Sermon from Matthew 3:13-17
During the season of Epiphany, we reflect upon Jesus, the Light of the World who has been revealed to us. We spent the season of Advent anticipating the coming King, and now the King has come! As we consider the King who came, I’d like to examine a passage where one aspect of Jesus was revealed to us – the Baptism of Jesus.
“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.”Matthew 3:16-17
God reveals to all the listeners present, and to all of us who read these words, that Jesus was his Son – his beloved Son, with whom God was well pleased. The root of the word “beloved” in this passage is the form of love that in Greek is called agape, which is the highest form of love.
One thing to note about this passage is that we are clearly told that all three Persons of the Holy Trinity are named as being present here. The Father is speaking, the Son is in the waters, and the Spirit is descending like a dove. The Trinity is very hard for us to understand, but one thing we can understand is that the Trinity is the purest demonstration we have of agape love. The divine fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all eternally delighting in each other.
Don’t we all want to we are completely loved and delighted in? Of course we do. This is wonderful.
However, this passage contains a tricky problem as well. Just a few verses before this, John tells those present that he is baptizing people for repentance (v. 11). And in that very same verse, he predicts the coming of the Holy One that John isn’t worthy to even touch his shoes. However, Jesus them comes to John to be baptized with the baptism of repentance, and this baffles John as much as it baffles us! Jesus doesn’t need to repent!
But when John protested that he shouldn’t be baptizing Jesus, Jesus told him, ” Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15).
Let me explain this using a quote from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity:
Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor– that is the only way out of a “hole.” This process of surrender–this movement full speed astern–is what Christians call repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person–and he would not need it.C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 4
Jesus enters into our humanity, and he bears ALL of it. By bearing our sin and repenting perfectly on our behalf, Jesus also enabled us to become the beloved of God. We have been ushered into that marvelous fellowship of delight and agape love through the work of Jesus Christ, who “fulfill[ed] all righteousness” (v.15) for us.