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(Chp 25) In the Jordan with Jesus

June 30, 2008, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Pastor Wilson Tan (Matthew 3:13-17) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: The Jesus Creed
Preached at a Bilingual (Mandarin-English, Sunday) service

Tags: Jesus Creed, Matthew

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About Pastor Wilson Tan: Pastor Tan served as a youth executive at the Presbyterian Synod, and as a pastor in Jubilee Church. He continues to serve as a cell leader in zone ministry and a teacher in children ministry.
Bible passage (ESV) of the sermon can be found at the bottom of the page.

Sermon based on Chapter 25 of Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed
Passage: Matt 3.13-17 (Mark 1.9-11, Luke 3.21-22, compare: Gen. 22.2, Ps. 2.7, Isa. 42.1)

Our message today looks at the baptism of Jesus by John. This event is so important that it has been recorded in all four Gospels (Matt 3.13-17, Mark 1.9-11, Luke 3.21-22, John 1.29-34) with only slight variations in the words used. This is where it all begins for Jesus in his ministry to the world. Baptism is an important event in our Christian life. It represents our initiation into the body of Christ. But it was different during Jesus’ time. John’s baptism was one of repentance and forgiveness. What was Jesus’ baptism really all about? Was it an initiation, or was it a baptism of repentance? Or, is it something more?I believe that it is something more, and may I suggest that instead of calling it the Baptism of Jesus, it is more accurate to call it “The Inauguration of Jesus, or “God’s Commissioning of Jesus.” I will explain about this in awhile.
First, let’s begin with the story.
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

While Matthew tells us that Jesus came from Galilee, Mark tells us that it was specifically Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus came from. As we may know, Galilee is largely occupied by Gentiles with only a small portion of Jews living in the Lower region. Much of Jesus’ ministry would also be here. Galilee is an important place in the NT.

How about river Jordan? No river figures more prominently in the Bible than the Jordan, which is mentioned more than seventy-five times. River Jordan runs from the Sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south. When we talk about river Jordan, we are reminded of Joshua leading Israel into the Promised Land by crossing river Jordan after 40 years of wandering in the desert. This is, again, another significant location. It represents an entry into the Promised Land. The immersion in water represents a cleansing of sin, and subsequently, the forgiveness of God.

But here comes the crucial question. Knowing that John’s ministry was one of repentance and forgiveness, why would Jesus, a sinless man, need to be baptised by John? Why did Jesus come to John, seeking his baptism? This was the same question which was running through John’s mind when he saw Jesus coming his way. John tried to deter him, believing that it is he who needs to be baptised by Jesus instead.

Before this encounter, John had preached about the one who is more powerful than he is, whose sandals he is not fit to carry, and the one who will baptise you in the Holy Spirit and with fire. But he did not know that Jesus was this Messiah, for if he did, he would not have agreed to baptise him. Why would a Messiah need repentance and forgiveness? Why would Jesus, a sinless man, want to be baptised by John?
Jesus explains, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

It is proper because it is a necessity for them to do so. But even this begs a further question, why is it necessary? The answer is in the phrase, “to fulfil all righteousness”. “Righteousness” here does not refer to a set of ethical moral code of conduct nor a fulfilment of certain laws in the OT. Rather, “righteousness” here means a fulfilment of God’s will. To put it simply, Jesus is saying that they have to do this because it is part of God’s plan. This is how Jesus was to show his obedience to God.

Another reason for Jesus’ baptism was for him to identify with sinners. He gets in the river like all sinners would have. He was not being baptised for his own sake, but for the sake of others. Jesus knows his mission from the very beginning. His mission was to die on the cross for the sins of this world. When he went into the river Jordan, he identified himself with the world.

When Jesus came from Galilee, he represents sinners, Gentiles and Jews alike. Sinners are those who are separated from God. Jesus came as our representative before God and he took our place in death on the cross.

2 Cor. 5.21 tells us that, 21” God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Heb 4.15: 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
1 John 3:5: But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.
Because of Christ, we are made righteous before God.
C.S. Lewis once said that, “Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly...The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person – and he would not need it.” Indeed, how true these words are. Only a Perfect person like Christ could repent for our sake, perfectly.
Let’s take a look at what happens next.
16 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.
The dove has often been used to symbolise the Spirit of God. When a dove is mentioned, several OT passages come to mind. The most obvious would be the dove which Noah sent out after the Flood (Gen. 8.8-12). Two things the dove represents: peace and purity. Both of which are characteristics of the Spirit of God.

Just as Jesus was getting up out of the water, the Spirit of God descended down like a dove on him. As One went up, the Other came down. It was a meeting of two great spiritual forces. When the Spirit descended on Jesus, it signifies a new beginning, just like the dove signifies a new beginning after the Flood. In Jesus, we have a new beginning.
Another OT allusion would be Jonah, which in Hebrew means a “dove”. But this was a bad dove. Jonah disobeyed God and experienced his own version of baptism. He was asked by God to go to Nineveh, a city of the pagans, to preach a message of repentance, but it was him who needed to repent. While Jesus obeyed willingly, Jonah did not.
Very quickly, we now come to the last verse.
17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
How exciting and dramatic for in these two last verses, the three Persons of the Trinity came into One. The Spirit descended on Jesus and the Father affirms His Son. There are only three occasions in the NT where the Father spoke from Heaven: at Christ’s baptism, at the Transfiguration (Matt 17.3), and as Christ approached the cross (John 12.27-30).

The voice from heaven is a public affirmation of Jesus’ identity as God’s Son and therefore, the Messiah. In this divine speech, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased”, is an affirmation of Jesus’ Kingship and Servanthood. It is taken from Ps. 2.6-7 and Isa. 42.1. Let’s take a look at these verses:
Ps. 2.6-7: “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will proclaim the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.
Isa. 42.1:“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.

In this affirmation of Jesus’ divine status as God’s Son, He has been installed as the King of Israel by the God of Israel and at the same time, he also takes on the role of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. This is why “The Inauguration of Jesus” would have been a much better title. And the first mark of being the Suffering Servant is obeying God’s will, which Jesus did accordingly. By accepting John’s baptism, Jesus has placed himself under the total authority of God. He is ready to carry out his assigned work in total obedience. Jesus is our King and also our Suffering Servant who was to die on our behalf.
Everyone has a different expectation of the Messiah. Imagine if I were to shout, “I am a King” from here. What would come first to your mind? Would you think of King Arthur? Or Elvis Presley? Or Michael Jackson? Or would you think of King Kong? Or maybe Aragorn, King of Gondor! When the Jews think of their Messiah, they expect a King like David, strong and powerful so that he could deliver Israel from their enemies. John expects the Messiah to be more powerful than he is; whose sandals he is not fit to carry. What is your expectation of the Messiah? For sure, no one had expected “The King of the Jews” to be spit on and be beaten beyond recognition and hung on the cross until his last breath. Jesus is the King who took our shame upon his shoulders; He came also as our Suffering Servant and died for our sake. In Matt 20:26-28, Jesus said, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus came and gave his life as a ransom for all of us. He died on the cross so that we can live. Not just to live, but to live a life of abundance; to live a life that is worthy of Jesus’ death. We want to believe that as followers of Jesus, we will obey his commandments, and that is: to love God and to love others. This is the Jesus Creed which we have been preaching on since the beginning of this year.

Every week, the sermons have tried to illustrate what this Jesus Creed is all about. What does it mean for us to believe in this Jesus Creed? What does it mean for us to love God and to love others? How do we understand the two greatest commandments which Jesus has taught us? Similarly in our passage today, how does the baptism of Jesus teach us about Jesus Creed? There are three theological terms in focus today. First, Jesus substitutes for us in loving God and others perfectly. Second, Jesus also represents us before God in loving God and others. Thirdly, by representing us he empowers us to participate with him in loving God and others.

In these acts of substitution, representation and participation, Jesus paid the full price for our sins with his own life, in order that we can love God and love others perfectly like he did. He did it all in total obedience to God’s will. He had a choice and he chose to obey God fully. Without the baptism, Jesus is unable to substitute our place in the death penalty, neither could he represent us in judgment, nor are we able to participate in this perfect love. Jesus was baptised so that we can now be baptised in Christ. Jesus’ baptism is of the Holy Spirit and with fire. It is more powerful than John’s water baptism. It is more than just forgiveness and repentance; it is also about salvation and empowerment: the empowerment of the Spirit. It is to bring us to the next level. Jesus’ baptism is the most important baptism in all of human history for it is the inauguration of the Servant King.
Knowing that Christ the Servant King came to open a way for us when there is no way, what is our response? How should we live our lives? A sinless and perfect Man came to be baptised for our sake in order that we can be baptised in him. This Man is also the Son of God. And he called us all to believe in him and be saved. He called us to simply obey like He did that day at river Jordan. Let us pray.

Matthew 3:13–17 (Listen)

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.”