(Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Acts 10:34-43)
(watch here: https://youtu.be/yeMeyyZ57y8)
13Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ 15But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. 16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved,* with whom I am well pleased.’
Every year we come to these texts as we make a quick jump forward in Jesus’ life from his birth in a lowly manger to his baptism by John. It is a pivotal moment in Jesus’ life as he comes out of 30 years of relative obscurity. We don’t really hear a lot about Jesus’ life prior to this event other than that anxious time when Jesus stays behind in the temple while Mary and Joseph continue on their journeys. Perhaps it is a good thing that we don’t really know what Jesus did in his teenage years and twenties. Few people reflect fondly on those years! Let’s just say they were “formative” years…we all need them as we transition into adulthood but they sure are some of the ugliest years! No, the biblical narrative for the most part skips over Jesus’ first 30 years and picks up with Jesus’ encounter at the river Jordon with his cousin, John.
And as important of an event it is as Jesus’ “coming out” party, I think it reveals far more about God the Father and his relationship with not only his Son but also with us. God the Father speaks a very important message to us all: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” It is such an important message that, year after year, I continue to focus in on it as the most important element of Jesus’ baptism. Sure, it is important that Jesus was very publicly revealed as God’s beloved Son. Sure, it is important that John played a role in his cousin’s ministry. Sure, it is important that Jesus engaged in the ritual as a means of identifying with the rest of us poor sinners even though he had no sin to repent of. As important as all these elements of the event were, I strongly believe the most important element is in the brief message spoken by the Father to his Son: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
To help convey just how important I believe that powerful little message is, let us reflect on our own experiences with our own earthly fathers. How often did you ever hear such a phrase from your own father? If your experience is anything like mine, it was a very rare event indeed! Sure, fathers might regularly tell us how much they love us. They might regularly provide a healthy dose of encouragement as we venture through the trials and tribulations of life. They might even throw in an occasional, “Good job!” if the occasion called for one. But how often did you ever hear your father speak the words, “I am proud of you?” I’m guessing not that many times. Indeed, it is a difficult thing for a father to say to his child! Even now that I’m a father of four children, I, too, find it difficult to speak those five relatively painless words. Why is that?! Why is it so difficult for fathers to convey to their children how proud they are of them?
Well, as I just confessed to my own inadequacy, I don’t really have the answer to that question. I don’t know why fathers are completely inept in sharing their pride with their children. And I wish I knew too! I wish it wasn’t so darn difficult sharing my own pride in my children actually to my children, especially to my oldest daughter. She is a strong, courageous, fearless, opinionated, intelligent, hard-working, humble, beautiful young woman that any man would be proud to have as a daughter. But alas, actually speaking that to her is difficult even for a guy like me who knows just how important it is to hear those words. It IS important to hear the words of a father’s pride! It is so very important to hear just how proud a father is of his child! Children need to hear it. Their own self-esteem and assurance rely heavily on the pride of a father. A father’s pride is perhaps the greatest gift he has to offer his child, even more than love itself. After all, a mom’s specialty is love and tenderness! But a father’s pride has a profound impact on the confidence of a child. If only fathers understood this a little better, we might be a little less hesitant in sharing just how proud we are.
Lucky for us, we have a heavenly Father who more than accommodates for the inadequacies of our earthly fathers. As we heard in our passage from Matthew, the Father not only claimed Jesus as his “beloved Son” but also shared his pride in his Son: “with whom I am well pleased.” The Father not only loves his Son…he is proud of his Son! And He shares this for all to hear! What a great and wonderful thing to hear! Of course, we don’t know why the Father is proud of his Son. Maybe it was because Jesus came out of relative obscurity and allowed the Father to send the Spirit to rest on him. Maybe it was because Jesus chose to begin his earthly ministry knowing full well the death that awaits him after three years. Maybe it was because Jesus chose to identify himself as a sinner even though he had committed no sin. We just don’t know why the Father is so proud of his Son. Regardless, the impact of the Father’s statement is powerful and it no doubt reassured Jesus through his 3 years of challenging ministry and painful death.
And so it should reassure us through our own lives of Christian service and sacrifice. Believing and living as a Christian in today’s world is not an easy thing to do, especially as our society becomes more and more diverse in its values and beliefs. Christian values and beliefs are being challenged more and more with each passing year. But when we enter into Christian life through our own baptisms, the Father spoke to each one of us, claiming us as one of his beloved children and sharing his pride. The Father is proud of you and me. The Father is proud of how we carry ourselves in this world. The Father is proud of our lives of service to each other and our neighbors. The Father is proud of the sacrifices we make to honor and praise him. The Father is PROUD!
In just a few moments, we’ll have the opportunity to witness the baptism of little Miles. We’ll witness yet again our Father claiming another beloved child and sharing his pride in him. Who knows where life will take Miles. He might live a life of great service and humility. He might live a life of great disservice and arrogance. Regardless of the life Miles chooses to live, the Father will forever consider him as one of his beloved children and will always be proud of him. What a great gift to bestow on him through the baptismal waters! Let us rejoice in both Jesus’ baptism and our own baptisms, especially Miles’. Let us give thanks for the Father’s unconditional love and listen for his voice…a voice of pride.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.