Jack Graham - Beloved Son
Today we're going to focus on Jesus, the Son of God, the Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ. The "Beloved Son". And this is majestic text that we find in our Bibles. It is a story about Jesus that is recorded in all four of the Gospel accounts: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. All four saw this as noteworthy and a milestone, a marker in the life of Jesus, because it speaks of Jesus launching His mission of redemption on the earth. And He does it with a beautiful and prayerful act of personal devotion, and with the promise and the approval of the Heavenly Father. So read with me, beginning at verse 13, "Then Jesus came from Galilee", note again, there's that name, "Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John", this is John the Baptist, "to be baptized by him".
So this would have been a walk of 60, perhaps 80 miles. Very important for Jesus that He would be baptized. So He walked 60 to 80 miles from His hometown of Nazareth to be baptized somewhere on the Jordan River by John the Baptist. We don't know where. When we travel to Israel with our group, we always have a baptism in the Jordan River. It's a great moment. We don't know where Jesus was baptized exactly, of course, but somewhere on that river that runs from the north to the south into the Dead Sea in the desert. So Jesus came from Galilee to be baptized by John. "And 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.'"
Mark those words. Then he consented. "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.'" The question that everyone must answer is: Who is Jesus? And there are many answers. The devil makes sure that people have a lot of different answers as to who is Jesus. Some would say a messenger from God. Others would say a miracle worker. Others would say a great moral teacher. Others would say a mystic of some kind. Some would say a mad man, a lunatic. He thought He was God and wasn't. Some would say a prophet. But Jesus would say to His disciples: "Who do you say that I am"?
And just as the disciples must answer that question, so must we answer the question: Who is Jesus? Is He more than a man? As Josh McDowell wrote, "Is He more than a Carpenter"? Was He just a great man, even the greatest man, or is He the God/Man. Who is Jesus? It was Simon Peter under the revelation of the Holy Spirit who said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God". And that is the true confession of every true believer and follower of Jesus. "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God". God the Son and the Son of God. Now when we speak of the divine Sonship of Jesus, to say that Jesus is the Son of God, it means that He is the Second Person of the Godhead in the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. So Jesus takes a role of Sonship. And in eternity past in the counsels of the deities, Jesus took this role, the Son of God, to be the Savior of the world.
Now I know a lot of people get worked up trying to figure out the Trinity. Paul said, "Great is the mystery of godliness, that God would be manifest in the flesh". So it is a mystery; it is a sacred mystery and a supernatural miracle that God would become the Son; that the Son is God. And when we say that He is the Son of God, it does not in any way diminish the deity of Jesus. Because Jesus is just as much God as if He was not Man at all and just as much Man as if He were not God at all. He is 100 percent God, 100 percent Man. Very God of very God. Someone said regarding the Trinity, "Don't try to understand it or explain it because you would lose your mind. And then don't try to explain it away or you would lose your soul".
The fact is, the Trinity: God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, God the Son appear often in scripture as in the case is right here at the baptism of Jesus. You have God the Son who is baptized; you have God the Spirit who descends upon Him, anointing and appointing Him, filling Him in all the fullness of God. This is the anointing of Jesus for His ministry. And you hear the voice of God the Father. So God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit right here in this one superlative passage of Scripture. So it is vital that you as a Christian make this confession. What makes you a Christian, a follower of Jesus is that you are confessing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and your Savior and Lord.
Have you made that confessing? This is the confession of the New Testament. It's the confession of the early Church. As you roll through the centuries of the early days of the Church some heresies began to rise, some controversies regarding the nature, the person of Christ. Who is He? And about 325 A.D. one of these controversies was in full bloom. It's known as Arianism. A man by the name of Arius began to teach in the church that Jesus was made by the Father, that He was not one with the Father, but that He was created by God the Father. So there's all kinds of controversy in the Church in the early centuries regarding this controversy, or at least in this century. And so what did the Church do?
The Church decided to get together They took 300 leaders together of the Church from around the world. All went to a place called Nicaea, which is modern-day Turkey, and about 1500 to 2000 guests joined them from the churches and they had this conference, and the debate ensued as to who is Jesus. It's always the question, isn't it? Who is Jesus? And so the leaders of the Church, led by the Spirit of God came up with an Nicene Creed. This creed is important that was given in 325 A.D. This creed is important because it is among the most ancient documents of the Christian faith. It shows us what the early Christians believed about Jesus, and affirming that Jesus is not only Man but that He is God.
So here it is. And I wanted to bring it to you today because it expresses it well: "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father... Light of Light, very God of very God, (that is truly God, truly God), begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He was made man. He did not become God when He came to earth. He was God who was made Man. He was not a teacher that came from God; He was God who came to teach. And he suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended to heaven; from thence (or there) he comes to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost".
So this is a great creed of Christendom and it truly the confession of a believer and follower of Jesus. Comparable to this is Hebrews chapter 1 and verse 8: "But to the Son he says (that is God) 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever'". John was a fiery preacher. He was known as John the Baptist. John the baptizer. And he was a powerful preacher. Many would not like John because he was a hell fire and damnation kind of preacher. He was preaching in the desert, repentance and righteousness with warnings of judgment that is to come. But it wasn't all judgment. There was the promise of Jesus; there was the promise of a Messiah would come.
Some thought John the Baptist was the Messiah, but he clearly said, "I am not". He said, "I'm not worthy to unlash the shoes of the Messiah". He ultimately pointed to Jesus and said, "Look. There's the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world". He was a great man. Jesus said, "Greatest man born of woman". Greatest human every born. John the Baptist. He had a big crowd. He had a big following. He was a first century rockstar. So many people were going out and being baptized and repenting of their sin, and baptized in the baptism of repentance. It was said of John that he was a voice. He said of himself, "a voice shouting in the wilderness".
You think I get loud sometimes; you ought to hear John the Baptist! He was crying out; he was shouting in the desert for all who would hear. And so many would hear, many were running out to the desert to hear John the Baptist preach and to be baptized. And then one day Jesus got in line to be baptized. Now think about this. The Son of God is asking John the Baptist, His first cousin to baptize Him. And John is thinking, "Are you serious? You should be baptizing me! Not the other way around". But Jesus insisted. It was as though Jesus was asking permission the first time. But when John rebuts and says, "No, not me". Jesus said, "John, I really wasn't asking permission. Do it".
So Jesus was baptized. And then it says in the scripture when you read the text that He went down into the water, He walked into the water, He stepped into the water, and then He went down under the water, immersed under the water, and then right here in our text said He came straightway up out of the water. And this word baptism, therefore, is a beautiful picture of what happens to us when we become followers of Jesus. And as He's coming up out of the water the heavens open and like a dove the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus, anointing and appointing Him, and filling Him for His mission. And then the Father speaks from heaven.
The first two miracles had to do with something visual; heaven opened, the Holy Spirit by this dove descending. But now it becomes audible. God is speaking. He said, "This is My beloved Son". He’s introducing Jesus to the world. "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased". We wonder, why was Jesus baptized? Ever ask yourself that question? If this was a baptism for repentance, Jesus never sinned, according to the Scripture so why would Jesus choose to be baptized by John? Why would He make this such a huge deal in His life, the very outset, again, recorded by all four Gospel writers. What is the importance and the significance of the baptism of Jesus? I have four brief things I want to say about that because they all apply to Jesus and they all apply to you and me.
Number one, he says to fulfill all righteousness. That's why, so how do we fulfill all righteousness? It was an act of accreditation. And by that, I mean there is the approval of John the Baptist and his mission and his ministry as the forerunner of Christ. Very important! Because the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament and the Old Testament promised a forerunner, one that would run in front of the Messiah, announcing His arrival! So John is the forerunner; John is the last prophet; John is the baptizer and he's preaching this message of the kingdom of heaven and how to enter the kingdom of heaven. And he's baptizing all of these people. So when Jesus submits to the hands of John for this baptism, He is authenticating the mission of John himself. He is saying, "What this man has been preaching is true and I am the one who will follow". He was showing solidarity with John the Baptist.
So it was an act of accreditation But most importantly, it is an act of identification. He identifies, Jesus identifies with the sinful people who are coming for the baptism of repentance. Now don't miss this! Jesus did not need to repent of anything because He had never sinned. But He identifies from the outset with sinful people like you and me. He stepped into the water which became dirty water as the sins of the people were being confessed and repented of. And Jesus steps in to our world and He steps into this baptism, if you will, in order to identify Himself with you and me. And though He never sinned, He identifies with you and with me. It's an act of identification.
Jesus was pointing to the cross because in baptism this figure, this symbol represents the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Christ. That's why other modes or methods of baptism just don't work. It is only immersion. Paul said in Romans 6 and verse 4 that: "We are buried together with Christ in baptism of his death... and raised... to walk in newness of life". This is symbolic of spiritual baptism when we are immersed into Christ, when we are baptized into Christ spiritually then we signify this with an open confession in obedience to God.
And that is what Jesus is representing here. He identifies with our sin in order to provide salvation. It was also an act of submission. An act of accreditation... (Maybe you should write some of these things down. I would encourage you to take some notes.) An act of accreditation, an act of identification in which Jesus identifies with us and now we identify with Him, and an act of submission. Clearly Jesus is submitting in humility to this baptism. Jesus was powerful and strong and mighty, the Son of God. But when He speaks of Himself in Matthew 11 and verse 29, He says, "I am gentle and humble in heart". And even with the expression of the dove coming down from heaven, fluttering down, representing the Holy Spirit, there's this tenderness that we see here. And I see humility. He willingly walked into the water and into the hands of his cousin John for baptism, even asked John for permission as I noted. Submission.
And then finally this is baptism of Jesus, an act of accreditation, identification, and act of submission; it is an act of preparation. Jesus is getting ready to go, it's the countdown. Thirty years in Nazareth, that's all over; 30 years as a carpenter's apprentice, that's done; 30 years being a nobody, that's over. Jesus is now stepping in to His call. He is the Chosen of God, the Messiah, stepping out of a silence, Jesus steps into the water and He is commended and coronated as King.
Again, there is something strikingly majestic to me about this passage. This One Man, the Son of God baptized. Jesus steps on the stage of history and out of obscurity and into obedience. This is the coronation of the King! The public announcement of the King. He's now making public His ministry and setting out on His mission to save the world. Jesus waited on God the Father's perfect timing. And now it's "go" time. I hear drum rolls here and trumpets blasting in this divine coronation, this divine confirmation of Jesus the Son of God. But of all points to why He came.
J.R. Miller, a man that I don’t know, wrote something that I do know is very powerful. He said, "The shadow of the cross fell on the green banks and on the flowing river of Jordan, and it fell also across the gentle and holy soul of Jesus as He stood there. He knew what the baptism meant, to what it reduced Him, what it’s end would be. Yet, knowing all, He voluntarily came to be baptized, thus accepting the mission of redemption". Jesus on His baptism was saying "Yes" to you and His mission to fulfill the Father’s purpose of His life. No wonder the voice came from heaven, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am always well pleased".
God the Father is always pleased with His Son Jesus. He was pleased when He left heaven and came to earth through the portals of a virgin's womb and was born, the sinless sacrifice, the Lamb of God. The Father was pleased with Jesus obeying His parents as a boy. "Grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man". He was pleased that He always chose righteousness and kept the 10 Commandments. He was pleased when He said, "I must always be about My Father's business". He was pleased when He was baptized. He was pleased when He resisted temptation in the wilderness. He was pleased when He went about doing good as the Scripture says; when He loved people and compassionately, miraculously performed acts of grace upon people's lives. Healing the sick, the blind, the lame, the lepers. Touching those who were hurting and bleeding and dying without hope. Jesus pleased the Father in all of this.
And most of all, it pleased the Father when Jesus voluntarily laid down His life on a cross, to be lifted up between heaven and earth, to die on the cross for the sins of mankind, so that God and man, holy God and sinful man could be united in a relationship through the Lord Jesus Christ. And God proved that He was pleased with His sacrifice because on the third day He rose, Jesus, He raised Jesus from the dead! Yes, the Father is pleased with the Son. That day all of heaven opened up.
And when the Father spoke, and said "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased", it now makes it possible for you and me to hear those same words. And in our baptism we're signifying our love and our devotion to Him. And the Father's love, the Father's affection and approval of His Son is for you and anyone and everyone who will trust in Him! Jesus came to earth to show us and to bring us the Father's love. And now because of Jesus you can hear the Father speak to you, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased".