Jesus Is Our Precious Savior!
Lord God, our heavenly Father, as we enter Your presence to offer You our praise and to listen to Your Word, may we be led to do so with great humility. Were it not for our precious Savior, Jesus, who is Your beloved Son, we could not approach You, for by nature we are sinful and unclean. Yet, by faith we cling to Your grace and rejoice in Your forgiveness and promises. Be with us as we worship this day. Amen.
Isaiah identifies the promised Savior as God’s "Servant" – the "Elect One" in whom God delighted and upon whom His "Spirit" would rest. He would bring "justice" and "light" to the "Gentiles" through His work of divine redemption. Jesus is that "Servant." We are some of those "Gentiles."
Peter proclaimed God’s grace and truth to Cornelius and his household. He identified Jesus as the "Lord of all," citing as evidence the fact that God "anointed" Him with the Holy Spirit and with power at the time of His baptism.
Text: Matthew 3:13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?" But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed Him. 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."
In Christ Jesus, true God from eternity and also true Man born of the virgin Mary, dear fellow redeemed:
Confucius was a man, who was born in China in 551 B.C. He was first a teacher and then a government official. He observed life carefully and based on his observations he created a system of ethical teachings, which are still practiced by millions of Chinese today. Confucius died about 479 B.C. Siddhartha Gautama was a man, who was born in India in 563 B.C. He was born a nobleman, but after encountering death for the first time as a young man, he forsook his noble life and became the Buddha. His teachings, which claim that right thinking and self-denial enable men to reach their eternal destinies, form the basis of Buddhism. The Buddha died in 483 B.C. Muhammed was a man, who was born in Arabia in 570 A.D. He grew up as an orphan, traveled in Arabian caravans, and married a wealthy widow named Khadija. He claimed to have received special revelations from Allah via the angel Gabriel. These revelations form the basis of the Koran, which became the basis of Islam. Muhammed died in 632 A.D. Three men—Confucius, the Buddha, and Muhammed, whose ideas have influenced the religious life of millions of human beings down through the centuries; three men, who died long ago.
There are many in our world today, who would refer to Jesus Christ merely as a man, who was born in Palestine in 4 B.C. They would describe Him as a teacher, whose ideas of morality revealed in the Bible have influenced millions of people. They would say He died by crucifixion in 29 A.D. They would say these things, for they do not want to speak of just three men, but four men. They want to place the teachings of Jesus on the same level as those of Confucius, the Buddha, and Muhammed, for then they can pick and choose what they want to believe and practice. They do not want their hearts bound, nor their lives controlled by the teachings of theBible, for Jesus, they claim, is only a man. My dear friends, when we speak of Jesus, however, we must realize that He is not just a man. He is from eternity the Son of God, who took on human flesh to become man. Yes, He died, but then He rose again and ascended into heaven to assume His rightful throne. He now reigns over His everlasting kingdom. Jesus is not just a man, JESUS IS OUR PRECIOUS SAVIOR! That is what the Bible teaches, and that is what the incident in our text reveals. Let us examine these familiar words and see that…
Jesus was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” – let us trust in Him! Matthew writes, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?" But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus began His public ministry when He was thirty years old (cf. Luke 3:23). He chose to begin that ministry by approaching John the Baptizer in order to be baptized. He chose to be baptized, however, for an entirely different reason than you and I are baptized. You and I are baptized to “wash away” our sins (cf. Acts 22:16), but Jesus as God’s Son had no sin. John the Baptizer recognized that fact and so our text tells us, he “tried to prevent Him.” John knew that as a sinner, he “needed to be baptized” by Jesus, rather than Jesus being baptized by Him. But Jesus said, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was baptized, because that was part of God’s overall plan for our salvation. Jesus was not to be a mere teacher of morality, but rather He came to be our moral substitute—He took our places in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” St. Paul explains, “As through one man’s (Adam’s) offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s (Jesus’) righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s (Adam’s) disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s (Jesus’) obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19). My dear friends, let us therefore trust entirely in Jesus!
Many people in our world, however, want nothing to do with such faith! They want to trust in themselves. They want to be able to sing with Frank Sinatra, "I did it my way!" Consequently, they choose the logic of Confucius, or the self-denial of Buddha, or the submission of Muhammed and claim that they can do it all themselves! They make their comparisons—surely I am not as bad as some people and better than most, and their general observations—there is a little bit of good in everybody, while they ignore God’s law, which demands perfection (cf. Matthew 5:48). They assume that God will overlook their indiscretions, but God is not a doting Grandfather, but a just Judge. James writes, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (2:10). This then is why we need a Savior, not an instructor in morality. Luther wrote in his Large Catechism as he concluded his study of the Ten Commandments, "Above all, He (God) wants our hearts to be pure. However, as long as we live we will never be able to attain that standard." But Jesus did! He fulfilled all righteousness and when we in faith recognize and accept Him as our Savior, He bestows that righteousness on us. Then God sees us as His holy children! JESUS IS OUR PRECIOUS SAVIOR! He was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” – let us trust in Him!
He was, secondly, anointed by the Holy Spirit – let us listen to Him! Matthew informs us, “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.”
Throughout Old Testament times whenever a prophet, priest, or king was presented for service within Israel, he was anointed with oil. The pouring of the oil over the candidate’s head symbolized the pouring of the Holy Spirit into his heart, so that he would serve faithfully. In a sense every prophet, every priest, and every king in ancient Israel pre-figured the coming Savior. That Savior Himself spoke prophetically through Isaiah and said, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tiding to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to thos who are bound” (61:1). John the Baptizer was informed in some way by God that the Person upon whom he would see the Spirit of God descending would be the promised Savior (cf. John 1:33). John, who recognized Jesus as He approached him for baptism, saw the Spirit descend upon Him in the form of a dove after His baptism.
What does that mean for us in a practical sense? It means that we ought to listen to Him! Moses once stated, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren, Him you shall hear….I will…put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:15,18-19). My dear friends, God does not want us to view the Bible like any other book. The Bible cannot be considered on a take it or leave it basis. No, God sent Jesus to communicate with us a message of repentance over sin and forgiveness leading to life everlasting. He intends to instruct us in the art of love and move us to ever greater faithfulness. It is that same Spirit of God, who anointed Jesus, who enables us now to confess our Savior and desire to follow Him (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3). JESUS IS OUR PRECIOUS SAVIOR! He was anointed by the Holy Spirit—let us listen to Him!
Finally, we see that he was identified as the Father’s “beloved Son” – let us confess Him!Matthew concludes his account by saying, “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus is not a mere man, a mere earthly instructor of morality—He is the Son of God! Jesus demonstrated this so dramatically throughout His ministry. In our Bible Class this week we considered how Jesus healed the centurion’s servant from a distance by simply saying the word. No merely human doctor could do that, yet Jesus has power over all sickness as the beloved Son of God. We then went on to consider the account of Jesus raising the widow ‘s son in Nain from the dead. With all of the knowledge that we possess as human beings, we are still limited, yet Jesus is limitless. On that road outside the village of Nain death met the Prince of Life, and death was forced to give way! Death cowers before Jesus, for He is the beloved Son of God—life is His gift to those who adore Him!
God the Father, sent His angelic messengers to proclaim over the fields of Bethlehem the birth of His Son. He here at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry testifies as well, that before them stood His Son, their Savior. Later in Jesus’ ministry once again, God the Father would testify to the fact that Jesus was His Son as He stood on the Mount of Transfiguration conferring with Moses and Elijah just shortly before His death. On Easter Sunday God the Father once again testified to the fact that Jesus was His Son by raising Him from the dead (cf. Romans 1:4). This is a claim even Jesus’ enemies recognized that He was making during His ministry, for upon numerous occasions they attempted to kill him for what they thought was blasphemy (cf. Luke 4:28-30; John 5:18).
My dear friends, Jesus’ words, works, and the testimony of God the Father Himself, identify Him as our precious Savior. Ought we not then, having embraced Him by faith, confess Him boldly before men? This will not always be easy. Jesus warns us that we will be hated for His name’s sake (cf. Matthew 10:22) and persecuted for striving to live a godly life (cf. 2 Timothy 3:12). But He also assures us of His presence (cf. Matthew 28:20), of His power (cf. Matthew 28:18), and by His promises both to hear and to help us (cf. Psalm 50:15; Matthew 7:7). JESUS IS OUR PRECIOUS SAVIOR—let us trust in Him, let us listen to Him, let us confess Him! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting