Monday, August 23, 2010

Faith and Doubt 10: Luke 3:21-22

Luke 3:21-22

21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

----> The One Who Comes After, Part 1

Now that John has gone before, it is time for Luke to draw his focus to Jesus—the one who comes after. John has captured the attention of the people in dramatic fashion, urging them to repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand, that the Messiah has come and is going to lead his people out of captivity. This event had been long-awaited by the Jews and Luke's narrative of Jesus' entrance is nothing short of triumphant, glorious, miraculous—with all the expectation and hype surrounding the Messiah's coming, one would expect nothing short of what actually happened when he was "christened," if you will, as the Messiah. Jesus descended into the water of the Jordan River, and when he had come up from his baptism, the clouds parted, the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove and Jehovah declared, "You are my Son, in you I am well pleased."

Can you imagine the magnitude of this event? The glory of it all? And Luke uses this moment to introduce the world to Jesus' official ministry.

There are some key elements here I'd like to bring attention to, but the most important to note is God's endorsement of Jesus' ministry. When Jesus came up out of the water, his Father's voice came booming from above, "You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased." This declaration is crucial to Jesus' ministry as it actually validates his ministry—Jesus came as the Messiah, not just another priest, not just another prophet, but as the Messiah. The only entity that could possibly announce his arrival as the Messiah is Jehovah Himself, and He does so by proclaiming "You are my beloved Son..."

Secondly, Luke informs the reader of the Father's relationship to His Son—Jesus is His "beloved Son." To me, this is a kind of affirmation of Jesus' elect status and echoes the sort of "election-speak" that is found in the Old Testament (like Isaiah 41:8: "But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend..."). By affirming Jesus as His "beloved Son," the Father is speaking encouragement and validation into Jesus' life and ministry.

The third way the  Father validates His Son is by proclaiming that He is "well pleased" in His Son. This is equally important as the first proclamation because this is the only time that God validated someone in such a way. We know that David was a "man after God's own heart," and that Adam was made in His likeness, and that Abraham was His friend, but at no other point in human history—not before this event, nor since—has God proclaimed that He was "well pleased" in someone. Again, this an echo of Isaiah's prophecy as found in chapter 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."

I really enjoy the way one commentary puts it:
So in this short event heaven places its endorsing stamp on Jesus. He is the promised regal Son, the chosen one, unique in his call. He reveals the will of God and serves him. This is the one for whom John prepared the people. Anointed with the Spirit, Jesus is truly the Christ, a term that means "anointed one" (4:18) [("The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed...")]. He is ready to minister and carry out his call.