Sermon Notes – 5 August 2018 – Matthew 3:13-17

This message was preached at the West Campus of the Austin Stone Community Church. Audio of the sermon can be found here.

Matthew 3:13-17 – The Baptism of Jesus

West Campus – August 5, 2018

Intro:

  • We have the grade-schoolers in the service with us this morning and we love that. So, if you struggle to pay attention the whole time little buddies, don’t worry, so do your parents, and I am praying that God is going to help you understand what He wants you to understand today. If any of it is confusing, ask your parents, they know lots and will be glad to help. All good?
  • We are working verse by verse through the gospel of Matthew, and over the last few weeks we have heard all about the birth of Jesus, about his family tree (which was pretty shady in parts), about his young life as a refugee who had to flee to a foreign land, about the paranoia of a wicked ruler who didn’t like the idea of a true king, and about Jesus’ wonderful, eccentric cousin John who began to pave the way for the public ministry of Jesus.
  • Where we jump into the text today is where that public ministry kicks off, with Jesus’ baptism. A couple of things about this event.
    • Jesus is probably 30 years old. Brings meaning to a lot of our seemingly mundane waiting. Think about it, the Son of God goes through 30 years of obscurity, learning, growing, waiting, studying, preparing.
    • Important event here in the Scripture. Mentioned explicitly in all four gospels (Jesus birth is only recorded in two). So, it is important.
    • First time that God speaks audibly and directly to His people in over 400 years. So, it is important. Let’s read.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 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; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” [1] 

  • I remember my own baptism like it was yesterday. I was 12 years old. My parents (wisely I believe) had me wait quite a few years from when Christ saved me when I was 7 and waited for me to be a pre-teen who would start to be impacted by things like rejection and scorn, and then they said… “Go for it son. Publicly declare your love for and need for Jesus Christ”. It was a cold Johannesburg evening in July and I was baptized with my best friend in the Berario Chapel, which was a meeting place for the local Christian Brethren church we were part of. I remember how cold the water was. I remember my dad’s tears. I remember the New King James Bible I was given as a gift. I remember feeling clean, and I remember knowing that I needed cleansing, because I remember being haunted by my own sin.
  • Baptism is a massive deal for Christians. We have fought about how and when to do it – to be sure – but to be Christian is to know that it must be done. Why? Well, it is an essential sacrament that has been given to the church from the first instructions to the church (Matt 28) and it serves as an IDENTIFICATION and a PROCLAMATION.

 

  • IDENTIFICATION
  • I am on team Jesus! That is why this ceremony was necessarily public, and it was why – in part – it wasn’t difficult to persecute Christians in the early church. You just went to a baptism and wrote down their names.
  • They were saying, I identify as a sinner, and I identify Jesus as my Savior. Romans 6 tells us this powerfully. We are united with him in his death and in his resurrection.

 

  • PROCLAMATION
  • Jesus died and rose from the dead! This is what we are saying publicly when we do it. They were publicly identifying with Jesus, and they were publicly stating that they believed in the truthfulness, necessity and efficacy of the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
  • They were proclaiming that Jesus had died and been raised to life, and that they too were dead, and had been resurrected.

 

  • All of this, should lead us to a question though with today’s text. Why on earth then did Jesus need to be baptized? If we believe that He was the sinless Son of God, and if John at the time (as we saw last week) was offering a baptism of repentance, available for anyone who knew that they couldn’t be justified through their birthright as people of Israel (Matt 3:9), then why would Jesus do it?
  • This perplexed me for many years (and the power of it still does), and it perplexed John when it was happening. Let’s look at the text again.

 

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

 

  • John’s like. “You are the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. I am the one who has stuff to repent of. You baptize me.”
  • Jesus answers him, with the first recorded words of his adult life, and they are astonishing.

 

15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

  • I just love the posture of Jesus right here at the inauguration of His earthly ministry. He is all in, and there is nothing that will stand in the way of His full obedience to the Father.
  • So here is the first observation…

 

  1. The Baptism of Jesus shows us what total submission and surrender looks like
    1. Baptism was a humbling act. It was an act of dependence and in the context of John’s ministry, an admission of need.
    2. As Jesus goes down into the water, he is powerfully affirming the heralding ministry of John, powerfully fulfilling prophecy, and powerfully launching his own ministry, but in a way that is so humble.
    3. Remember that the Pharisees and the Sadducees were coming out in their numbers to watch these baptisms, and as Jesus goes down into the water, it must look like a sign of weakness to them and not strength, and it probably sets their minds running… “I wonder what he has done that makes this necessary”, but nowhere does Jesus defend himself. He doesn’t say to the crowd… “Hey guys, this isn’t actually necessary, but I am teaching you something.”
    4. He says to John, “Let it be so now”. I love how the CSB translates it, which is, “Allow it, for now”.
    5. Why? Because Jesus is saying, “nothing must stand in the way of my full submission to the Father in this earthly rescue mission. Nothing. And I want to start in that posture. Poured out, humble, obedient, stopping at nothing, fulfilling all righteousness.”
    6. Friends, this is actually the true posture of the Christian life and I confess that I resist it with everything in me. Nothing should stand in the way of our obedience to God, nothing, and yet so much does, and it is usually associated with pride.
    7. We continue to ask the “is that really necessary” questions, while Christ adopts the “let it be so” response of submission.
    8. He wants to fulfill all righteousness, I usually want to know what the minimum amount of obedience is necessary.
      1. Eg. Finances, purity, humility.
    9. Friends, in his baptism, Jesus is launching His ministry of the Kingdom. Soon, He is going to teach us the constitution of that Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount, but here He is calling us to follow Him into Kingdom life. To follow Him down into the waters of humility and obedience.

 

Okay,

  1. The Baptism of Jesus shows us what total submission and surrender looks like
  2. The Baptism of Jesus shows us what Jesus will do to secure our righteousness
    1. We said earlier that baptism is an identification and a proclamation, and Jesus’ baptism is no different, except it is forward looking and not backward looking.
    2. Powerfully, in his baptism, Jesus is showing the watching world that he will be buried and resurrected. They will lay him down in a tomb and he will rise up out of it. This is part of what must make The Father so pleased with Him in this moment, as he knows from the heavenlies what His wonderful Son is going to do.
    3. But even more than that, this is Christ identifying with us so magnificently in this moment.
      1. As we identify with His righteousness, He is here identifying with our sin. Lowering Himself into it, taking it upon Himself. Submitting Himself to the grave.
      2. John’s objection is that Jesus is in his place and he is in Jesus’ place, and Jesus is like… “Exactly! That is what I am doing.”
    4. Ah friends, when I think of the glory of the great exchange, it is too much.

 

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21).

 

  1. We get to identify with Christ’s resurrection, because he identified with our lowly death.
  2. We get to identify with his righteousness, because he identified with our wickedness.
  3. We get to identify with his power, because he identified with our weakness.

 

Okay,

  1. The Baptism of Jesus shows us what total submission and surrender looks like
  2. The Baptism of Jesus shows us what Jesus will do to secure our righteousness
  3. The Baptism of Jesus shows us what the perfect, loving community of the Trinity is like

 

16 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; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

  1. This is one of only two occasions (this is referenced in the three other gospels, but they record the same occasion) in all of scripture where we see all three members of the Trinity present and manifest at the same time.
  2. The other occasion is … CREATION, where we see God the Father eternally present, God the Spirit hovering over the waters, and God the Son found in the word of God speaking out creation (John 1 confirms that this was Jesus).
  3. What Matthew is clearly pointing us to is that in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the entire history of the world is being retold. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit made the world, and now, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is remaking, redeeming and saving the world. They are re-creating.
  4. Now, I cannot explain the complexities of the Trinity. No one can. I can rather believe it and ask God to teach me what it means for me today. I have stopped asking of the Trinity, “How can this be true?” and I have started asking, “If this is true, what does it mean to me?”
  5. So, let’s just look at three statements quickly about the Trinity that we see evidenced in their manifestation here.

 

The Trinity is an eternal relationship of loving self-sacrifice and other centeredness

  • God the Father is affirming and glorifying the Son. God the Son is submitting to and glorifying the Father, and God the Holy Spirit is empowering and glorifying the Son.
  • In John, Jesus prays that God the Father would glorify the Son with the glory that they shared before the world began. Every member of the Trinity is focused on and hinged on and prioritized by the glory of the other.
  • C.S. Lewis wrote most profoundly on this topic in Mere Christianity when he said: “In Christianity God is not a static thing…but a dynamic , pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance.”
  • Cornelius Plantinga added: “…the persons within God exalt each other, commune with each other, and defer to one another… Each divine person harbors the others at the center of his being. In constant movement of overture and acceptance, each person envelops and circles the others. God’s interior life therefore overflows with regard for others.”
  • In essence then, the one thing that is eternal, the one thing that supersedes any of us, that has always been, is a loving community that knows, loves and serves one another.

God creates man in the image and likeness of Himself, and part of that image is other-centered community

  • In Genesis 1:26 we see God saying “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness”.
  • The “our” is super important. We are made in the image and likeness of the Trinity, and we are invited into the great sacred dance of other-centeredness. This is why God concludes that it isn’t good for man to be alone. That verse isn’t an indictment on singleness, it is a comment on self-centeredness.

 The secret to joy, freedom and purpose is found in an other-centered approach to people and to God

  • God was eternally satisfied and joyful in this community before man was made. I think that is an essential thing to consider. He didn’t make us because he was lonely. He didn’t make us because he was needy. He made us to invite us into this great dance of joy that He has been experiencing for all time.
  • Let’s just think about this for a sec. Where does this all go wrong? What really is the nature of sin? It is usually the serving and satisfying of self above all others. We step out of the dance and we ask everyone else to revolve around us.
  • How many of the relationships in our life struggle because we are committed to the other serving us and they are committed to us serving them?
    • Marriages? They just cannot flourish like this. They cannot, and yet many of us have marriages like this. What are you doing for me? How are you meeting my needs? When was the last time you did something for me?
    • Friendships? They don’t work when we ask, “How well has the other one served me lately? I am going to withhold until they serve me better.”
    • Some of you might be bent out of shape because you do love and serve others and you aren’t experiencing any joy. What is the motive for serving? Often if you pull it back even our selfless acts have hugely selfish motives. “I hope I get a nice thank you. A FB tag about how awesome I am would be nice. I hope they now think I am awesome.” It is still self-serving. We are such a mess aren’t we?
  1. In the baptism of Jesus, Matthew is telling us and showing us that God is inviting us back in to the dance. This is what the Trinity is like. You are made in that image.
  2. What if we just stopped to consider the wonder of the Trinity this morning?

 

Consider the love of the Father

  1. I love how the Father affirms His love for His Son here. What a moment. Oh, what we would give to have God say this to us. It would solve almost all of our maladies. But remember, that because of the Great Exchange, the love and approval that the Father has for the Son is now given to us.
  2. When we baptized people at BBC, we would tell them on the way out the door that they were God’s beloved sons and daughters, and that He was well pleased with them. Many really struggled with that.
  3. Look at what AW Tozer said…

“The Lord takes peculiar pleasure in His people. Many think of God as far removed, gloomy and mightily displeased with everything, gazing down in a mood of fixed apathy upon a world in which He has long ago lost interest. Now in Christ all believing souls are objects of God’s delight.” – A.W. Tozer

 

Consider the humility and gentleness of the Son

  1. That he would identify with us in our weakness. That he would seek us out, and come to get us, and die for us before we knew we needed him.
  2. That he would go under the water like a sinner, so you can be pulled out of the water like a son.

 

Consider the power and necessity of the Spirit

  1. That God’s own Son would have the necessity to live a Spirit-filled life and yet many of us are content with our own strength.
  2. That He would use that Spirit’s power to fight temptation, to endure hardship, to minister powerfully, and yet many of us would continue to say a polite, “no thank you” to the Father’s offer of more of that Spirit for our lives.

 

Conclusion:

  • Jesus fulfilled all righteousness.
  • Let us live lives that are identified by and proclaiming the righteousness of our King.
  • Become a believer.
  • Get baptized.
  • Ask God for more of the Spirit.
  • Submit in obedience.

[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Mt 3:13–17.

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