The Father's Beloved Son
Passage: Luke 3:21–3:38
The Father's Beloved Son
Some of you know that one of my uncles passed away a few weeks ago. He was a dear Christian man, and at his funeral, we spent a good bit of time singing together as his family and friends. The entire service really was a sweet time, but one song in particular stuck with me. It’s a song entitled, “Give Me Jesus.” You may have heard it before. It’s a simple song that describes a number of situations in life, and for each situation, the answer is the same – Give Me Jesus.
But as we sang that song at my uncle’s funeral, I was surprised to find myself asking this question over and over in my mind – Is that true? Is it true that for any situation of life, we can say, “Give me Jesus?” What about the believer who is weighed down by the struggle with sin – the believer who’s past week has been marked by more failure than faith? Is it enough for that person to say, “Give me Jesus?” Or what about the person who is worried by a lack of assurance – a person who has come to church today asking whether or not they truly know God? Is it enough to “Give them Jesus?” Or what about those who are simply weary this morning with life in a fallen world – people whose children get sick, whose jobs disappoint them, whose bodies are breaking down? Is it enough for weary people to say, “Give me Jesus?” That’s the question I found myself asking as I stood there listening to people sing at my uncle’s funeral, and maybe that’s a question you can relate to this morning. Is it enough to say, “Give me Jesus?”
And brothers and sisters, what I want to say to you this morning, on the authority of God’s Word, is Yes, it is true that Jesus is enough for his people. Whether it’s the weight of fighting sin or the worry of assurance or the weariness of a fallen world, there is grace enough in Christ for us to believe. There is grace enough in Christ to hold us fast in the faith.
And our sermon passage from Luke 3 is a wonderful reminder of why this is true. In terms of doctrinal truth, the point of this passage is clear. Jesus is the Son of God. Luke repeats it twice, first in v22 and then again at the end in v38. That’s the doctrine, the truth of this text. The passage teaches us about Jesus’ person, his identity. It’s a Christological text, and the truth it reveals is that Jesus is the Son of God.
But if we stopped there, with that simple statement of the truth, we would miss the depth of glory and grace that is present in this passage. Luke doesn’t merely tell us that Jesus is the Son. No, Luke goes deeper than that, and through Jesus’ baptism and genealogy, Luke shows how that truth is a means of comfort, assurance, and hope for sinners like us. Do you see the difference? The truth of who Jesus is not merely something we affirm, like facts in a textbook. It’s also something that we can hold on to, like an anchor in the storm. In other words, this is a passage that very clearly answers the question “Is it enough to have Jesus?” and the answer, brothers and sisters, is Yes.
Let’s look more closely at how Luke applies this truth. Specifically, there are three ways Luke presents Jesus as the unique Son of God. First, we’ll see the Son who Identifies with Sinners. Second, we’ll consider the Son who Opens the Way to God. And third, we’ll note the Son who Overcomes Sin’s Curse. Three ways that God’s Word reminds us that the Son of God is enough. Let’s begin in v21 with the Son who Identifies with Sinners.
The Son who Identifies with Sinners
You’ll remember that chapter 3 began with a description of John the Baptist’s ministry, and our passage picks up with Jesus affirming that ministry. You can see it there in the text, v21. As the crowds are baptized, Jesus also comes to be baptized. The other Gospel writers describe this moment in more detail, but Luke’s presentation is rather short. It’s just a simple statement that Jesus was also baptized.
Now, the obvious question is, “Why is Jesus baptized?” Remember, John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness, but Jesus is sinless. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, so Jesus does not share our sin nature inherited from Adam. What’s more, the entire Gospel account will emphasize Jesus’ obedience to God’s word. It’s the unmistakable conclusion of all four Gospels – Jesus is sinless, pure, holy before God. Why then does Jesus submit to John’s baptism? What’s the purpose?
There are a number of answers that give us some insight. First of all, Jesus’ baptism is an endorsement of John’s ministry. Remember, John was something of lightning rod in his day. He preached a message of repentance that honestly shook people up. But by being baptized himself, Jesus endorses this striking prophet from the wilderness. Do you see the connection? Through his baptism, Jesus is saying to the crowds, “John has been preaching the truth. John is a faithful messenger, a true prophet of God, and I affirm what he has proclaimed to you.” It’s an endorsement, so to speak, of John’s ministry.
But at the same time, Jesus’ baptism also indicates that the time of fulfillment has come. Remember, John told the crowds to look for someone Greater to come, and Jesus’ baptism, as we’ll see, indicates that he is that Someone Greater. John’s ministry is now complete, and Jesus takes center stage. It’s not that John was wrong or misguided – not in the least. It’s that John’s role is now finished, his work is fulfilled, and it’s fulfilled by Jesus himself.
In fact, if you flip over to Matthew’s Gospel, you’ll find Jesus making this same point. John the Baptist objects to Jesus being baptized, but Jesus replies by saying, “This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.” And that’s important. In the plan of God, Jesus’ baptism pictures that the time of preparation is over, and the time of fulfillment is at hand. God has come to save his people.
But there’s a third purpose to Jesus’ baptism, and it’s the one that should perhaps get our closest attention. Jesus is baptized in order to identify with those he came to save. Again, we should be very clear here. Jesus is sinless – he doesn’t need to repent because he’s never fallen short of God’s Word. But, that’s not the case with all the other people, is it? The crowds are being baptized because they are sinners, because they do need to repent, and because they recognize they cannot save themselves. That’s the entire reason the crowds are being baptized –because they need God to cleanse them!
When Jesus himself is also baptized, he is not saying that he shares their need for forgiveness. Jesus never sinned. Instead, Jesus is saying, “I am the one who will provide the forgiveness you need. I am the one who will take your sins so that you will be right with God.” Do you see the identification? It’s hard to envision a more moving demonstration of Jesus’ willingness to walk where his people walked, to endure what they deserved. Jesus is baptized not because he needs forgiveness, but because he’s the One who will provide forgiveness through his death and resurrection.
Brothers and sisters, what we need to understand is that this moment is actually a foreshadowing of the purpose that underlies Jesus’ entire ministry. He identifies with his people because he has come to be their representative and even their substitute before God. He is the Savior who will accomplish what sinners like us could never do for ourselves. Even our repentance is incomplete and unable to save us before a Holy God. So what does Jesus do? He stands in the gap, he identifies with sinners like us, one day even going to the cross in our place.
And as Jesus hangs on that cross, shedding his blood, the Son of God not only identifies with sinners like us. He makes atonement, and he saves all those who belong to him. From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus is saying to sinners, “I’ve come to save even people like you, and I’ll accomplish that salvation by doing in your place what you could never do.”
And so, if you’ve come to church today weighed down by the fight with sin, I hope you’re encouraged by Luke’s short description here in v21. It’s precisely sinners like us that Jesus came to save. And that means, brothers and sisters, there is hope and comfort, even as you might feel the weight of sin this morning. If you belong to Christ today, the gospel should remind you that all your sins – even the ones you can’t imagine anyone knowing about – all your sins were placed on Jesus, who stood in your place to secure your forgiveness. His baptism is more than a formality. It’s a prelude, a picture of why he came – to identify with his people, and to provide what they could never earn – forgiveness before a Holy God.
If you’re weighed down this morning, I pray you’ll listen to God’s Word, as Luke gives you Jesus. And I pray you’ll trust God when he says that Jesus is enough for sinners like us.
The Son who Opens the Way to God
Let’s turn our attention now to the second way Luke presents Jesus as the Son in this text. He is the Son who Opens the Way to God. You’ll notice in v21 that Jesus is praying following his baptism. This is something we’ll see at key points throughout Jesus’ ministry – he consistently prays to the Father. Why is that? It expresses the Son’s dependence upon and commitment to God the Father. And this too is a picture of what is to come for the Lord Jesus. What does the book of Hebrews tell us about Jesus’ ministry for his people right now, at this moment? That he is interceding on our behalf, bearing our burdens in prayer. What a comforting truth that is, and we see it even here at the outset of Jesus’ ministry. He is committed to prayer.
But even as Jesus prays, it is the events surrounding his baptism that are most significant. You can hear in vv21-22 that this is a divine moment. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are present, and the entire thrust of the scene is to highlight that divine sense. In fact, this is one of the high points of Jesus’ ministry. Only the Transfiguration compares to this moment at Jesus’ baptism. This is a glimpse of glory, in other words, and on a divine scale. Notice with me the divine emphasis throughout Luke’s description.
First of all, there is divine action. Notice v21, where it says the heavens were opened. In the biblical worldview, the heavens are the dwelling place of God. Of course, God is exalted over all things, and there is no place we can go to escape his presence. But consistently throughout Scripture, it is the heavens that are described as the dwelling place of God.
But what’s more, the heavens are also a place that we cannot attain on our own. We cannot raise ourselves up to the heavens. We cannot force our way into heaven. In fact, on our own, we cannot even see into God’s heavenly dwelling place. Everything about the heavens is separate from us.
And that’s what makes v21 so significant. The heavens were opened, Luke says, which is the same as saying God has taken action to pull back the curtain, so that this little sliver of glory is revealed on earth. And standing there in the spotlight of that heavenly revelation is the Lord Jesus. That’s the point here. The heavens are pulled back in response to Jesus. It is not John the Baptist or the repentant crowd that opens the way in the presence of God. It is the Lord Jesus.
But still, Luke’s description is not finished. Not only is there divine action, but there is divine anointing as well. Notice what happens in v22. The heavens were opened, “and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove.” Now, in the Scriptures the Spirit often comes upon people as a sign of God empowering that person for ministry. But considering that Jesus is himself the Son of God, the Spirit’s role here is perhaps more than power. Rather, the point is identification. Here’s what I mean.
You’ll remember from last week how John the Baptist said there was Someone Greater to come after him, and that Someone Greater would baptize God’s people with the Holy Spirit. Here in v22, the Spirit comes to rest on the Lord Jesus as an indication that Jesus is the Greater One to Come. This is the Promised Messiah, the Redeemer of God’s People, and the One who will one day pour out God’s Spirit on the church.
But this is not simply Luke’s opinion or my opinion. The Spirit’s anointing of Jesus represents God’s clear and certain identification. Without a doubt, Jesus is confirmed as the Savior, the Christ. And therefore, there can be no doubt as to our response. We must listen to him, trust in him, and then submit our lives to him in obedience.
But that call to listen takes us right into the final piece on Jesus’s baptism. We’ve seen divine action, divine anointing, but the last piece is climactic. And it is divine affirmation. Notice what accompanies the Spirit in v22 – “and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.’” This is clearly the voice of God the Father, speaking from heaven and confirming that Jesus is his only Son. And this divine affirmation gives us insight into Jesus’ identity. Remember, God shares his glory with no one. Perhaps more than anything else, God despises anything and anyone who seeks to detract from his glory. But here in v22, we have God himself speaking of the man Jesus in unique terms of personal connection and love. Jesus shares in the Father’s glory because Jesus is the unique Son of God.
We need to understand that this is a moment of profound revelation. If you want to know God, then you must look to this man Jesus. You must listen to this man Jesus. If you want to be right with God or walk with God, then you must do so on Jesus’ terms, for only Jesus is the Son of God.
Listen if you’re here this morning and you’re not sure if you know God, then this is God’s mercy to you – that he would make this truth so incredibly clear from Scripture. If you want to know and relate to God, then you must do so through Jesus Christ. And the Bible says that relationship begins with repentance and faith. Right now, this morning, Scripture calls you to turn from your sin and believe that Jesus alone is able to save. Do you see that uniqueness? It’s a uniqueness that should compel all of us to listen to Jesus and respond in faith.
But there’s one more thing I want you to notice here. Note how God says he is well pleased with Jesus. Do you see that there in v22? What’s that about? On one level, this is simply an expression of God’s delight in his Son. God the Father loves and rejoices in God the Son, and for Christians, one of the deepest joys of the Christian life is that we get to taste a bit of that joy ourselves.
But on another level, when God says he is well pleased with Jesus, there is actually a hint of Jesus’ mission. If you look back to the OT, Isaiah 42 to be exact, you’ll find God talking about his Servant, the One who comes to do God’s will and save God’s people. And interestingly, God speaks of the Servant of Isaiah 42 in terms that sound an awful lot like Luke 3. Listen to God’s words, Isaiah 42 – “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.” Do you hear that echo that reaches from Old to New Testament? The servant in whom my soul delights, and my Son with whom I am well pleased.
God’s affirmation of Jesus in v22 anticipates the fact that Jesus will certainly accomplish God’s will. And what is God’s will? It is nothing less than the salvation of God’s people. That’s the significance here. God is well pleased with his Son because God knows his Son will certainly save his people.
I mentioned at the outset that perhaps there are some here today who are worried by a lack of assurance. Is that you this morning, brother or sister in Christ? Are you worried that perhaps you don’t know God? If so, I want you to know there are other brothers and sisters in this room who can identify with you, so I hope you don’t feel alone. But more than that, I hope you hear how your assurance of salvation is not based on how you feel, but on how faithful Jesus was to his Father. When God says he is well pleased with his Son, God is also saying that he is well pleased to receive those who belong to his Son. Do you see the connection? The Father’s pleasure in his Son is the bedrock of our assurance before God.
In fact, there is a wonderfully simple saying that every Christian should know, especially those of us who struggle with assurance. The saying goes like this – The Father loves his Son, I belong to the Son by faith, and therefore, the Father loves me. Brothers and sisters, fighting for faith and assurance means telling yourself that truth time after time after time. The Father loves his Son, I belong to the Son by faith, and therefore, the Father loves me. Listen, don’t try to have your feelings provide what only Christ can give. Your feelings can’t assure you, but Christ can. And he does, because he is truly, uniquely, and fully the Son who pleases his Father.
The Son who Overcomes Sin’s Curse
Let’s conclude this morning by looking very briefly at Jesus’ genealogy, and the truth I want you to see here is the Son who Overcomes Sin’s Curse. Now, as you look at this list, you’ll notice a number of significant figures from the OT, and each one helps us understand who Jesus is. You’ll notice Jesus stands in Abraham’s line, which reminds us of God’s promise to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham. And Jesus will fulfill that promise, as the apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 3. And Jesus stands in King David’s line, which reminds us of God’s promise that a Son of David would reign over God’s kingdom forever. And Jesus will fulfill that promise, as Luke will show us through the remainder of this Gospel.
But what makes this genealogy unique is how Luke takes it all the way back to Adam. You see that there in v38? Luke even calls Adam a son of God – not a Son like Jesus, but rather a son because Adam was created directly by God. Adam had no earthly father. And this makes Luke’s presentation unique. He traces Jesus’ line back to Adam.
Now, the question is why. Why take it back to Adam? There are a number of reasons, really. For one, Luke wants us to see how Jesus is the Savior of all who believe, not only Jews but also Gentiles. But perhaps the most striking reason has to do with Adam’s failure. Think about it. What is Adam most known for in Scripture? His failure to believe to God’s Word in the Garden. It was through Adam that sin entered the world, and it was through Adam that the entire creation experienced sin’s curse. The entire course of human history from Adam onward has been a history of suffering under sin. It’s been a history of waiting on redemption, waiting for God to fulfill his plan of salvation and deliver his people from sin’s curse.
But with this genealogy we’re meant to see that the waiting is over. Luke connects Jesus to Adam as a way of telling is, “This is the One who will overturn sin’s curse. This is the One all of humanity has been waiting for – a new Adam, a faithful Adam who will crush sin and deliver the people of God.” It’s more than a list of names. It’s a hopeful statement that the long years of waiting are over. Humanity’s hope of redemption finds its fulfillment in this man, Jesus. He stands in David’s line, in Abraham’s line, and in Adam’s line, but most importantly, Jesus stands where Adam fell.
And that’s the takeaway here, brothers and sisters. This genealogy is actually a reminder that sin will not win. The suffering we endure now – the pain, the heartache, the breakdown of our bodies even – all of that will end because at a particular point in history, God sent his Son Jesus into this world, and through Jesus’ faithfulness, sin’s curse has been defeated.
I’ll ask you that question again – Is it enough for us to say, “Give me Jesus?” When we’re weighed down by the struggle with sin, when we worry over a lack of assurance, when we are weary with life in this fallen world – is it enough to say, “Give me Jesus?” Yes, brothers and sisters, it is enough. It is more than enough, for Jesus is truly the Son of God who has come into history to save sinners like us.
May we hold fast to him in faith, and may we encourage one another to do the same, both today and every day until he returns. Amen.
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