Luke 3:21-22 (The Baptism of Our Lord—Series C)
“The Beloved Son”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
January 13, 2019
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is from the Gospel for today, recorded in Luke 3:
21And it happened when all the people were baptized, and after Jesus had been baptized, and while he was praying, the heaven was opened 22and the Holy Spirit came down upon him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”
In this season of Epiphany, Jesus continues to make Himself known to us through His Word. He continues to reveal Himself to us as true God and true Man, the Christ, who is the Savior of the world. In 1534, Pastor Martin Luther proclaimed, “There is without doubt good reason that a special time of year was first appointed in Christendom for preaching about the most worthy Sacrament of Holy Baptism, in order that it might be well-known to Christians and rightly honored as their highest treasure on earth, in which their salvation and blessedness are found. It is proper that this festival should have the chief name of the Baptism of Christ. . . .”
Luther would use the Sundays of Epiphany to preach and to teach about Holy Baptism so that the people would honor this great gift of God to them. Luther wrote in the Large Catechism, “So, and even much more, you must honor Baptism and consider it glorious because of the Word. For God Himself has honored it both by words and deeds. Furthermore, He confirmed it with miracles from heaven. Do you think it was a joke that, when Christ was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended visibly, and everything was divine glory and majesty [Luke 3:21–22]?”
Certainly, it was no joke. Luke records with all seriousness what immediately followed Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by John. While Jesus was praying, “the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit came down upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.’”
Luther may have been on to something when he wrote that at this moment, “everything was divine glory and majesty.” No, the usual trappings of glory and majesty—bright light, trumpet blasts, smoke—they are all absent. But there is something of divine glory and majesty in the fact that God opened the door between heaven and earth. Mark in his Gospel uses a word that means “to be torn open.” God ripped open the heavens for the Holy Spirit to come upon Jesus. He could have surely done this anointing by the Spirit in a quiet way, but here the Father sends the Spirit in bodily form like a dove to anoint His beloved Son, marking Him as the Messiah, the Christ, which means “the Anointed One.”
With heaven opened, we are given insight into God’s own view of things. Jesus is not some random guy that the Father just happened to pick out from among a bunch of qualified candidates for the position. Jesus is not a man who was adopted by God the Father to be a son to Him. As we have already heard in Gabriel’s announcement to Mary in Luke 1, Jesus, the child born of Mary by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit IS the Son of the Most High. Jesus IS holy, the Son of God. And to this the Father Himself bears witness: “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus, true God and true Man, was anointed at His baptism to accomplish the messianic work of salvation for the whole world. Jesus in His humanity, as well in His divinity, is graced with the Spirit and declared to be God’s Son. This then opens the way for all human beings to be incorporated into Christ through Holy Baptism and so also to receive the Spirit and become children of God and co-heirs with Christ of all that is His.
For this to happen, the gap between sinners like us and the holy, perfect God of heaven and earth had to be closed. Those who daily sin much and fail to love the Lord God and their neighbors can expect to inherit only physical death and eternal condemnation. As it is confessed in the baptismal liturgy, “The Word of God . . . teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own. We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation” (LSB page 268). It is Jesus, the Anointed One, the beloved Son, who alone stands in the position as the One to deliver all people from sin and to close the gap between God and sinners by reconciling them through His blood.
Because God so loved the world, He gave His One-of-a-Kind Son who took His place among us as our perfect substitute. Jesus was holy, without sin, and yet He stood in the Jordan’s waters to receive a baptism of repentance so that He might take His place alongside of us. In the play, The Deputy, by Rolf Hochhuth, a young priest discovers the truth about the Jewish extermination camps. He makes it his mission to stop the awful orders that began and are keeping in motion the slow extermination of a whole people. He appeals to everyone in authority, finally even to the pope, but all turn a deaf ear to him or plead excuses that remove them from any responsibility. When all avenues of protest have been exhausted, the hero of the play sews the identifying six-pointed star on his sleeve and presents himself at an extermination camp, where he moves to the ovens with the people whose cause he had taken on himself. So Jesus, being baptized by John, identifies Himself with sinners. He will accept their punishment, their death. But unlike Hochhuth’s hero, Jesus will go into death so that all sinners could have life and have it more abundantly.
Beginning at His Baptism, Christ stood in solidarity with us sinners. “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21 ESV). Jesus, the Son of God, who became true Man, took humanity’s place under God’s wrath against sin so that we might have forgiveness and reconciliation with God. He stood in for us under God’s anger at our sins. He endured death, hell, and condemnation for us, in our place, when He was crucified, bearing the sins of the world in His body on the tree of the cross. Jesus, the God-Man, subjected Himself to the Father’s divine wrath and punishment for our sin and so purchased for us the forgiveness of sins by the shedding of His “holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” Jesus died and rose for us so that we “might be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity” (Small Catechism).
The beloved Son, Jesus Christ, with whom the Father is well pleased, is now well pleased with you and me. Our sins have been atoned for. God’s wrath has been appeased. The blood of Jesus guarantees that you and I are now forgiven. We stand before the Father holy and righteous by means of the blood of Jesus. Christ’s righteousness is credited to us. As the Father’s good pleasure rests upon the beloved Son, so now those who are baptized into the Son find that the Father’s good pleasure now rests upon them. Galatians 3:26 announces this Good News to us, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” In Galatians 4 we hear this Gospel, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:4-7 ESV).
In your Baptism with water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit God sent the Spirit into your heart, creating in you true saving faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin, death, and hell. In Holy Baptism, and through the nurturing of your most holy faith by the Word of God and the Sacrament of the Altar, you received and continue to be given saving faith, forgiveness, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation. This is all because Jesus, true God, took on flesh and became true Man, to be your Lord and to deliver to you all that is His so that it might be yours also for time and for eternity. Holy Baptism has united you with Christ in His death and resurrection. And joy of all joys, because of your union with Christ by Baptism, what the Father said of Jesus at His baptism He also declares about you and every person baptized into Christ: “You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Benjamin T.G. Mayes, ed. Martin Luther on Holy Baptism: Sermons to the People (1525-39) (St. Louis: Concordia, 2018), 14.
 Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 425.
 Arthur A. Just, Luke 1:1-9:50, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia, 1996), 159.