Identity (Matthew 3:16-17)

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It is custom in many cultures for those closest to you to express words of  encouragement and blessing at the most meaningful times of life. For this reason speeches are made at weddings and graduations, and eulogies are made at funerals.  But there are other occasions that are equally important, and one of those is your baptism. On this side of the cross we understand baptism as a public ratification of God’s new covenant in Christ. Of course, back in John the Baptist’s days, Christ’s sacrifice had not yet been accomplished, yet baptism was hardly less significant. 

Water baptism is representative of being born anew, because it signifies both death to the old self (going under the water) and life of the new self (rising up from the water). Such a thing cannot be undone. So it is not, nor is it meant to be, a small decision. It is done in sight of both the community and in the sight of God. It should be no surprise then, that just as at a wedding or a graduation, emotions can run high.    

We can hear that emotion in the Father’s voice as Jesus gets baptized. “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”” 

Listen to the emotion of those words! Hearing a blessing from your father is always an impactful and emotional moment.  Hearing a blessing from God Most High is much more so. The Father imparts to Jesus three things; Firstly, a statement of His identity and role; Jesus is the Father’s Son. No doubt Jesus knew that, but it is still a powerfully impactful statement that the Father identifies Himself with Jesus. Then the Father affirms His love for Jesus, and then the Father confers His approval upon Him. It is almost as thought the Father is gushing with pride for seeing His Son so embrace His mission.  

S.K. Weber writes, “This scene is something like a family reunion—all three members of the Trinity manifesting their presence in such a way that bystanders could see or hear them. This was a testimony to human witnesses about the identity of Jesus, the Messiah. It serves as one of hundreds of exhibits in Matthew’s Gospel for Jesus as the Messiah. It was also a personal affirmation from the first and third members of the Trinity to the Son. This fact reminds us of the emotional-relational side of the Godhead, a side we often forget. Even God the Son enjoyed personal affirmation from his family.” 

As the Father and Spirit affirmed the Son, so also they affirm those who are in Christ. His Word says to us, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” As though to emphasize the point and ensure we  get it, The Lord calls us “dear children” over two dozen times in Scripture. Beyond that and even more personally, often one of the first things Christians hear when they learn to truly hear God’s voice is  Him calling their name. The Father is Our Father too, and He is not afraid to show it in ways we understand as personal  and profoundly moving.  

God’s love for us […] dates back to a time before we were born,—aye, even to eternity past. It is a love which was fastened upon us, although God knew the worst of us. It is unchanging, because founded upon his infinite and eternal love to Christ.

AH Strong

APPLICATION: Thanksgiving

God loves you. Truly, deeply and profoundly loves you. Prayerfully meditate on that reality, and respond accordingly.  As 1John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.”

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