small group of people around John the Baptist. And so the eternal Son of God, the word who become flesh, the one who the entire course of scripture is about, is given his coronation. The whole history of Israel has been driving to this moment. Thousands of years of prophecy are coming to fruition in the Ministry of the Messiah, the savior of his people, and it begins with the baptism of John.

This is how the Lord chose to appear. His epiphany was unobvious and was understated. He intentionally under the radar. The only crown on his head was the beads of water that were dripping down from him. What do we make of this? Certainly how Jesus chose to be baptized, it tells us something about what Messiah he would be. It tells us something about his ministry. And then there’s baptism itself. It’s all very normal for us, but it was rather new when John the Baptist started his ministry. What was Jesus saying by being baptized. And then how do we apply any of this to us? Well, because Jesus entered into baptism to be marked as our savior, you and I must receive baptism to be marked as one of his followers. We’re marked with what he has been marked with. The person and work of Jesus are all seen in his baptism. And we know Jesus is not like anyone else. There’s no one like him. There hasn’t been, nor will there be. The world is seeing powerful leaders. The world is seeing inspiring prophets, great teachers, mighty kings. Jesus is all of these and more. Everything about him is unique.

Emmanuel, God with us. Now, we’ve heard this before. Religion is man’s attempt to get to God. Jesus is God’s approach to get to man. And we see that in his person and his work. We see that here before us in his baptism. So what are the characteristics? What are the marks of the Lord’s Messiah, the Anointed one? We see them here starting in verse 13. The marks of the Messiah. Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John to be baptized by him. Now, nothing in the Old Testament really prepares us for baptism. This is something new. There have been some small scale baptisms for people converted to Judaism, but nothing like what John was doing. Something new had come to God’s people, and it’s into this newness that Jesus now steps. John would have prevented him saying, I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me? Here we see one of the first marks of the Messiah is his humility. Jesus comes to John. Depending on where he is, this is like a two or three day walk from Galilee. John doesn’t have to go to him. Jesus goes to John.

The Messiah then allows his advanced man to baptize him. And in verse 16, When Jesus is baptized, immediately he went from the water. Behold, the heavens were opened up. He saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him. Jesus is marked by the Holy spirit. All four gospel writers record Jesus’ baptism. Only two is birth, but all four is baptism and the anointing of the spirit. It’s a foundational part of the apostolic message. Message. In Acts 10, Peter includes it in his message to the centurion Cornelius. There he says, You yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism that John claimed, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy spirit and with power. Now, in the Old Testament, the person who was anointed by the spirit was God’s diviny appointed minister, his instrument. Whether that was a prophet, a judge, or a king, this man was not self-appointed. He was designated by God. Now, keep in mind, the spirit was already with Jesus. He was conceived by the power of the spirit, Luke 1. He was filled with the spirit’s wisdom, Luke 2.

But here the spirit made a public declaration that he was with Jesus in his ministry. It’s a public acknowledgement of of the person of Jesus. Luke alone gives us another window into distinguishing characteristics or marks of Jesus. In Luke 3, recording this baptism. He says, When all the people were baptized, Jesus was baptized, too. And he was praying. Heaven was opened. And he was praying. Jesus was praying. He was not only marked by the anointing of the Holy spirit, he’s marked as being a man of prayer. Particularly in Luke’s gospel, this theme is emphasized. Great events are set apart by Jesus in prayer. The choosing of the twelve, Peter’s great confession, the transfiguration. Jesus teaches his disciples the Lord’s prayer. Jesus in the garden of Gethsemani. All of these are preceded by Jesus praying. The Son talks to the Father. The eternal dialog of the Father, Son, and spirit is now seen on Earth in the God man, Jesus. And Jesus then invites us as his disciples to enter into this dialog with him. To be marked as his disciples, we also pray to the Father, and we are taught to pray our Father. We are included.

We see the marks of Jesus have been given to us. His sonship belongs to you and I. And not only that, Jesus is marked by divine action. The heavens were open to him. This phrase, the heavens were open, is used throughout the Old Testament in many places. And here it speaks of a peak into the supernatural world that surrounds us that we normally don’t see. And there’s something visible and unmistakable about it, whatever it looked like. New Testament scholar Darryl Bach, he put it this way. He said, The picture is of the living God stepping out of heaven to speak to his people. God enters into their everyday world. And what we see from this is that the Lord takes the initiative to show humanity the way to him. It’s a divine action. God is showing us the way to him through the person and work of Jesus. When you see Jesus, you see the Father acting on behalf of humanity. It’s divinement appointed. And not only that, Jesus is also marked by gentleness. So the spirit descended upon him like a dove. It wasn’t a dove, but it was like a dove. There’s something tangible and visible about the spirit being revealed from heaven in this way.

Well, what’s the significance? The symbol of a dove. Noah sent out the dove from the Ark, came back with the olive branch. Certainly a symbol of new hope, new beginnings. We see the song of Solomon, the lover calls his beloved a The dove. From nature, the dove is recognized for its grace and peacefulness. It’s been a sign of purity and innocence, beauty. Puritan Minister Thomas Goodwin, he pointed out the dove’s faithfulness and his gentleness, and he said this about it. He said, A dove is meek, the most innocent of all birds without gall, without talent, having no fierceness in it, expressing nothing but love and friendship to its mate. How fitting that the spirit poured out upon Jesus in this way, when our savior is about to enter into the work of salvation, for as sweet as a dove speaks with other doves, so may every sinner and Christ speak together. A gentleness to Jesus. Even earlier, we saw Mary and Joseph, they offered a dove at Jesus’ birth. It was the sacrifice of the poor. Jesus is marked by a humbleness in his character as well as a lowness of his birth. In the life of Jesus, we see, in one sense, the bookend of animals, the gentle dove at the beginning of his ministry and the lowly donkey at the end, telling us something about who he is, what he came to do.

Jesus is also marked by the approval of the Father, and sharing that approval is a part of his ministry to us. Verse 17, Behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved son ‘Son’ with whom I am well pleased. The Father speaks his approval to his Son so that we can hear it. It’s for our benefit. Jesus didn’t need to hear this. We did. The Son, the spirit, and the Father, a Trinitarian work through and through. The words of the Father are relational. My beloved Son, the unique Son of God. If that question is asked, well, who is Jesus? He’s the Father’s Son. He’s the beloved Son, the Son that he loves. These are clear echoes in the Old Testament, Psalm 2, Isaiah 42 and 41, the Son of the Father. Jesus then is marked as the man of prayer. Jesus, one who is gentle and humble. He’s publicly declared to be God’s diviny appointed instrument of redemption. Jesus identifies with his people. The Holy spirit rests on him. He’s the spirit enabled called Man of Righteous. It is from these marks we see then the ministry of this Messiah. In verse 15, Jesus answers John’s objection to being baptized.

He said, Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. That’s a rather cryptic response. What does it mean to fulfill all righteousness? While baptism may have been new, what the Father was doing was not new. All the promises of the Old Testament find their fulfillment in Jesus. Jesus was not baptized because he was a sinner who needed cleansed. The sinless man came to identify with his people with sinners who are in need of forgiveness. He came to identify with sinners so that sinners could be saved through him. In fulfilling righteousness, he became our substitute. Our baptism speaks of this as well. Jesus formally takes on the identity of the true Israel of God to accomplish where everyone else failed. The sinless takes on the identity of the sinner so that he could save the sinner. That’s his ministry. It’s what he came to do to to fulfill righteousness. The washing with water is a symbol of our washing in Christ. Does it automatically save a person? Unlike Catholicism, the reform response has always been no. In the same way that circumcision does not save. It’s the sign of belonging to the covenant of God’s people.

It is a sign that we are included in his saving work. It’s not optional for a believer or for children. As the God man, Jesus’ ministry is to be the mediator between the Father and sinful humans. He enters into our world and he takes our brokenness in order to bear it upon himself. He has always had a Ministry of substitution, of atonement. Here in the beginning, we hear the Father’s approval of Jesus before it even starts. Think about that, how powerful approval is. It could be that warm glow that raps around us like a blanket on a cold day. To see a mom or a dad cheering us on in the stands or maybe clapping in approval at a recital. That’s my son, that’s my daughter. How powerful that is. How it hits us deep in the core of who we are. But we also know the terrible dark side of fallen human approval, too. A young woman gives her body to a man because she longs for approval and acceptance, hoping to find some crumbs of love in the midst of his own lustful selfishness. A young boy Commits an act of crime to get the approval of a group of older boys to feel some praise even in a criminal act.

That’s pseudo approval. It’s a discarded husk of the real. It’s cold and empty shell of fallen human approval that’s separated from God. How powerfully destructive that is. The good news of the gospel is that if you are trusting in the promises of Jesus in your salvation, then you are united to Jesus in your baptism, then the Father is pleased with you because he’s pleased with Jesus. You receive that divine approval by bearing the name of Jesus in your baptism even as Jesus bears our sins before the Father. That’s the divine exchange, the good news. In baptism, Jesus identifies with us so that we can be identified with him. He is the conduit for the Father’s love and approval. We do not stand on our own merit. We rest in his. Now, that is bad news if you are self-righteous. If you want some part of you to get recognition for your great efforts, for who you are, and somebody somewhere to throw you an accolade to show how you shine, this is bad news for you. But if you have wearied yourself on the hamster wheel of approval, this is freedom. This sets you free.

The weariedness and the tiredness of constantly trying to find approval, gain approval, approval of God himself. Just do more. Just try harder. Just be better. There’s a freedom here. Because the freedom is resting in what has already been done for you. That’s where the transformation takes place. The Father looks upon you with the same affection and approval that he looks upon his beloved son, his only son. What marked Jesus can now mark us. The coming of the righteous one was unobserved and unnoticed by most. And it tells us that you and I do not have to thrust ourselves into the light to be seen. The Father sees us. The Father is very aware of what takes place around the world and obscure unknown places. We don’t have to be worried about it. It also tells us that we don’t have to pull away from the undesirable because we know what it means to be accepted by grace alone. That we have been accepted not because of anything in us, but because of grace and mercy freely extended to us. Therefore, there is no one who is outside of our purview who we can’t reach or we can’t go.

There is no one or place too low or unworthy of our efforts because we have been received by grace. We have been baptized in the name of the Lord. We have been of our savior Jesus, and we are to bear his marks. We can be a conduit of Father’s approval to other people. I remember this hearing so well as Micah, Tinkham’s dad, Jim. Jim is an amazing man, great Christian man. But I remember Mike is telling me that he would go and cheer one of his classmates at wrestling matches because his dad didn’t come to the meets. So he stood in. The encouragement brought to this teenage wrestler from someone wanting to display the love of God in Christ to him. That’s what that looks like. We’re free to do that. We’re free to offer that. Unconditional love is a sign of your baptism in Christ. That’s a liberty. That’s a largeness. Because what generally happens when we think about approval, approval is something that we long for and want someone else to recognize in us. We use this word all the time, many times in a wrong way. We just want validated, want validated, want validated.

There’s a right way for that, to be sure. But when this is inner driving of the heart that says, I must be seen for what I do or validated before I will do something else, it is sinful, it is broken, and it needs to be confessed. We have been loved. We have been approved. Therefore, we can go. Because otherwise, you’re just on that twisted hamster wheel of approval. I’m going to approve of you when you approve of me approving you. If we do that, right? It’s like, if you show me, then I’ll show you And we’re back on this merit wheel. Jesus frees us from the merit wheel. We don’t have to get approval from somebody else to show them approval. The Mexican standoff, I love you if you love me. No, I’ve been loved unconditionally by God. I bear the name of Jesus in my baptism. Jesus has bore my sins. I have received approval from the Father. That is enough. And we notice from Jesus’ baptism, he doesn’t go to the palace. Where does he go right after this? He goes to temptation in the wilderness. He identifies with his people as sinners to go and do what they could not.

He overcomes all temptation. He defeats Satan in the wilderness just as surely as he defeated him on the cross. And if that’s the mark of Jesus, that’s the mark of us. That there isn’t a sense of entitlement. There isn’t a sense of, now I’m going to be whisked away. My life should be great and fine. No, your life should be marked by Jesus. And it may mean going to obscure places, doing great things for people who don’t really appreciate it, who understand. It could be your children, your spouse, The people you work with. That’s the mission field. That might be your wilderness. But you don’t have to wait for them to recognize your martyrdom for them. Again, that twisted wheel Don’t you know how much I suffer and care for you and what I do and how I lay down? Like, enough. No need guilted into approval. I just need to respond to the approval that has already been given through Christ. For those who put their faith in him, who repented of their sins, who have embraced him as their Lord and savior. This is what that means. It means you rest in him for the work that he has done.

And we take upon us his marks, his characteristics, his approval in order to go and to be that and to love one another, to share that. And some of the hardest places that that has lived out is with the ones who are sitting right next to you in a 10-foot proximity. The hardest places that touch our heart. Allow them, the Father, to wash you afresh and anew in your baptism, to improve upon it. But the unconditional love that he has for his son given to you to wash through you into those around you. Pray with me. Father, thank you. Lord, what can we say but thank you. Our gratitude is so insufficient. But, Father, we love you for what you have done for us. And Lord, we also confess, Lord, we are approval junkies in the wrong areas. And, Father, we ask that you would forgive us for withholding that approval because we wanted it in return. Father, for distorting that approval because of our own sinful hearts. And Lord, we pray that you would not only forgive us, but you would continue to transform us and set us free. Father, set us free to love one another as you called us to.

Father, open our ears to hear your approval to your son, Jesus. Father, thank you for all that you have offered to us in his marks, in his ministry. We bless you in his name. Amen. Please stand all to.

Discaimer: This sermon text was generated by an automated transcription service.