Matthew 3:13-17: With Whom I Am Well Pleased
January 6, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist is one of the most compelling and dramatic moments in the Gospel accounts. It has several remarkable features.
For one, we see Jesus here showing a degree of humility that is extraordinary. John is correct: Jesus does not “need” to be baptized. Baptism is a statement of repentance, and therefore it necessitates having something to repent about. Jesus, as God’s Son, and perfect in his righteousness, did not therefore need to be baptized.
Two, what is more, John is also correct that if anyone was to be baptized the order should be reversed. John, though a righteous prophet, was not perfect, and it was his task to point to Jesus, not the other way around, and so if anyone was to be baptized in their relationship, if one was to baptize the other, the correct way to do it would be for John to be baptized by Jesus. That would have established the seniority and priority of Jesus in the public eye, and therefore if any baptizing was to be done, that was the way to do it.
But Jesus has a higher goal. “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (3:15). The saying comes across as a little opaque; what does Jesus mean? The point is that because Jesus’ purpose is to be the perfect Son that Israel was not and none of us are, therefore this baptism too—as it was the righteous and right thing for those following God to do—was something that he should do as well. In his life, as well as his death, Jesus is representative of the righteousness that we should have (but do not have). He therefore can “fulfill” all righteousness and all the demands of the “law.” Therefore (taking the conversation further than is explicit in the text this morning), we can, when we trust Christ, receive his perfect righteousness as an “alien” righteousness and be righteous in God’s eyes through the perfect life and death of Jesus.
The Spirit of God descending on Jesus “like a dove” (3:16) is not giving Jesus something that he does not already have—or establishing his essence in a way that it was not already established from eternity past; it is a visible statement of what will be spoken audibly by explanation in the next verse: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (3:17). This moment shows those who looked, and those who now hear, that Jesus is God’s Son, and that the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is one of pleasure, joy, love and eternal delight.
In Christ, through faith in Jesus, we have that delight in us too. We are, through faith in Christ, established and secure in the presence of God (Romans 5:1-2), and God, because of Jesus and his life (and death), delights in us and is now pleased with us. Would you take a moment now to put your faith in Jesus as your righteousness? And would you now rejoice in the pleasure of God in Jesus? And in Jesus receive that approval as his righteousness is now reckoned to you?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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