“Baptized with Sinners, Anointed for Service, Manifested as God’s Son” (Matthew 3:13-17)

Th Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 12, 2020

“Baptized with Sinners, Anointed for Service, Manifested as God’s Son” (Matthew 3:13-17)

On this first Sunday after the Epiphany, the Gospel reading every year is the account of the Baptism of Our Lord. That was the great event when our Lord Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist. The heavens were opened. The Spirit of God descended on Jesus like a dove. And the Father’s voice came from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Today I want to say three things about this event, three things on which your very salvation depends: 1) In his baptism, Jesus was baptized with sinners. 2) In his baptism, Jesus was anointed for service. And 3) In his baptism, Jesus was manifested as God’s Son. “Baptized with Sinners, Anointed for Service, Manifested as God’s Son.”

1) Baptized with Sinners: “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.”

This was a baptism that shouldn’t have taken place. After all, who were the people John the Baptist was baptizing? Sinners! People coming confessing their sins. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. So, what was Jesus doing there? He didn’t have any sins to confess. He didn’t have anything to repent of.

John the Baptist recognizes this difficulty, this incongruity. At first, he tries to prevent Jesus from being baptized: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John, whom Jesus would later call, “the greatest among those born of women”–even John had to confess his inferiority and his own sinfulness when standing next to Jesus. How much more, then, do we? You and I have many sins to confess, sins that stain our soul and would separate us from God. But not so with Jesus. He is the one sinless and holy man. Jesus alone kept God’s law perfectly. No sins to confess. No need to repent. John the Baptist recognizes this, and so he wonders why Jesus would come to him to be baptized.

Jesus understands what John is saying, but he says to go ahead anyway: “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” “To fulfill all righteousness,” that’s why Jesus is coming for baptism. God’s righteousness, his acting in history to save and deliver his people, the righteous plan God began in the Old Testament–that righteousness now is being fulfilled in the coming of Christ. His being baptized is part of that fulfilling. Jesus now is setting out on that course, to fulfill all righteousness, here at his baptism.

How so? By being baptized. By being baptized with sinners. This is a sign of how Jesus will complete his course. By standing with, and in the place of, sinners. God’s righteousness, his acting righteously to save sinners, would be fulfilled by Christ standing with us sinners and taking our place. From his baptism on to his crucifixion, that is the route this righteous course will take him. Jesus takes our sins on his shoulders and carries them to the cross. There he will suffer and die in our place. And that saving mission is shown right here in his baptism. By fulfilling all righteousness in this way, Jesus is simply fulfilling his name, which means “Savior”: “And you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Point 2) Anointed for Service: “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.”

In this baptism, Jesus Christ was anointed for service. In other words, Jesus was set apart as the Christ. He was anointed with the Spirit. This marks him as the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. That’s what the word “Christ” or “Messiah” means: “The Anointed One.”

What was so special about being anointed? Well, in the Old Testament, certain men were anointed–literally, they had oil or ointment poured over their heads–when they were set apart for particular holy offices. Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed. The anointing showed that they were God’s choice, that God’s blessing would remain upon them, that God would empower them with his Spirit for the office they were entering.

For example, as a young man David was anointed to be the king of Israel. He was marked and set apart for that office. Later, the Lord told King David that one of his sons, one of his descendants, would one day be the great king who would usher in God’s everlasting kingdom. This son of David, the long-promised king that the people were looking for, came to be known as the Messiah, the Christ.

“The Anointed One.” That’s who Jesus is. That’s who Jesus is shown to be when the Holy Spirit descends on him and rests upon him in the form of a dove. Jesus is anointed with the Spirit, marking him as God’s choice. The Spirit will empower Jesus for the ministry he is about to begin. In his baptism, Jesus is anointed as the Christ, and he is anointed for service.

Centuries earlier, the prophet Isaiah had written: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him.” And that Spirit would empower the Messiah “to open the eyes that are blind” and to do all the other things that show the new messianic age had arrived. Well, in his ministry Jesus did just those things. He opened the eyes of the blind, both literally and figuratively. So, when Jesus is baptized and the Spirit rests on him, he is being anointed and empowered for his messianic ministry of mercy.

The apostle Peter later put it like this, in the Book of Acts: “You yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

Those healings and acts of mercy that Christ performed were signs of what his saving mission will ultimately accomplish: It will result in the complete restoration of human beings and of creation itself. By taking our sins and our death from us, Christ Jesus gives us in their place wholeness and healing and life. The works of mercy he does during his ministry signal what is in store for all of us: The full blessings of God’s kingdom, eternal life and wholeness forever.

Point 3) Manifested as God’s Son: “And behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”

Who is this Jesus fellow? Who is this man being baptized there by John? At his baptism, Jesus was manifested, made known, “epiphanied,” as the Son of God. That’s a third thing this baptism is about, namely, Jesus’ identity, who he is.

You know, in a sense, Israel had been God’s “son.” In fact, we read in the Book of Exodus: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Israel is my firstborn son.’” And as God’s son, Israel should have been expected to obey God’s will. But of course, Israel failed, miserably. Israel broke the covenant, time and time again, and forfeited their standing as God’s son.

But now here comes Jesus. He is, in a sense, Israel reduced to one. And he will do what Israel failed to do. Jesus will be God’s obedient son. How often did Jesus say, “I have come to do the will of my Father who sent me.” And that’s what he did. Above all, obedience to his Father’s will meant Christ embracing his entire saving mission–even to the point of going to the cross and dying for the sins of the world. Knowing all too well what he was about to face, Jesus the obedient Son would pray, “Not my will, Father, but thine be done.”

Jesus’ acceptance of his mission, with all the suffering and sacrifice it would entail–this is why the Father says, in the voice from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Father is affirming his beloved Son. He’s putting his stamp of approval on him. “I know that this my Son has come to carry out my righteous, saving plan. And he will do it.”

Christ is God’s “son,” not only in terms of his obedience, but also, he is literally, truly, God’s Son in his very nature! From everlasting to everlasting, he is the only-begotten Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. This man Jesus, being baptized with sinners, taking their sins upon him and even dying on the cross–this is God’s own Son, in the flesh!

The God-man, and none other–this is your Savior! Therefore, my friends, you can be absolutely sure that your salvation is secure in him. Your salvation does not depend on your own fumbling efforts. Your salvation depends on Christ, and he is absolutely reliable. He paid the price for your sins. He made the perfect sacrifice. His holy blood covers it all. His resurrection shows that this is so. Jesus has gained the victory over sin and death. Your eternal life is guaranteed by the life and death and resurrection of our risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters. in your baptism, you have been joined to Jesus. All the blessings of Christ are yours now. You are God’s beloved children. You belong to God now, and you will inherit the full blessings of his kingdom for eternity. Take comfort in that, my friends! This reality will revolutionize how you think and live and act. It will change your sense of identity.

Who you are is determined by who Christ is. And in his baptism, we discover these wonderful truths about our Lord Jesus Christ: He was baptized with sinners. He was anointed for service. And he was manifested as God’s Son. And because he was, your identity and your life are found in him.

Published in: on January 10, 2020 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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