And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him 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, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
January 9, 2023, Words By: Esau Oreso, Image By: Blakely Dadson
I love introductions — whether they happen in between two people or in front of large groups. I love them because the things people share during an introduction reflect what they believe is important in the moment. Our introductions say a lot about how we understand ourselves and our audience.
Today’s text is about the introduction of God’s son to a community that had been awaiting his arrival for hundreds of years — to a community that would both worship and reject Him. The introduction tells us a lot about God, His relationship to His son and to His people.
Our reading (Matthew 3:13-17) is sandwiched between John the Baptist’s fascinating ministry of baptism and repentance and the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, all prior to him beginning his public earthly ministry. It also introduces us to a dramatic experience in which the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus, and a voice from heaven is heard saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
God the Father publicly demonstrates that Jesus’ baptism is an identification with humanity and is motivated by love. The Father loves the Son, the Son embraces that love, and the Spirit symbolizes that love.
It’s here that John witnesses the relational affirmation of the son by the Father that does not depend on any achievements made so far. It is simply a relationship, and the father is confident that His purposes will eventually be fulfilled in the Son. In the next chapter, Satan will tempt Jesus to abuse His sonship, but to no avail. Relational affirmation — knowing that you are loved — is a powerful force. It propels the Son forward in the midst of great hardship.
In my course of work, I get to interact with grassroots leaders from churches and the broader community on a weekly basis. During our first meetings, there is usually an elaborate time of introductions. Leaders are only supposed to share their name, church or organization, and the community or neighborhood they come from.
However, many of them feel a strong, silent pressure to include other parameters that they imagine will give them greater standing among their peers, such as present titles and past accolades. Unfortunately, this unintentionally excludes and intimidates those who have little or no achievements they believe are worth mentioning; they feel out of place.
What’s interesting is that over time, as the leaders get to know each other, and their relationships deepen, the importance of their initial introductions fade away. They locate their identities less within their credentials and more in the fact that they are God’s children, created in God’s image and called to love and serve one another and their communities.
When they reach this point, I am usually able to confidently introduce them by just mentioning their names, their relationship to Jesus and their communities. They no longer feel the need for the other markers of identity.
Unlike us, the Father has no pressure to include “superior” titles to introduce the Son to John the Baptist, Israel, and the world. He simply says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” And that is enough. Can you believe that God also affirms you with the same blessing? If you did, how might that change the way you approach each day?
We are God’s beloved children…before anything else. This relational affirmation gives us confidence in what awaits us in the days to come. When we locate our identity outside this relational affirmation, such as within our credentials, it can actually hinder us from relating well with God (as our father, mother) and others (as our peers). But when we relax into God’s love, we are truly able to love others and face the challenges each day brings.
Dwelling Among Us
What credentials give us confidence in what awaits us in the days to come? How do our credentials hinder us from relating well with God as (our father, mother) and others as our peers?