The Voice Of Love Is Heard From Heaven

January 11, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Matthew 3:13-17

To Do Everything That's Right

1. "Now I don't want you to stop [me]. It is appropriate for us to do everything that's right," (verse fifteen), said the Lord. By the way, these are the first words from Jesus that appear in the scriptures. The reason the Lord said this was that John the Baptizer was trying to dissuade Jesus when he came to him to be baptized. Why was he trying to dissuade him? It is clearly because he thought that Jesus had no need to receive baptism. What John proclaimed was the baptism of repentance. People came to John to confess their sins, they received baptism as they sought for forgiveness from God. So, unless one had sins, unless one had a need to repent, unless one had a need for forgiveness of sins, there was no need to be baptized. Jesus was clearly not in any such need. John pretty much knew that for certain. He instead ought to be baptized by Jesus. That's how he felt. That's why he tried to dissuade [Jesus from being baptized by him].

2. The answer to John [feeling as he did] was the statement from before. "Now I don't want you to stop [me]. It is appropriate for us to do everything that's right." Now I want to have you baptize me. Now I want to have you do it for me. It doesn't mean Jesus was talking like this "because I too must repent; because I too have sin." It wasn't because of that, but rather Jesus says his being baptized is because it is "the right thing to do, an act of righteousness." He said, "It is appropriate for us to do everything that's right." "What's right, the right thing to do, everything that's right, an act of righteousness " [are all the same words here] and it appears in this gospel repeatedly with the word translated as "righteousness, justice." It is "what's right" in the eyes of God. It is what fits in with God's heart, what is in accordance with the will of God, put another way, it is "what God wants." Yes, indeed, Jesus, though he has no sin, will still be baptized because God wants him to. That's what Jesus says.

3. Jesus said, "To do everything that's right." He says, "I must fulfill all righteousness." Therefore, it's not just this by itself. [I] must accomplish a series of things that God wants. Baptism is no more than one of the first [things to be done]. God wanted first that the sinless son of God stand in the baptismal waters along with sinners, as one of the sinful human beings. And Jesus knew that that wasn't all. When he stood in the water with the sinners, it would not be over with just that. There is another part to come. The rest of it is written in the whole gospel account. You all know where the story is headed. It is the cross. Jesus was submerged into the water as one of the sinners and he would come to die as one of the sinners. That is "what's right, the act of righteousness," the action God wanted. The act of the sinless son of God dying as one of the sinners and bearing upon his back the sin of every person, as the substitute for their sins. And the acts of suffering and dying for the salvation of the people. The walk to the cross already started with his baptism. Therefore, he said, "I must do every single bit of it, all of it, everything that's right, that God wants."

A Voice Is Heard From Heaven

4. However, what I would like for us to observe today is the event that happened to and upon Jesus when he received baptism as "the right thing to do, an act of righteousness." The scripture has the following. "When Jesus was receiving baptism, immediately he came up from the water. At that time, the heavens opened to Jesus. Jesus saw the spirit of God coming down upon him like a dove. At that time, a voice from heaven was heard saying, 'This is my beloved son, the one who is true to my will.'," (verses sixteen and seventeen).

5. Heaven opened. The scripture very insistently says "[The heavens opened] to Jesus." Not to anyone else but Jesus. It was Jesus' own personal experience. Also, he saw the spirit of God coming down. The one who did the seeing and "saw" was of course Jesus. It wasn't the others. It was Jesus' own personal experience. In addition, a voice was heard. This too clearly means that it was heard by Jesus; because if the others had heard it as well, then it would have turned into a huge commotion. In The Gospel According To Mark, it comes out as "You are my beloved son, the one who is true to my will," and so it is more clearly written as a message that Jesus had heard. Jesus had certainly heard the voice of the father resounding from heaven, the voice of the father's love. [The voice] said, "You are my beloved son."

6. So Jesus certainly was loved by God the Father. "You are my beloved son." So Jesus the son, who was loved by his father, was set to walk the way of suffering and to die upon a cross about three years after this. "The love of God" and "suffering." We always think somewhere in our hearts that these two are incompatible, don't we? We think somewhere in our hearts that "If I am loved by God, then I should be exempted from suffering." Therefore, when we encounter suffering, we are sure to think, "I am not loved by God, am I?" "The love of God" and "suffering" are incompatible. If I have "hardships," then I don't have "God's love." If I have "God's love," then I don't have "hardships." We think that's how it's supposed to be. But, Jesus, to whom it was said, "You are my beloved son," did not get an exemption from suffering.

7. With Jesus, he makes this plain and clear. The sufferings of Jesus were for others. Since Jesus was sinless, it was unnecessary for him to suffering on account of personal sin. There was no suffering which [any] personal sin [could] have invited in. If Jesus had existed for himself, he would have had no need to suffer. The reason he experienced suffering is obviously because he had come into this world as the messiah. He lived for the world's salvation and he died for the world's salvation. Jesus' suffering was for the purpose of fulfilling God's plan of salvation. The suffering of the Lord was not a suffering, then, because he was not loved by God the Father. That's not how it was, but rather it was precisely because he was loved by the father, it was precisely because he had heard the voice of love resounding from heaven that he could walk the path of hard pain.

8. Since even Jesus needed the love of God the Father and needed the declaration of love addressed to him of "You are my beloved son," how much more do we need the declaration of God's love addressed to us! Of course, the sinless Jesus' suffering as the messiah and our suffering as sinful human beings are different. But, even though we are sinners, the fact that we have suffering is not because we are unloved by God. God still loves this world filled with sin and us who live in it none the less. God loved the world so much that he gave his only son. God loves us and sent his son as a sacrifice to atone for our sin. Therefore, the reason we have suffering is not because we are unloved by God. The reason we still suffer, though loved by God, is that our suffering is connected to our own salvation as well as the salvation of this world. We have suffering we must bear in our lives in the long run in order for God's plan of salvation to proceed. In order to bear that suffering, we are in need of the declaration of God's love addressed to us.

Be Baptized!

9. We could say that today's passage of scripture teaches something very important for us, especially about baptism. Please look. It was at the Jordan River that Jesus heard the voice of love resounding from heaven. It was at the scene of Jesus' receiving baptism, as one of the people, lined up in a line of sinners. Jesus does not merely hear the voice saying "You are my beloved son" as God the Son who is eternally with God the Father. In that case, then even without this scene everything was good. While Jesus stood as a human being receiving baptism come what may and as the same human being as us, he heard this voice. Therefore, isn't there a connection in that somewhere to us? The baptism that Jesus received and the baptism that we receive are connected.

10. Therefore The Gospel According To Matthew does not end with only the story on the baptism that Jesus received. At the end of this gospel it commands the disciples as follows. "I hold all authority over heaven and earth. Therefore, as you go, make all peoples my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe everything that I have commanded you. I will be with you always even to the end of the world," (28:18-20). At the end the message appears of Jesus' having commanded them to "Baptize [the peoples of the world]!" The baptism which the church performs is found there.

11. The baptism which Jesus received. The baptism which the church is commanded to perform. What is there between these two [baptisms]? What is there between chapter three and chapter twenty-eight? There are the events of the cross and the resurrection. Before Jesus commanded them to "Baptize [people]!," the stories and their messages are recorded that Jesus "did everything that was right," that is, he obeyed the will of God, completed the walk to the cross, and accomplished the work of salvation. Because of this work of salvation, the baptism which the church performs has meaning. Because of the work of salvation that was accomplished, what happened at the Jordan River also happens to us.

12. As the Lord saw at that time "The heavens opened to Jesus," so does heaven open unto us in the same way; because Jesus accomplished the atonement for sin. Because of the Lord's deeds, heaven is not closed to us. It cannot ever be closed, not ever. As the Lord saw at that time the Holy Spirit coming down as a dove, the Holy Spirit is given to us as well. We do not perform a ceremony through mere water. We are born again through water and spirit. About this matter Paul states the following. "You have not received a spirit to fall into fear again as slaves, but you have received a spirit that makes you a child of God. Through this spirit we call, 'Oh Abba, Father!," (Romans 8:15). Yes, indeed, we can call God, the father of Jesus Christ, our own father. God himself says to us, "You are my beloved child." Yes, he does; we live while we hear the voice of love resounding from heaven. Through that voice, even though we may be in hardships, we can still live offering up ourselves for God's salvific work.