We continue with our series on the Stained Glass Windows in the Sanctuary of St. Andrew’s. Today our window has the following verse, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” This passage of scripture is found in the Synoptic Gospel accounts and we will look at Luke’s view of the passage.
Scripture: Luke 3: 15-22
e return to our series on the Stained Glass windows here at St. Andrew’s. Today we look at a window which has a banner reading “Behold the lamb of God” and then below other words from scripture “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”
The passage about my beloved son is found in every gospel account except John’s, but today I’ve elected to return to Luke’s gospel and the message that it provides for us. I’ve also included more than just this one verse to provide a larger sense of context about what is happening when these words are spoken by God.
They occur during the baptism of Jesus. After Jesus is baptized he is praying and heaven opens up. The Holy Spirit descends like a dove and we hear these words, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” Now those words are the KJV translation, but other modern translations convey the same meaning. This morning with the GNT we read “You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you.”
I find the placement of these words from God, directed at Jesus, curious. They bring up a question in me and I may sound a little bit jaded for asking this, but here I go anyway.
Why is God pleased with Jesus?
“You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you.”
At this point in his ministry, Jesus hasn’t done anything.
Jesus hasn’t taught anything in the synagogues or countryside. He hasn’t healed anyone or driven out any spirits. He hasn’t even recruited the disciples yet. He hasn’t corrected the teachings of the law and angered the religious and secular authorities in the process. Nothing, at this point in Luke’s gospel he has been born, he has terrified his parents by remaining in temple in Jerusalem as they went home and he has been baptized.
This is Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. We might assume that Jesus was raised well and that for the first thirty years of his life he lived an exemplary life. But as far as the many acts of Jesus that we find in scripture, those stories we sing about in the hymn, ‘Tell me the stories of Jesus I long to hear, things I would ask him to tell me if he were here…’ none of them have happened yet.
So why is God pleased with Jesus?
To find the answer we need to look at the context of what is going on. We can’t look to the next chapter of Luke where Jesus resists the temptations of Satan, they haven’t happened yet. And God’s voice doesn’t boom from the heavens when that ordeal is over. So why is God pleased with Jesus here and now?
Let’s look at what is going on. First, we hear a little about John the Baptist. People are wondering if he is the Messiah. John doesn’t take the bait, a prophet sure, but the Messiah no. John corrects the people and informs them that one who is greater than him is coming. We know that he is referring to Jesus.
Now, John and Jesus shared a common trait. They liked to tell the truth about the situation and sometimes telling the truth could get you in a little bit of trouble. It is a common assumption that Jesus was baptized by John. The gospels of Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan.
Luke’s gospel doesn’t tell us that. In fact, between the introduction of John and the baptism of Jesus a very interesting thing happens. Luke tells us that John the Baptist was arrested by Herod. We can infer that Jesus was baptized by John in Luke’s gospel, but it’s an inference. Luke doesn’t tell us that. If we read the gospel chronologically John is in jail when Jesus is baptized. It’s an interesting point that we can debate later, I don’t want to get hung up on it.
What I want to point out is the reason John was arrested. It was because he told the truth about Herod and his marriage to Herodias who was his brother’s wife and the other evil things he had done. John told the truth. John who baptized people in the wilderness, which was not according to Jewish tradition was arrested for telling the truth. But before that happens he tells the truth about not being the Messiah and tells the people who have gathered to hear him preach that another is coming who is greater than he.
Jesus arrives on the scene, is baptized in the same manner as John. Jesus then goes on to teach, heal and correct the law. We see that in the pronouncement that Jesus makes in the next chapter of Luke, that Jesus has come to proclaim good news to the poor. To proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…
Jesus told the truth and we know that God was pleased. But telling the truth isn’t always easy. Think about every time the truth is told in the gospels. When Jesus does it in his home town of Nazareth they try to throw him off a cliff. Jesus is rejected by his family, his friends and his community before he has even really engaged in his ministry, because he tells the truth. It’s a narrative that travels all the way through the gospel. Think at the end, when the women find the empty tomb. They come back and tell the disciples the truth, and the women are rebuked.
The prophets of the Old Testament also told the truth, sometimes to their own detriment. But this did not stop them.
Jesus has come to tell the truth and his baptism in the same tradition of John foreshadows this. That Luke has John arrested before Jesus’ baptism foreshadows the eventual arrest of Jesus. John is executed and Jesus will also be executed.
Why is God pleased with Jesus? For me it is because Jesus has elected to follow in the tradition of truth telling about God. Of removing the barriers of the law, the constraints and making God accessible to all people. Expressing time and time again that what God cares about is how people love and treat one another.
All of this is tied to the moment that Jesus was baptised. I would like to think that the voice of God saying this is my son I am pleased could be applied to us. That each of us should know that we are a child of God and that God is pleased with us. Why? Because we have elected to follow in the tradition of Jesus, we have been baptised and I pray that it is our hearts desire to share the love of God with our neighbours.
Fr. Mike in his blog Interrupting the Silence writes, “Jesus’ baptism is for our sake and salvation. His baptism makes ours possible. The water of baptism does not sanctify Jesus. Instead he sanctifies the water for our baptism. The water that once drowned is now sanctified water that gives life (reference).
When we are baptised, we are commissioned by God to join in the work that Jesus did. It’s a formal way of saying I want to do this. As we baptise infants, later in life we ask those individuals to re-affirm what was done at their baptism. Living Faith states the following:
“Baptism is a sign and seal of our union with Christ and with his church.
Through it we share in the death and resurrection of Christ
And are commissioned to his service.”
Later it reads,
“It is a sacrament not of what we do but of what God has done for us in Christ.
God’s grace and our response to it are not tied to the moment of Baptism,
But continue and deepen throughout life.”
Friends, we are also children of God and I believe that God is also pleased with us when we engage in the activities of truth telling for God’s sake. I believe in our present time there is much truth that needs to be told. Truth about how to live with people in harmony. Truth about the way our societies are structured.
I read an interesting quote from a page I follow in Facebook, the quote is attributed to Stephen Mattson it reads:
“Sometimes, being a good Christian meant being a bad Roman. So before you accuse people of being unpatriotic, ask yourself which empire they’re actually serving.”
As Christians we are sanctified through the waters of baptism to engage in the pursuit of truth telling. May we have the courage to do that. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.