************ Sermon on Matthew 3:13-17 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 6, 2005
"Fulfill All Righteousness"
The Messianic Age. This is what every Jewish child of God was hoping, praying, and waiting for. It is easy to see why when we hear God's Old Testament promises about the Messianic Age:
(Is 2:2) In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.What wonderful, beautiful promises. No wonder God's Jewish children could hardly wait for the Messianic Age.
(Is 2:4) They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
(Is 35:5-7) Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. (6) Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. (7) The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
(Is 60:3,10-13) Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn ... (10) "Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you ... (11) Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations-- their kings led in triumphal procession. (12) For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined. (13) "The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the pine, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn the place of my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place of my feet.
(Is 65:20-21,25) "Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. (21) They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit ... (25) The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain," says the LORD.
The Old Testament Scriptures clearly state that the beauty and wonder of the Messianic Age will become a reality; but this will be so only with the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah. It is He Who brings about the Messianic Age.
Today, in the story of Jesus' baptism, Matthew tells his Jewish audience that the Messiah has come and that the Messianic Age is about to begin. And, in a departure from Jewish expectations about the Messiah, Matthew tells his Jewish audience that Messiah Jesus has come to take the sinner's place.
I Jesus is the Messiah
A No Jew reading the portion of Matthew's Gospel in front of us today would miss the message that Jesus is the Messiah. We see three proofs of this.
First, Jesus was recognized as the Messiah by John the Baptist. The Holy Spirit opened John the Baptist's eyes to recognize Jesus as He about Whom he had been preaching. Remember what John the Baptist had preached to the crowds about the Messiah?
(Mt 3:11) I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. So when Jesus came to John to be baptized, John tried to deter Him saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" (Mt 3:14).
John thought it improper that the greater be baptized by the lesser. John thought it improper that he who baptizes with water for repentance should baptize Him Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire. John thought it only proper that the Messiah should baptize him rather than the other way around.
The second proof that Jesus is the Messiah is His anointing with or by the Spirit. At that time many believed that the Spirit was no longer available; others believed that the Spirit simply did not work as forcefully as in the days of the prophets. But all this was supposed to change with the Messiah's coming. The Old Testament Scriptures, for instance, clearly state the Messiah would be anointed with the Spirit of God:
(Is 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.We turn back to Matthew's account of Christ's baptism. What do we read there? Matthew tells us,
(Is 61:1-2) The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, (2) to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn ...
(Mt 3:16) 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.This anointing with the Spirit shows Jesus to be the Lord's Chosen One, the Messiah, and equips Him for His Messianic task. Here, then, is further proof that Jesus is the Messiah.
The third proof that Jesus is the Messiah is the voice of God from heaven: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Mt 3:17). Again, the Old Testament Scriptures clearly indicate that the Messiah is the Son of God. Probably the clearest statement of this is found in Psalm 2. Psalm 2 is a psalm that celebrates the rule of the Messiah. In this psalm the heavenly Father says to the Messiah:
(Ps 2:7-9) "You are my Son ; today I have become your Father. (8) Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. (9) You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery."The Father's voice from heaven at the baptism claims Jesus as Son. Can there be any doubt, then, that Jesus is the Messiah?
B Jesus is the Messiah. John the Baptist recognized Him as such, the anointing by the Spirit shows Him as such, and the voice from heaven proclaims Him as such.
So what? What difference does this make? What does this mean for you and me? We can highlight three things.
First, it means that all those beautiful promises of the Messianic Age are in the process of being fulfilled. Name any one of those promises – the healing of the sick, the renewal of creation, the establishment of justice, the return of Paradise, the outpouring of the Spirit, the end of war – all of these promises are in the process of being fulfilled. The Messiah has come and is already at work bringing all these glorious promises to fulfillment; however, we all should know their final fulfillment waits for the great and glorious day of His return.
Second, that Jesus is the Messiah means Jesus is the King we should obey. The poet of Psalm 2 gives us some good advice about the Messiah's coming:
(Ps 2:10-12) Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. (11) Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. (12) Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.The Psalmist's advice: serve the Messiah, bow down before Him, worship Him, or perish. Jesus is the Messiah, the King, so we had best serve and worship Him.
Third, that Jesus is the Messiah means that Jesus is the Son of God we should listen to. I have always been struck by the great similarity between the transfiguration and baptism of Christ. In both instances there is the Father's voice from heaven saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Mt 3:17; Mt 17:5). In the Transfiguration God adds a command to these words: "Listen to him!" (Mt 17:5). If Jesus really is the Messiah then we should pay careful attention to what He says. In fact, we ignore the words of Jesus at our own peril. We are to pay careful attention to what Messiah Jesus says. He, after all, is the Son of God. And, if were to ignore Him, ours is no escape from judgment.
II Jesus Takes the Sinner's Place
A Jesus is the Messiah. John the Baptist recognized Him as such, the anointing by the Spirit shows His as such, and the voice from heaven proclaims Him as such.
One of the greatest surprises of the Gospel is that Messiah Jesus wanted to be baptized by John. This was no accident. Jesus did not bump into John one day while on an innocent stroll along the banks of the Jordan River. Scripture tells us that John was preaching in the Desert of Judea (Mt 3:1) and baptizing in the Jordan River (Mt 3:6,13). Which means he was somewhere in the vicinity of Jericho. As for Jesus, He "came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John" (Mt 3:13). This was a three to five-day walking trip of some 70 miles.
As already mentioned, John the Baptist did not think it proper that he baptize Jesus. Jesus, after all, is the Messiah. He is the One worthy of all praise. Everyone should bow the knee before Him. The greatest prophet is not worthy to kiss His feet or carry His sandals (Mt 3:11).
Yet, when Jesus insisted that baptism was God's will, John quickly obliged. John the Baptist was not one to contest the will of God.
B Imagine that: Jesus is the Messiah; yet, He received John's baptism. We are being shown here, congregation, another side, another facet, to Jesus as Messiah. Jesus' baptism by John shows us something special about Jesus as Messiah.
What's so special about Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist? We need to remember what John's baptism is. John's baptism is a "baptism of repentance." John's baptism is a sign of conversion. The water of John's baptism is given only after a person has turned from sin and to God. John's baptism is an expression of the repentance that results in the forgiveness of sins. Those who submitted to John's baptism first made a confession of their sins.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that John's baptism is normative for Christians today, that this is the baptism we are to undergo. They don't realize there is a difference between the baptism done by John and the baptism commanded by Jesus. They don't realize that John's baptism has its roots in the Old Testament and was not unknown by or unfamiliar to the people of his day. It is John the Baptist himself who explains the difference between the two baptisms.
(Mt 3:11) I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Water – though it purifies or cleanses – only touches the surface and has no permanent result. In contrast to this is the Spirit and fire. The Spirit produces life and fire either purifies or destroys what it comes into contact with. The Messiah's baptism brings about and shows the separation between the wheat and the chaff, the metal and the dross, those who are circumcised outwardly and those who are circumcised inwardly.
Jesus, however, insisted on John's baptism. Isn't it strange that Jesus wanted, insisted even, on this baptism of repentance? Don't forget, Jesus had no sin. He was neither born with sin nor committed sin. There was no original sin and no actual sin in His life. He was sinless, righteous, and perfect. He had no sins to repent of. He had no need for forgiveness. He had no guilt and no shame.
So why did Jesus come all the way from Galilee to receive the water of John's baptism of repentance? There is only one possible answer: Jesus takes the place of the sinner; He identifies Himself with sinners; He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. He stepped into the Jordan and received the baptism of repentance as if He were a sinner.
Topic: ChristJesus – in the Jordan, upon the cross, and in the grave – is our substitute. He took our place. He paid the penalty on our behalf.
Subtopic: Became Man's Substitute
Title: Law in Tokyo
There was a law in Tokyo around the year 1900 that no foreigner could take up residence there unless he had a "substitute." There were natives who hired themselves out for this purpose. If the foreigner broke any law, the substitute suffered the penalty for it, even if the penalty was death.
And, while He stands where a sinful people should be standing, He is identified as the Messiah: John the Baptist recognizes Him as such, the Spirit descends on Him, and God's voice from heaven says, "This is my Son."
As I said, another facet of Jesus as Messiah is revealed. It becomes clear that Messiah Jesus is not only the fulfiller of God's beautiful promises, He is not only the King Whom we should serve, and He is not only the Son of God to Whom we should listen; but He is also the Suffering Servant Who took on our sin and shouldered the curse of God against that sin.
C When John the Baptist protested against baptizing Jesus, Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness" (Mt 3:15).
Remember, again, what John's baptism meant? John's baptism is a sign of repentance, of turning from sin and to God. Those who are baptized by John announce their intention to live and lead a righteous life. Messiah Jesus announces here His intention to live and lead a righteous life. But more than that, He also announces that He will "fulfill all righteousness."
Once again we are to see Jesus as taking our place. He was righteous in our place. He fulfills the standard of the Law that we are unable to fulfill. His is the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness that God demands of us. His is the love for God and neighbor that we find impossible. His is the obedience required by the Covenant of Works that God established with mankind in the Garden of Eden.
The message of Christ's baptism is so clear: Jesus is the Messiah. Yes, this means He is the fulfiller of God's promises. Yes, this means He is the King we are to serve. Yes, this means He is the Son of God we are to listen carefully to. But more than this, He is also the Suffering Servant Who takes the place of the sinner and fulfills the demands of the Law.
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