Recently I had the pleasure of a dad with his adult son coming by my office for a visit. I had known the dad for some time but hadn’t ever met his son. What was amazing to me was the glen in the dad’s eyes as he presented his son to me. He was obviously proud beyond measure of his boy and what he was doing with his life. I was thinking later about the meeting and conversation and it hit me that this is what every boy longs for from his dad. We want to have our dad look at us with admiration in his eyes and to say to a friend, “This is my son and I am very pleased with what he had done with his life.”
Think about another special occasion when a Father made such a statement about his son. Matthew records the story in Matthew 3:13-17. It all began with the story of John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness a message of repentance and telling those who heard him to be baptized to have their sins forgiven. He promised the kingdom of God was coming soon. John was a powerful preacher and people were coming out into the deserted area to hear him preach even though it was far from a convenient trip to make. People came from all Judea and Galilee to hear him and to be baptized by him. When Jesus was thirty years old, he came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. John resisted saying he needed to be baptized by Jesus rather than baptizing him. Jesus said, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” John then baptized Jesus in the Jordan. It wasn’t for the forgiveness of his sins, since he hadn’t committed any sins. But to fulfill God’s righteous plan and prepare him for the mission given him by the Father.
“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 alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Remember this is the very beginning of Jesus ministry. At this point he had never preached a sermon, performed a miracle, healed a sick person or taken a stand against the religious hypocrisy of the day. For the last thirty years he had been at home in Nazareth serving faithfully as a son and brother. Jesus was the oldest child in a family of at least five boys and two girls but very possibly more than two girls. It seems likely that somewhere in his growing up Joseph, the father of the crew had died. Now, in reality he was Jesus’ stepdad, but the actual dad to the rest of the children. Joseph had been a carpenter and when Jesus returned to Nazareth to preach in their synagogue, Mark notes that the people said, “Is this not the carpenter?” indicating that Jesus had learned the business from Joseph and had carried it on after his death. We aren’t told why Jesus waited until he was thirty years old to begin his ministry. It could have been just the belief that he would have greater acceptance among the people when he was a little older. It could have been that Joseph’s death left the family in desperate need for him to stay and pick up the slack left behind in providing for the family and helping to bring up the younger siblings for the Lord.
Whatever the reason, at thirty he was baptized and God opened heaven to send the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove to light on him, showing his acceptance and place in the godhead. But that wasn’t enough. God spoke from heaven to say to Jesus and the world around him, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” So, before Jesus even started on his ministry of preaching and teaching people about the gospel and the coming kingdom, God was pleased with him and wanted him and everyone else to know of his devoted love for him and how pleased he was with Jesus life, so far. It seems to me that there is a powerful lesson in this event. God didn’t wait to express his love, joy and pleasure in his son until he had fulfilled his mission. He didn’t wait until he had preached to the multitudes or until he had healed many who were sick or hurting. He shouted the message of love at the threshold of Jesus’ ministry. It is a lesson for father’s to not wait for their children to accomplish something amazing to express your love, joy and pleasure in their life.
But it has a deeper message as well. We all become God’s sons and daughters when we out of faith turn to the Lord in baptism to begin our life in him. “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). When we begin our life for the Lord, entering his family and having Him as our Father in heaven and us as his children, his family, God loves us and claims us as his own. He is shouting to the world, “This is my son or daughter, whom I love and I am very pleased with them.”
One of the problems we tend to have as children of God is that we tend to think God will only be pleased with us and shout his love for us when we are able to do some big thing in the world in his name. Now, it is certainly true that God will express this same love later, after he had preached great sermons, healed multitudes of sin and performed amazing miracles. On the mount of Transfiguration God spoke up when Peter wanted to build three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. God stilled Peter’s voice by saying, “This is my Son, whom I love, listen to him.” So God does show his love and pleasure for us as his children when we do something good in his name. But he also expresses his love and pleasure in us simply when we make our commitment of faith and dedication to him. When we out of that faith in the Lord are baptized into Christ and become his children.
Imagine the scene. You are there with God and He looks at you with love and says to Abraham, Hey, I wanted you to meet my son or daughter today. I am so pleased with him and their faith and commitment to me. I hope you will get to know them. God loves you for being his child. God loves me as his child, even though I haven’t done anything special. Amazing!