There is nothing God created that He loves like He loves His eternal, uncreated Son.
The Look of John the Baptist (v6)
When God wants to drive a message home to man He speaks verbally to man but also pictorially. Therefore God concerns Himself as much with the presentation of His Prophets as He does their preaching. There is a message in the look of John the Baptist as much as there is in his sermons.
First it is humble. He didn’t dress luxuriously like the Pharisees; he didn’t eat the finest food; he didn’t live in palatial homes.
Second, and more importantly to the informed Jew, is that John is striking the image of Elijah, that legendary OT prophet. John looks like he took his outfit from Elijah’s closet. A long time ago in 2 Kings 1:8 Elijah was described as “a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist.” In case you think that was the fashion of the day it was not. The people describing this man in this outfit were speaking to King Ahaziah of Samaria and when he heard his outfit described he blurted out, “That’s Elijah the Tishbite!”
The thing is that the Jews expected the OT prophet Elijah to return prior to the coming of the Messiah. And we find in the Gospels that Jesus said John the Baptist was Elijah 2.0. In Mark 9:13 Jesus responded to his disciples when they asked him about the teaching of the Jewish leaders that said Elijah must return. Jesus said, “Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished”. Jesus is more explicit in Matthew 11:14 when He says, “And if you are willing to accept it, he [John the Baptist] is the Elijah who was to come.”
This outfit would have only reminded the Jews of Elijah, and, stirred up their Messianic hopes to a feverish pitch. Luke 3:15 says, “The people were all waiting expectantly and wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.”
Second: The Message of John the Baptist (v7-8) John’s message had 3 parts to it.
First, Jesus is superior. “After me will come one…”
Second, Jesus is supremely worthy, “the thongs of whose sandals…”
Third, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit
THE BAPTISM OF JESUS CHRIST (9-11)
Jesus was expected to baptize people. Here we see He is baptized. What are we to make of this?
Jesus’ baptism is of great significance. The question however, is What is that significance? Why is Jesus getting baptized? Let’s allow ourselves to be confused. Let’s allow the apparent incongruity to grab our curiosity and make us press into our study to find out why Jesus would get baptized.
Its confusing for several reasons. First, because John’s baptism was for sinners who were repenting. But Jesus doesn’t need to repent – He’s sinless. Second, John’s baptism was to get people ready and cause them to anticipate the arrival of Jesus. So, why does Jesus need to anticipate Jesus? If Jesus is there, isn’t He there? The waiting is over…
To bring out the strangeness of this let’s use an illustration. Suppose you are one of the hosts of the upcoming “Dinner for Six”. And lets say you’re like everyone else and you have to “get the house ready” for company – mow the lawn, clean the piles off the countertops and tables, put laundry away, vacuum, dishes, dust, and so forth. You do a lot of prep because people are coming over and you want the house to be ready for them. You perform your preparations because you are anticipating their soon arrival. Now what if the couples you were having over showed up 3 hours early and you see them pull in the driveway and you’re not ready. We all know that feeling right? But they walk up to the door with their arms full of buckets, mops, vacuums, cleaners, paper towels and so forth. They come in and they roll up their sleeves, and they start helping you clean. “Wait a minute!” you gasp. “What are you doing? You’re the ones I’m getting ready for. I’m the one who is supposed to get things ready for you guys! You’re not supposed to be here helping me get ready for you!”
The strangeness of that situation is akin to the strangeness of Jesus getting baptized. He didn’t need to repent. The Jews needed to repent. They were getting ready for Him to show up and their baptism was a sign of that. Jesus didn’t need to wait for Himself. Jesus was participating in the very act that everyone else was supposed to perform in anticipation of Him. He showed up early with cleaning supplies.
So, if Jesus doesn’t need to repent or anticipate Himself, what purpose could His baptism serve? Two words: Identification and Anticipation – but a different sort.
First, Identification. Jesus identified with the human race first by becoming a man. His identification was more specific in that He identified with the Jewish people. He was their God and He became one of them: born a Jew, under the Law, circumcised on the 8th day, etc. Yet, His identification with the whole human race was pressed further in that He identified with them in their sin. Not that He was a sinner, but, that even in their sin He came as a man to them to save them. He was not actually guilty of sin, but, would bear their sins. He was not a sinner, but, He in having all our sins counted against Him instead of us He was being “numbered with sinners”.
You could say Jesus was identifying Himself with His forerunner, John. In a way credentialing John’s ministry. And certainly that would be true, for if John were a fraud Jesus would never have approached him.
But the essential point here is that Jesus was identifying with sinful man. God said in Isaiah 53:12, speaking of Messiah, “He was numbered with the transgressors”. What does it mean that He identified with sinful man? What does it mean He was numbered with the transgressors? Does it mean He also had personal sin, like the rest of mankind? Like us? Not at all. He was the Holy One, the Perfect Son of God, without sin in every way. He came to identify meaning He came to be counted among us. First as a man, as human. This is His incarnation, His humanness. He was “the Word that became flesh”. He was “all the fullness of Deity dwelling in bodily form” He was the God-Man. He was the 2nd Person of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God, who became a man. As the ancient Nicene creed states: “who for us men, and for our salvation, was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the virgin Mary, and was made man”. Or later, the more developed statement in the Chalcedon Creed: “our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhood and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards His manhood; like us in all respects apart from sin…” He identified with man by becoming man.
Now do not make the mistake of thinking He was like man in sin. He was like man as a man. Think of it like this: He didn’t become an angel, He didn’t become an animal. He became a human being. He took on a real human body, real humanity, the real nature of a man. Like Adam was perfect in humanity before the Fall; like all the righteous will be at the resurrection. Without sin. Sin is a corruption of humanity, not the design of humanity. Jesus came as the only pure, non-corrupt human that ever drew breath. In His incarnation, His becoming human, Jesus identified with humanity. He had to become human to save humans.
But His baptism also Anticipated something: His death. Jesus’ own baptism at the beginning of His ministry symbolized His death and resurrection at the end of His earthly ministry. Baptism is a picture of death, burial and resurrection. John was not sprinkling people, he was immersing them (“Jesus came up out of the water” v10). Down into the water picturing a person’s dying and lying down in death. They go down into the waters to die and those waters wash the person of the cause of their death: sin. Thus, they are raised up out of the waters, raised up to new life, coming up from the “water”, from death no longer the same as when they went down.
So in a way Jesus was in fact identifying with the sin of man. But not that He had sin in common with mankind, not that He was Himself a sinner and so could relate “one sinner to another”. It was the sins of everyone else – all of us – that He took on Himself. It was the guilt of everyone else, Himself excluded, that He was charged with. God was going to transfer the guilt of all sin to Jesus and Jesus was to bear the penalty for all sin in His own death.
“Baptism for the LORD was a symbolic action picturing His eventual baptism into death at Calvary and His rising from the dead. Thus at the very outset of His public ministry, there was this vivid foreshadow of a cross and an empty tomb.” (MacDonald, 1319)
“He identified Himself publicly with the ruined race that He came to save. His baptism in the Jordan was a vivid picture of His coming baptism in the river of death at Calvary.” -Phillips 24
Now Jesus was not going to die for His sins. He was going down into death because of our sins. The sins that necessitated His death were the sins of everyone else – the sins that God was laying on Him (Isaiah 53:4-6). So while not having personal sin like we do, He identified still with our sin by taking it on Himself. And so He was “numbered with the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12).
JESUS ANOINTED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT (V10)
Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit. The Father anointed Jesus with the Spirit. The 1st Person of the Trinity anointed the 2nd Person of the Trinity with the 3rd Person of the Trinity. Matthew 12:18; Luke 4:18; John 3:34; Acts 10:38;
This meant first of all that Jesus worked in the power of the Spirit. His preaching and His miracles were all a demonstration of Divine words and works energized by the Spirit of God.
Secondly, the anointing of the Spirit also meant that Jesus was distinguished as the Christ. In both Matthew 12:18 and Luke 4:18 Jesus quotes the OT prophecies concerning Christ. In both of these instances the point is that God would distinguish the Christ as the Christ by anointing Him with the Holy Spirit.
Application: Just as the Christ was distinguished by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, so too are all Christ-believers. Anyone who has believed on the Christ is anointed with the Holy Spirit as a result of their faith.
Application: And as Jesus’ ministry was powered by the Spirit, so too is any Christ-centered ministry after Him, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8). When the Spirit is at work in a ministry that ministry is focused on bringing glory to Jesus. The life and ministry of Jesus on earth was one of humility, love, obedience, holiness, righteousness, faithfulness and service. Every ministry powered by the Holy Spirit will be characterized the same way.
Application: all true ministry is done in the power of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing man does “for God” without doing it with the Spirit’s enablement. “Without me you can do nothing” Jesus declared. The Apostles ran scared when Jesus was arrested, but, they were transformed into bold preachers when they received the Holy Spirit. No work done for God is done apart from the Spirit of God.
JESUS ATTESTED BY THE FATHER (V11)
Note the presence of the whole Trinity in this short passage: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. At the launching of the ministry of Jesus we see the full Trinity involved.
Who do the people say that I am? Jesus asked His disciples about the vox populi regarding Himself around a campfire one quiet night. That is the crux of it all: who is Jesus? People said Jesus was Elijah, a prophet, John the Baptist resurrected, a demon, a fraud, a blasphemer, a Law-breaker and so on. Here, however, the one single attestation of who Jesus was that matters is given: God the Father affirms Jesus. From heaven His voice thunders and declares 3 things:
First, Jesus is His Son. “You are my son.” Mark began the Gospel with “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Demons attested to Jesus’ sonship (3:11; 5:7). A Roman Centurion looking upon the dead Jesus hanging on the cross declared “Surely this man was the Son of God.” (15:39). Jesus Himself, on trial, answered one and one question only the whole interrogation: Are you the Christ, the Son of God? “I am” He said (14:61-62). That answer is what killed Him. The testimony of Jesus about Himself and the testimony of His Father in Heaven is that Yes, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The answer from man was, “No, you’re not”. So they killed Him. But, God, vindicating His testimony of Jesus, vindicating His Son’s own testimony, undid what man did to Jesus by raising Him up from death. By bringing Him up from the dead God’s attestation that Jesus is His Son was held up. “Who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection” (Rom. 1:4).
Does it mean that Jesus is a created being because He is God’s Son? Are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and their forerunners the Arians correct in saying that Jesus is a creature – the highest creature of all but a creature nonetheless? Emphatically no. We are neither Arians, nor Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we are not in the least bit like them. They are a cult, not a denomination. They are a gross deviation from Revealed Biblical Truth.
Jesus is the eternal Son of God, which is to say that He has always existed, without beginning, uncreated, as the Word of God, the Son of God, the 2nd Person of the Triune God. When Jesus came in the flesh, He did not only then begin to exist. “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” (John 1:1-2). “And now Father glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” How can God share His glory with Jesus when He said in Isaiah “I will not share my glory with anyone else.”? He can if Jesus is God – actually, He wouldn’t be sharing it with Jesus as though Jesus was gifted with it. If Jesus is God, and He is, then it is His rightfully by virtue of the fact He is God and that glory is His intrinsically. He and the Father – and the Spirit – share that glory in the sense that they each enjoy the same experience of divine glory that comes with being God.
Within the Trinity are three distinct and divine Persons. Between Them is a relationship that has existed eternally. They are all three eternal: Father, Son and Spirit. None ever “began” to exist or was ever “caused”. They are what Aristotle said was “the Unmoved Mover”, the “Uncaused Cause”, “the Beginingless Beginner”. But a certain order you could say exists between them relationally. The Father has a certain preeminence, followed by the Son, followed by the Spirit. None are more or less God, or more or less significant. But, in relation to One Another an order is there. And it has always been there. The Son has always been the Son, and, the Son has always been God the Son. Psalm 2:7 quotes the Son quoting the Father, “I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are my Son, today I have become your Father.” This is quoted again by NT writers in Hebrews 1. Little known is a clear statement in Proverbs of God having a divine Son, “Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name and the name of His Son? Tell me if you know!” (Proverbs 30:4). John the Apostle finishes His Gospel by telling us the reason he wrote it in the first place, “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (Jn. 20:31).
Secondly, the Father affirms His love for Jesus. “You are my son, whom I love…” In Colossians 1:13, “For He [the Father] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.”
How can we possibly understand this love the Father has for the Son? There is nothing God created that He loves like He loves His eternal, uncreated Son. To His Son He is giving all things. To His Son He will give a name higher than any other name. To His Son He will make everything else bow down to. To His Son He carries in His heart the most powerful love in all existence: the fullest most intense love of the most immense Being proceeding out towards that which He cherishes eternally, infinitely – His One and Only Begotten Son. This is a love tracing all the way back into eternity past. God has been loving His Son forever.
Quote Macleod pg 73
Application: Meditate on the intensity and immensity of God’s love for His Son. We focus all the time today on “Gods love for us” and “sharing God’s love for people.” Set ourselves aside a minute and ponder the love God has for His own Son – without us in the picture. It is a marvelous mental and spiritual exercise to contemplate the extraordinary love that exists nowhere among men, and nowhere among angels. I think in doing this 2 things will happen. First, we will understand more the way in which God loves us. Second, we will be more adequate to tell people of God’s love for them. I dare say we really don’t know what we’re talking about when we do even now.
C.S. Lewis quote on the Trinity and love. All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that ‘God is love’. But they seem not to notice that the words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love.
Now, put that in your mind, and, grasping how much God the Father loves His Son, ask yourself this question: “What was it that God gave up in order to save me for all eternity?” He gave up His own Son, His most precious, beloved treasure….to gain you.
Application: How could anyone resist the love of God in light of a sacrifice of such magnitude? If God gave up His cherished and beloved Son for you, don’t you find your heart melted today for Christ?
Application: Christian, what treasure will you give for Him? What earthly gain compares? What indulgence of your flesh? What sin do you keep? What do you hold on to and in holding on to it declare “This is more important to me than even God!”
Third, the Father affirms that Jesus pleases Him. Here we are led again to the theme of Jesus as the Servant of the Lord. As the Servant of the Lord, He came to do the Lord’s will. His perfect obedience perfectly satisfied His Heavenly Father. Thus, the Father declares, “With You I am well pleased.”
First this speaks to the sufficiency of the work of Jesus in making purification for sins. This theological point underpins our whole faith.
Secondly, that the Father is pleased with Jesus shows us the uniqueness of Jesus in this regard. No one else could please God. The work of Jesus accomplished what our work never could do: namely, pleasing God.