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2006-01-29_Heaven In The Jordan River_Matthew 3.13-17

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Heaven In The Jordan River

Matthew 3:13-17   |   Shaun LePage   |   January 29, 2006

I. Introduction

A.   As a child, I had a teacher who taught me that Mary—the Mother of Jesus—was sinless. Jesus, however—according to this source—committed one sin. When He got angry and cleared out the temple and turned over the tables of the money-changers, He sinned His one sin. In fact, one out of every four people who claim to be Christians believe Jesus was not sinless.

B.    We’re studying through the Gospel of Matthew—an excellent section of the Bible because I believe it speaks to the people of our time. Matthew was writing to correct misconceptions about Jesus. He was answering the question, “Who is this Jesus?” Our culture knows the name, “Jesus,” but most people have misconceptions about Him.

C.   In these opening pages of the New Testament, it’s as if Matthew is pleading his case in court. He brings witness after witness onto the witness stand to testify to the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. The last time we were together, we looked at John the Baptist and that John fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy about a forerunner. The “Elijah” who was to come before the Lord and make sure everyone recognized the true King of the Jews.

D.   As we come to the end of chapter 3, we find the most significant witnesses of all.

II.   Body

A.   Read Matthew 3:13-17.

B.    Explain Matthew 3:13-17.

1.    13-15 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him.

a)    Jesus’ arrival

(i)   John’s purpose was to “make ready the way of the Lord” and now the Lord has arrived. Jesus was the One whose way John was making ready.

(ii) So, when Jesus arrived, His first order of business was to be baptized by John.

b)    John’s objection

(i)   His baptism was for repentance of sin. His message was, “Repent!” Turn from your sins. Be baptized as a way of demonstrating that you have confessed your sins and God is washing you clean. So, when Jesus arrived, wanting to be baptized, John didn’t get it. John knew who this was. They were cousins. John was filled with the Spirit. He knew Jesus did not need baptism of repentance and he tried to prevent it from happening. 

(ii)  John’s testimony here is that Jesus was sinless. He needed no repentance! Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God. The implication of John’s objection is clear: Jesus had no sins to confess! This is foundational to understanding who Jesus is:

(a)  2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

(b) Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

(c)  Hebrews 7:26: “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens.”

(d) 1 John 3:5: “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.”

(e)  So, when John the Baptist said—in John 1:29 “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” he was referring to the spotless sacrifice. The Passover Lamb had to be without blemish and Jesus was without sin.

c)    Jesus’ permission

(i)   Jesus agreed. He told John to “permit it at this time”. In other words, John was right that Jesus did not need baptism of repentance, but something different was happening here. Something special was about to take place. “At this time” means that what seemed to be wrong was now right.

(ii) Why? Why was Jesus baptized? Jesus’ told John it was necessary “to fulfill all righteousness.” What does this mean? The Law had no requirements regarding baptism. I believe there are at least two important reasons why Jesus was baptized.

(a)  Jesus’ baptism identified Him with John—His forerunner.

1.     John’s ministry had been pre-announced.

a.     As we have seen in previous passages, Matthew is connecting Jesus with the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. The Old Testament predicted that before the Messiah came, Elijah would come and prepare the way. Matthew quoted Isaiah 40:3 and told us John fulfilled this prophecy.

b.    Malachi, in the final verses of the Old Testament, just before the 400 silent years, left the Jews with this prophecy: “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” (Malachi 4:5)

2.     When John finally came, he began talking about the One to come. The One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The One who was much greater than himself. So great that John was not even worthy to touch his sandals. John’s God-given ministry was to announce, “The King is coming!” “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 

3.     When the King arrived, his first order of business was to associate Himself with John—this herald and forerunner—in a spectacular way. He linked Himself with John as if to say, “I am the One John has been talking about.” Jesus identified Himself with John so that He could identify Himself as the One who sent John ahead of Him.

(b) Jesus’ baptism identified Him with sinners—His purpose.

1.     When Jesus arrived, a revival was going on. John was preaching “Repent!” and many people were confessing their sins in anticipation of the arrival of their Lord. As people confessed their sins, John baptized them. So, when Jesus insisted that John baptize Him as well, Jesus was identifying Himself with those who recognized their need for cleansing of sin. Those who recognized their need for a Savior. In other words, Jesus was communicating His purpose.

a.     Matthew 1:21. What did the angel of the Lord tell Joseph about his betrothed wife, Mary? “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.

b.    Luke 19:10: What did Jesus say when He was criticized by the religious hypocrites of His day for being a friend of sinners? “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

c.     Jesus came to save sinners and by being baptized by John, He identified Himself as our Savior.

2.     His baptism, like ours, is a demonstration of death, burial and resurrection. For Jesus, it was a picture of what was yet to come. For us, it is a picture of what He did for us.

a.     Second Corinthians 5:21 not only declares the sinlessness of Jesus, but it also highlights the purpose of His coming: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

b.    The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus served the purpose of making the unrighteous righteous in the sight of God. Through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, sinners are given forgiveness and eternal life. This is what baptism pictures.

c.     Baptism means to identify with. The word literally means “dip.” When a garment was “baptized” into a dye, it took on the identity of that dye. It became identified with that color. When Jesus was baptized, He identified Himself with sinners. When we are baptized, we identify ourselves with Him—the Savior of sinners.

2.     16-17 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

a)    “The heavens were opened.” I almost skipped over this without realizing what a spectacular statement it is. Matthew did not give us a lengthy description, but it must have been amazing. The book of Ezekiel begins with this same description and the significance seems to be this: God is getting ready to speak. That was the case with Ezekiel and that’s the case here. “A voice from heaven”—God the Father—spoke after “the heavens were opened.” What we have here is heaven on earth. Heaven in the Jordan River. Heaven opened. The Spirit came down out of heaven and rested on the Heaven-sent Son of God and a voice from heaven spoke truth to those on earth. These short verses contain an amazing perspective on the heavenly realm. Reality—according to the Bible—is that there is a heaven. It is a different realm that is usually invisible to us, but that does not make it less real. This shows us that something as simple as two people standing in a muddy river on earth performing a religious ritual for the glory of God does not escape the notice of God. Heaven is real and those who live there are very aware of what is taking place here.

b)    “…He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him

(i)   “As a dove” does not necessarily mean the Holy Spirit took the form of a dove. It could mean that He descended gently and gracefully from above. The point is: The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus in a visible form—dove or light or both it doesn’t matter. God wanted the onlookers to visibly see Jesus receiving the Holy Spirit.

(ii) The importance of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ ministry cannot be overstated.

(a)  First of all, the prophet predicted that the Holy Spirit would play a significant role in the ministry of Messiah. In Isaiah 42-53, the Messiah was presented as the “Suffering Servant”. That servant, Isaiah told us in 42:1 and 48:16, would be anointed with the Holy Spirit.

(b) One of the great promises of God related to the sending of Messiah was that He would pour out His Spirit on people. In other words, the coming of Messiah—predicted Ezekiel and Joel—would include the coming of the Holy Spirit. The two were inseparable. So, it is natural that when Messiah stepped up into His public ministry the first thing we see is the Holy Spirit coming upon Him—a clear testimony regarding the identity of Jesus.

(c)  When John arrived, he reported that the Messiah—the One coming after John—would baptize with the Holy Spirit. So, in this context (Matthew 3), it’s obvious that one of the reasons the witnesses—especially John—are given a visual demonstration of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus is to show that Jesus is this One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

(d) In fact, John the Baptist reported in John 1:33 that, “He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’” Clearly, this was a sign for John the Baptist—and the rest of us—of the identity of Jesus.

c)    “A voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.

(i)   Again, when the heavens open, God is getting ready to speak. That’s exactly what happened here. What did God say?

(a)  He said, “This is My beloved Son”.

1.     Defines “voice” as the Father. This is obviously how we know this is the Father speaking. He called Jesus His Son.

2.     Defines Jesus as God. “Son” of God—when referring to Jesus—does not mean Jesus is one of many. One of God’s sons. This is an official title which identifies Jesus as being of the same nature as God.

a.     One of the primary tasks of the Gospel of John is to show that Jesus—the Son of God—is God Himself.

i. Read John 1:1-3.

ii.    Read John 3:16-18.

iii.  Jesus claimed the attributes of God—such as eternality. Read John 8:56-59.

b.    The clear teaching of the apostles—the New Testament epistles—is also that Jesus is God.

i. Read Hebrews 1:1-8.

ii.    Read Colossians 1:15-17. “First-born” means “heir” not that Jesus was literally born.

3.     In Matthew 3—at the baptism of Jesus—we are given the first presentation of the Trinity. The Triune nature of God—three Persons in one Godhead—is hinted at in places throughout the Old Testament, but not until here are we given a very clear presentation of the Trinity: Father, Son and Spirit.

4.     The great importance of the Trinity.

5.     So, in this one short passage, we are presented with two of the most awesome theological truths to chew on: The Trinity and the dual nature of Christ. He is presented here as a man who is the Son of God—the God-Man.

(ii) “Well-pleased.” Three words help to capture at least some of what the Father must have meant by this phrase.

(a)  Coronation. The greatest witness of the identity of Jesus. Remember that Matthew is presenting his case that Jesus is the King of the Jews. This baptism serves as the coronation of Jesus as King. When God the Father announced that He was “well-pleased” with Jesus, He was giving His stamp of approval—publicly—to Jesus.

(b) Transfiguration. In Matthew 17, we have what is called the Transfiguration. Jesus went up on a mountain with Peter, James and John. In front of their eyes, Jesus was “transfigured”. His human cloak was pulled back and somehow these three men were allowed to see Jesus in His glory. At that time, the Father repeated Himself. He spoke these words again, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased” (17:5). When God repeats Himself, you can be certain it’s a pretty important piece of information. 

(c)  Propitiation. Jesus, as the “Lamb of God” “pleases” the Father. Satisfies the Father. Again, the baptism of Jesus pointed ahead to His sacrificial death on the cross. Just as our baptism points back to it. So, as Jesus gave a public demonstration of what His mission would entail—death, burial and resurrection—God announced beforehand that Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection would “please” Him—satisfy Him. 1 John 4:10 tells us, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” “Propitiation” means satisfaction. The sacrifice of Jesus satisfied God’s righteous demand for justice.

III. Closing—This passage should give all of us some things to think about. Chew on. Take to heart. I want to focus on Jesus here—just as Matthew wanted.

A.   Imitate the Son of God.

1.     Imitate Jesus’ obedience in baptism. He humbled Himself, so can you.

2.     Imitate Jesus’ concern with righteousness. God was pleased with Jesus because Jesus fulfilled all righteousness. Psalm 11 tells us, “The Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness.” Why should we be righteous? Because the Lord is righteous and He loves righteousness. Have you ever met someone did what they knew was sinful because they knew they could ask for forgiveness? I hope that doesn’t describe you. We should hate sin because God loves righteousness.

3.     Imitate Jesus’ dependence on the Holy Spirit. Jesus—in His humanity—was filled with and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. We need to learn from that and remember that without a dependence upon the Holy Spirit, we cannot live the “spiritual” life. We cannot grow the fruit of the Spirit in our lives—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—apart from the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Receive Him. Begin your day by acknowledging your need for Him.

B.    Appreciate the Son—this is the main thing. Often, the only thing the Scriptures are asking of us is to believe correctly. To simply understand what is true. Correct understanding of who Jesus is should result in praise and worship and increased devotion to Him. Appreciate isn’t a strong enough word, but I want to use a word that will hopefully give a fresh sense to your worship. We use words like praise, worship, adoration and exaltation all the time, and I think we forget what we’re talking about. Worship is about recognizing, understanding and remembering Who this Jesus really is and responding to Him in passionate appreciation that He lets us know Him. He lets us live in relationship with Him.

1.    Appreciate the Sinless Friend of sinners.

a)    Jesus identified Himself with us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). Do you appreciate the fact that Jesus did not start His ministry on the pinnacle of the temple? Do you appreciate the fact that Jesus went down to the Jordan—where the sinners were confessing their sins—to begin His work? Do you appreciate the fact that Jesus does not expect you to get your act straight before He will be your friend? He Himself is without sin and because He wanted us to be free from sin, He came way, way, way down to the muddy waters of earth to offer Himself as the Only Solution. The only one who could lift us up out of our sin. What a friend we have in Jesus! Do you appreciate the friendship of Jesus?

b)    Imitate that too, by the way. If Jesus—the sinless One—can be the friend of sinners, why can’t we? We should be! We should never condone sin in any way, but we should love and befriend those in our lives who are without God. Those who don’t know the Sinless Friend of sinners. Don’t get all wigged out over their sin, either. Sinners sin. That’s what they do. Don’t judge them for that. Just offer them your friendship and ask God to use you to let them know about the greatest Friend of sinners.

2.    Appreciate the God-Man.

a)    This Galilean who stood in the Jordan River that day was not typical of those who came to be baptized. He was Heaven-sent. He was God. He was Man. The Bible doesn’t explain how this is possible, it simply presents it as fact. Just as the Bible does not attempt to explain the Trinity. It’s just fact. It’s beyond our ability to comprehend, but we are asked to believe it.

(i)   Did Jesus prove He is God? Yes, He healed incurable diseases. He stopped unstoppable storms. He raised dead people to life.

(ii) Did Jesus prove He is man? Yes, He got hungry. He got thirsty. He got tired. He wept human tears. He bled human blood.

b)    Appreciate the God-Man. Worship Him in His deity. Imitate Him in His humility—His willingness to humble Himself and become human. Imitate Him by humbling yourself for other people—not because they deserve it. Did we deserve His kindness displayed in His humility? No, imitate His humility because imitation is the purest form of worship.

c)    Read Philippians 2:5-11.

Sunday, January 29

I.       Slightly shorter message

II.     Announcement

A.    Thank everyone for their prayers; Elders’ Retreat a “mountaintop” experience.

B.    We have developed some important objectives

1.     Small group ministry.

a)     Called “Community Groups”

b)     Each group will be led by an elder—five total including “young adults”

c)     All current members and regular visitors have been “assigned” for first 8 weeks

d)     An elder will be calling you this week to let you know which group you’re in

e)     After this study, everyone encouraged to find the best fit

f)      Each group will have four leaders: HATS; leaders praying about who to ask

2.     Sunday, February 5—Discovery One

a)     Fellowship meal after service

b)     Discovery One is a newcomer’s class—information only

c)     We want everyone to participate and recommit

d)     Everyone take home “My Story” sheets

3.     Budget—Unique business meeting (men only), along with another important matter (full participation, please)

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