Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Reigning King and Well Pleasing Servant

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)
This scene is recorded in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). John’s account of the Gospel refers to it only indirectly, as John the Baptist simply gives this witness: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him” (John 1:31). But the thing I would like to focus on today are the words that were spoken from heaven: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

This is My Son

The first part, “This is My beloved Son,” identifies Jesus as the Son of God. Jewish expectation was that Messiah, God’s Anointed, whom God would establish as king over Israel and the nations, would be His Son. This comes from Psalm 2, which is a messianic psalm. In verse 2, kings and nations conspire together against God’s Anointed. God’s response to them in verse 6 is, “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” And He declares to this Messiah King, in verse 7, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” All the nations would be given to Him for an inheritance, and the raging kings would be brought into submission (vv. 8-12).

Israel, in the days of Jesus, was deep in exile and awaited a divine Son, the kingly Messiah. When the time had finally come for this King to arrive, John the Baptist began his ministry preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven it as hand!” (Matthew 3:2). He preached a baptism of repentance and identified himself as the forerunner who was promised in Isaiah 40, the voice crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the LORD.”

And now came Jesus to be baptized of John. This would identify Him with all who were repentant and prepared for true righteousness to be fulfilled. So Jesus was baptized, and the voice from heaven said, “This is my Son.”

In Whom I Am Well Pleased

The second part of the saying, “In whom I am well pleased,” is also full of prophetic significance. It identifies Jesus as God’s “servant” in Isaiah 42: “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights!” (v. 1). This also is Messiah, and it becomes clear later on in Isaiah that this Servant would suffer for the sins of His people (see Isaiah 52:13-53:12). However, the Jews were not sure how these two seemingly opposite images of Messiah — as reigning King and as suffering servant — were to be reconciled. Some even thought that there might be two Messiahs. But what the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism shows is that Jesus is the anointed one who would be King over all as well as the one who would suffer for the iniquity of all.

The Servant Messiah

But let’s take a closer look, in Isaiah 42, at this Servant Messiah in whom God is well pleased:
Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles [the nations].
He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,
Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.
He will not fail nor be discouraged,
Till He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands shall wait for His law.

Thus says God the LORD,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it,
Who gives breath to the people on it,
And spirit to those who walk on it:
I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness,
And will hold Your hand;
I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the Gentiles,
To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the prison,
Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.
(Isaiah 42:1-7)
This is very much a description of the ministry of the Lord Jesus. He came to open blind eyes and set prisoners free from the darkness. He came to bring justice to the earth and a shining light to the nations. He came not only to establish a new covenant with God’s people but to be that new covenant. He is the divine Servant whom Isaiah foretold, and in whom God delights and is well pleased.

Now, notice particularly, in Isaiah 42:1, that God would put His Spirit upon this Servant. And that is indeed what happened at Jesus’ baptism. When Jesus came up out of the water and “the heavens were opened to Him” (which is a very significant thing in itself), the Spirit of God descended like a dove, came upon Him and settled there. This is the anointing by the Spirit of God that showed Jesus to be the Son and Messiah of Psalm 2 as well as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 42. And in this perfect Trinitarian moment, the voice of the Father declared, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”