"This is my beloved son"
"This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased."
The first two chapters of Matthew have all been leading up to this moment. The lineage, the angels, the journey, the stable, the star, the wise men, even the baptism all leading up to God's proclamation. In fact one could say that the history of salvation, even the history of creation has been leading up to this moment when the voice of the father, and the power of the holy spirit would join with the waters of baptism in pronouncing the son to be God incarnate.
Strangely enough, this story almost didn't happen. Jesus showed up in the wilderness of Judea for baptism. At first John refused saying, "You should be baptizing me." True enough, but Jesus insists that he be baptized, "so that all righteousness might be fulfilled."
When John stopped arguing and started baptizing, amazing things happened.
· The spirit descended - like a dove
· The voice of God himself
· The confirmation "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased"
Let's take each of those separately.
First, the spirit descended from heaven like a dove. It wasn't a dove. It was the spirit. Matthew says it hovers like a dove, just as the same spirit hovered across the face of the waters at creation. It was the same spirit that came upon such Old Testament giants as Joshua, the judges, David, Saul, and the prophets. In this story, the spirit is not just present. It is visibly present. It not only descends on Jesus it visibly descends. The real presence of the Holy Spirit was a real witness to all creation that this was indeed God in the flesh. In Jesus, the spirit of the lord is indeed come to preach good news and proclaim the day of the Lord.
Second, there is the voice. Do you suppose it was like James Earl Jones? Or was it more like Fran Dresher? I know what God's voice sounds like in my heart; I just wonder what it sounds like to our ears. There is another issue here. That is, who heard the voice? In Matthew, the message is one of announcing or introducing Jesus to the crowd and by extension to us. "This is my beloved son." In Mark and Luke, the quote is "YOU are my beloved son." As though it was a message to Jesus and others may or may not have heard it. Regardless of who heard it, this was an actual voice that produced sound waves. I don't know what it sounded like, but it is yet another affirmation of the reality and power of the incarnation.
Finally there is the message itself. We're going to take the announcement out of Matthew as it is, and not worry about Mark and Luke today. But I think the same argument could be made with them.
"This is my beloved son." In the first two chapters of Matthew, Jesus has been called every name in the book. He has been called "the Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham, Jesus, Emmanuel, king of the Jews, Nazarene, and the Lord, and John the Baptist calls him "the one who is mightier than I." The voice at baptism tops all of those names, all of those titles, and goes beyond them. After his baptism, after the Holy Spirit came upon him, the voice of God speaks from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."
This is the title that makes sense of all the rest.
v Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one. He is the Son of God.
v Jesus is not only
o the royal son of King David
o and not only the fulfillment of Abraham's blessing
o Even more is the Son of God.
v Jesus is not only savior. Jesus is, as the Nicene Creed says, "The only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds; God of God; Light of Light; Very God of Very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father," and for this reason, he bears the name Emmanuel. God with us.
v He is not only king of the Jews, but he is also, as Son of the Creator, Lord of the Universe.
Whatever else is said of Jesus must be measured against God's declaration at baptism that "Jesus is his beloved Son, with whom God is well pleased."
That, however, is not the best news. The best news is that we can share in that.
· By baptism, we too can experience the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
· By baptism, we too can experience the assuring and confirming voice of God in our lives.
· In our baptism, we experience God's voice… (maybe not with the same audible voice- maybe in more a still small voice)
· In baptism, we feel God's grace washing over us declaring, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." "This is my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased"
The word translated "well pleased" here means to be delighted- to bring great joy. The passage harkens back to Isaiah 42:1 "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One, in whom my soul delights!" God's delight in his servant echoes through the pages of scripture until we hear it again here at the baptism of Jesus, and yet again at our own baptisms.
How can that be? Look at us. How can God be pleased with us? I understand how God is pleased with Jesus. But, us? How can God be pleased with THIS… or this?
Let me tell you…
Two things please God.
First when people come to him in faith. That is absolutely the ONLY requirement for baptism. Faith. You don't have to know anything. You don't have to be able to pass any tests. You don't have to be a superstar. You just need faith and God will delight in you. God will be pleased with you.
You need to know, if you don't already, that neither faith nor Baptism will make you perfect. But faith is mighty important.
In April 1988, the evening news reported on a photographer who was a skydiver. He had jumped from a plane along with numerous other skydivers and filmed the group as they fell and opened their parachutes. On the film shown on the telecast, as the final skydiver opened his chute, the picture went berserk. The announcer reported that the cameraman had fallen to his death, having jumped out of the plane without a parachute for himself. Until he reached for the absent ripcord and realized he was freefalling without a parachute… Until that point, the jump probably seemed exciting and fun. Suddenly it wasn't.
Life without faith in God may be exciting and fun for a while, but if we fail to strap on the parachute of faith the fun goes away in the blink of an eye.
We come to God in faith, and God is delighted. When we are baptized with that baptism of faith, God says, "You are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased."
The second thing that pleases God is a servant heart. Remember in Isaiah 42. God is pouring his delight upon his servant. In Jesus' baptism, God pours out his delight on the one who would become servant of all, and lay down his life for all.
v He doesn't delight on the observers. The ones who take a seat and wait for others to do the work of the kingdom.
v He doesn't delight in the preachers who tell others what to do but fail to do it themselves.
v He doesn't delight in those who believe themselves to be so important- that they never have time to do the kingdom work.
God is pouring his delight upon his servant. The one who lays down their time, their love, their labor, their strength, and even their lives for the God who makes all things new. God delights when the baptismal waters bring life to our servant spirits and drip off our newly baptized heads in the form of acts of love and justice and servanthood.
God delights in you when you come to baptism in faith and walk away as a servant.
God delights in you when you have the heart of faith and the hands of a servant.
As you, renew your baptism today. Remember-
· Remember it is God's love for you that brings you here. The gift of FAITH.
· And remember that is God's love for the least and lost that sends you out. SERVANTHOOD
I pray that you will hear those wonderful words.
· You are my beloved son in you I am well pleased.<<<xxxx>>>
· You are my beloved daughter in you I am well pleased. <<xxxxx>>>
This is the water of creation, the water of the Red Sea, the water that sprang forth from the rock, the water of the Jordan, the water of Mary's womb, the water that became wine, the water of the calmed storm. It is living water. The water of life itself.
It is the water that cleanses you from sin, it is the water that brings you life, it is the water of baptism, the water of new life.
Come renew your baptism. I invite you to come touch the water, feel the water.
In the bottom of the bowl, you will find some stones. Help yourself to a stone. Put it in your pocket or purse, and every time you feel it let it remind you of the life of faith a service to which you are called by Christ in Baptism.
Spend some time at the altar rail on the way up or on the way back to your seat, and give thanks for the life of faith and service to which God calls you.
If you have never been baptized, come to me and we can celebrate your baptism today too..
Come and remember your baptism!!