FOLLOWING ON JESUS’ TERMS
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
February 23, 2014
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
— Matthew 4:18-22, ESV
We live in the age of social media. Everyone everywhere seems to be ever-connected with smart phones, tablets, and even that old-fashioned device known as the computer. Almost everyone I know has “friends” on Facebook and “followers” on Twitter. These means have made us the most interconnected generation in the history of humankind, yet we are also setting records for levels of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and various other ills. It seems that some souls with scores of social media friends cannot find one friend they can truly count on at the end of the day.
This is not to say that God scorns social media. If Jesus had waited until this day for His first coming, He would have been a YouTube sensation. His hits would have been legion, and the Lord’s accounts on Facebook and Twitter would have an astronomical number of friends and followers.
But Jesus did not come to save the world through social media. He came to save one soul at a time through ministry and methods that are much more personal, powerful, and persevering. Though His imperative invitation was a simple, “Follow Me,” His acceptance required much more than a like or a tweet; it required a total commitment of one’s life.
Look at the example of four of Jesus’ first followers. They were fishermen from Capernaum in Galilee. Simon Peter and Andrew and James and John were two sets of brothers who were familiar with John the Baptist and had already become friends with Jesus of Nazareth. But Jesus wanted more than a superficial friendship. He wanted more with them and more from them. And what He wanted more than anything else can be summed up in those two famous words, “Follow Me.”
Most people follow Jesus socially. But what does it mean to follow Jesus seriously, unto salvation and eternal life? Jesus commands true followers to follow Him totally, vocationally, and finally.
Total commitment seems a little out of vogue in today’s world. Commitment is not always convenient, and total is just too much. We tend to keep our jobs, friends, even spouses, until something or someone we think is better comes along. We treat the Lord Jesus Christ and His church this way, too. Thousands, even millions, have made commitments to Christ in their youth and kept it; until, making money, having friends, engaging in sex, or other pleasures seemed frankly more fun that following the precepts and principles of the immortal, invisible, almighty God.
This was not so with the four fishermen. Simon Peter and Andrew had a good life and fishing business. Clues indicate that James and John had it even better. Yet they dropped their nets at the drop of a hat when those words dropped from Jesus’ lips, “Follow Me.”
They followed in repentance. They followed in faith. Repentance plus faith equals total commitment to Jesus Christ. Repentance turns and follows Jesus in mind, heart, and will to pursue what is on His mind, in His heart, and is plainly His will. Faith places a trust and love in Jesus that is far greater than any other trust and love found on earth. There is room for other pursuits, other loves, as long as they are all under the lordship of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
How do we know they committed totally? Because in their cases, they committed vocationally, too.
Your vocation is the main thing you do to sustain your life. It is your job, your profession, the people and place to whom you devote the bulk of waking hours. It is an important part of your life. In the life of a true follower of Christ, your vocation belongs to God.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John traded one vocation for another in order to follow Jesus Christ. They quit fishing for fish in order to start fishing for men on a full-time basis. Many men and women have heard this call. They have left their nets, or offices, or other places of work to work in the fields of homeland churches or foreign mission fields to further the gospel of Jesus Christ. And why not? Those who are totally committed to Jesus Christ yield their vocation to Him, and He has the right to change it if He so chooses. Would you leave your vocation for another, if the Lord told you to drop those nets?
Most likely, He won’t. God most often chooses to use people in their present vocations rather than ask them to loose one for another. There are fish everywhere, including right where you live and work. Faithful Christians who are totally committed to Jesus Christ use their vocation as a means of ministering to others, with their means, and with meaningful relationships within the workplace. All Christians are in full-time ministry. Most just do it in the factory, or classroom, or office, or wherever they may work. And remember, your work ethic, integrity, and kindness speaks as loud, if not louder, than your words of witness and invitation.
A large segment of the American church is retired from vocational employment. Your vocation is the non-vocation of retirement, a non-vocation I’m told that can be more hectic than any other vocation in the country. While retirement is not a biblical concept nor a human right, it is a privilege deserved and reserved for those who have given the better part of their lives to an honorable vocation. Do retire from your job, if you can, but never retire from the job and joy of being a totally committed follower of Jesus Christ. Retirees should have more time set aside for visiting, ministering, volunteering in the church nursery or food pantry, and otherwise serving Christ by serving others in the church and community. The four fishermen never retired and they never got tired of living their lives for the glory of God and the good of the gospel.
True followers of Jesus Christ commit to Him totally, serve Him vocationally, and finally — yes, finally.
This week I received a letter in the mail from a ministry that boasted of hundreds of young people committing their lives to Christ in a single event. It is a good ministry, and if you’re going to boast about anything, boast about Jesus. But, how do they know these young people really committed themselves to being fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ?
We are a country of counters, and the counting culture has cut deeply into the church. We count everything, especially people making professions of faith in Christ, or getting baptized, or attendance, or any other countable external evidence of persons coming to Christ. But what really counts in a person’s Christian commitment is not how they start, but how they finish.
Starting with Jesus Christ is relatively easy, at least in our culture. Finishing with Jesus is another matter altogether, which is why most people don’t. Like my New Testament professor in seminary said, “A faith that fizzles before the finish was faulty from the start.”
Simon Peter followed Jesus, finally. He stumbled at the cross but recovered at Pentecost. He faced hardships and obstacles and persecution that eventually took his life, but he never quit following the Lord Jesus Christ. Andrew followed Jesus, finally. His fame diminished and his influence waned, but he didn’t follow Jesus for fame and fortune. He followed Jesus to the end. James followed Jesus, finally. He was the first Apostle to be martyred, tragically dying young. But he would no doubt prefer a short life with Jesus than a long life without Him. Wouldn’t you? John followed Jesus, finally. He lived the longest of all the Apostles and in many ways suffered the most. His legacy is enshrined in Holy Scripture and if you want to know more about what it means to follow Jesus on Jesus’ terms, read his books.
“Immediately they … followed Him.” The simplicity and profundity of these words in the original language is remarkable. They began to do something that they kept on doing, continually, all of their lives. They followed Jesus, totally and vocational and finally.
The calling of the first four disciples of Jesus should serve to help every disciple examine their calling. What is your level of commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ? What influence does Jesus have on your job, and what influence for Jesus do you exhibit on your job? Are you in this for the long haul, is Jesus your life in such a way that you will follow Him closely until your death? Follow Jesus, on His terms!
MINISTRY ON JESUS’ TERMS
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
February 16, 2014
Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
— Matthew 4:12-17, ESV
What words would you use to describe the ministry of Jesus Christ? Matthew chose his carefully as his Gospel unfolds from the birth to the baptism to the temptation to the beginning of the ministry of our Lord and Savior. Joseph had protected Him, John the Baptist had paved the way for Him, but now it is up to Jesus to make a name for Himself by conducting a public ministry carried out on His own terms. And the terms I would use to describe it are: prophetic, symbolic, and homiletic.
One of the key motifs of Matthew’s Gospel is Jesus’ fulfillment of biblical prophecy. About a dozen or so times, he describes some event or action in Jesus’ life as something that “fulfilled” what was written in the Old Testament. His intent was to lead Jewish people, and all people, to place their faith and trust in God, God’s word, and God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
Scholars differ a bit on the exact number of Old Testament prophecies that are fulfilled by the New Testament ministry of Jesus Christ. But there are a bunch of them. Everything from Jesus’ birth to details about His public ministry to graphic pictures of His death are foretold in the prophetic pages of Holy Scripture.
Our text at hand tells of the prophet Isaiah’s prediction (ref. Isaiah 9:1-2) that the virgin born, God incarnate Messiah would minister in the relatively obscure environs of Galilee, a region formerly occupied by two of the twelve tribes of Israel, Zebulun and Naphtali. This did not fit with the prevailing religious and cultural views of the Messiah, but it fit perfectly with the prophetic word of God.
Most religions lead most people astray and away from God. Most of the modern cultural opinions on morality and mortality are wrong. The only source for sure answers to the questions of this life and the life to come is the perfect and prophetic word of God, so much of which is retained and recorded in Holy Scripture, the Bible.
Jesus prophetically fulfilled the Bible, staked His life and prophetic ministry upon it, and commends it to you today, not for your curiosity, but for your faithful obedience. The Bible is not a book to be thumped upon other people’s heads. The Bible is not a story book with overly simplistic formulas for today’s complex life. The Bible is a prophetic book in which God speaks, loves, and leads you into a life that is pleasing to Him and honorable to yourself and others. So follow Jesus, the Prophet with the prophetic ministry.
And follow Jesus, the Master of symbolism. As “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” Jesus fulfilled all of the symbolic sacrifices of Old Covenant religion. As the Master Rabbi/Teacher, Jesus preached in parables that were pregnant with symbolic meanings about the citizens and King of the Kingdom of God. And as the Author and Finisher of the Christian faith, Christ has crowned our faith with an abundant supply of symbols, including the cross, candles, baptismal waters, bread and wine.
One of the greatest symbols Christ fulfilled and used in His ministry was “light.” In the words of Old Testament prophet Isaiah, the New Testament Jesus is and gives a “great light” that conquers darkness and death. Jesus even called Himself, and His followers, the “light of the world.” Why is “light” such a strong symbol of the Savior and the saved?
Light is a symbol of hope. Capernaum and the other towns in Galilee represented a region without much hope. The economy was poor, religion was cold, and if anything outstanding was going to happen in the world, it would be in Judea or Italy or maybe Spain, but certainly not in Galilee. Then, into this darkness walks the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to bring light, symbolizing hope, into their world and ours. Just as nature teaches us that the dark night is followed by day, depression and discouragement can be conquered by hope, especially if that hope is in Jesus Christ.
Light is a symbol of truth. The religious rulers of Jesus’ day were doing it wrong. They were twisting the covenant of God and turning into a means of making rules and money. True teaching was hardly heard, true worship was hardly practiced, and truth itself was as hard to find as a Gentile in the synagogue. Then, into the darkness of error and relativity, in walks the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the truth. He tells the truth. He shines the light on the darkness in our souls and exposes our sin and need of salvation. The light can dawn in your life, forever, if the source of that light is Jesus Christ.
Light is a symbol of salvation, the saved, and our Savior. Salvation is not by works, but by the light of grace. Saved people don’t earn their way to Heaven, the follow the enlightened path of faith. Our Savior did not come to complicate the covenant of God with a litany of laborious legislation, but to light the way of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And that light began to shine, brilliantly and biblically, in Galilee.
The light of Christ chases away our darkness, discouragement, and death. Remember this every day the sun rises. Remember this every time you light a candle. Cherish the symbolism and realism of Jesus Christ as the light of your life.
The prophecies of Scripture and the light of salvation come together in the preaching of Jesus Christ. I use the term “homiletic” because it refers to the study of preaching, the preaching of Jesus and the preaching of those who preach about Jesus. And certainly, no one preached Jesus better than Jesus Himself.
Preaching has fallen on hard times in our day. Most pastors, frankly, don’t even try to do it anymore. Most people don’t want to be preached at, anyway. Preaching has become synonymous with judging, and we live in a world that decidedly does not want to, and in some ways does not need to, be judged.
But the always biblical and sometimes symbolic ministry of Jesus Christ was a homiletical, a preaching, ministry. He came ultimately for the atonement with God that His death and resurrection brings, but all along the way, He preached. “From that time Jesus began to preach” is constructed in such a way as to tell us that Jesus preached from the beginning to the end of His public ministry on earth.
We need to recapture the priority of preaching in the life of Christ and Christianity. Preaching is the God-ordained means of explaining the gospel of salvation and instructing saved people how to live a God-centered life. It is sad to see so many churches today turning away from preaching altogether, or using alternative forms of electronic and entertainment ministries rather than the personal preaching of the word of God. If Jesus came to this church or any church, He would preach.
We need to analyze the key components of preaching in the life of Christ and Christianity. Jesus was always biblical in His preaching, often symbolic, and cuttingly clear. Repentance was always a leading theme. Faith was always implicit if not explicit. And the purpose of repentance and faith was to put people into the “kingdom of heaven (God).” Repentance is a grace that makes a profound change in one’s mind, heart, and soul, a turning away from sin and self to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Faith is a grace that rests in Christ and Christ alone to free us from the penalty, power, and ultimately the presence of sin and death. And, the kingdom of God exists in anyone, any people, and any place where God is king, where Jesus Christ is Lord!
We need to listen and obey the message of the preaching of Christ and Christianity. Preaching, even the preaching of Jesus, is useless to you unless you hear it. Furthermore, hearing it is also useless, unless you heed it. Are you one of the masses of unrepentant, lost people or superficial Christians? Has faith lodged itself in your heart and soul, not just your mind? Is Jesus Christ truly the Lord of your home, hobbies, habits, and entire life?
Repent and believe in God’s Son, for He perfectly and prophetically fulfills God’s word. Find a candle and a cross, and come to the light of salvation through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Believe this preached message about the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, and follow Him into whatever ministry He calls you to, ministry on Jesus’ terms.
TREASURE TRUMPS TEMPTATION
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
February 9, 2014
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. ’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. ’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,“‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve. ’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
— Matthew 4:1-11, ESV
The Lord Jesus Christ conducted a public ministry of approximately three years. It began with His baptism and led Him to Calvary and beyond. Along the way, there were places to go, people to see, temptations to face, and treasure to keep. Actually, all of these things come into view as soon as Jesus took his first steps out of the Jordan River.
Places to Go
After being baptized by the Baptist, the direction Jesus drove was dictated by God. The Father, by the Spirit, led the Son “into the wilderness” for forty days of preparation for His public ministry (perhaps a parallel to the forty years it took the Israelites to exodus from Egypt to Israel). All of us, all the time, should allow all of our steps to be directed by God. And all of us should be aware that God sometimes sends us places where we are called upon to deal with hard times and difficult people. In this unique passage, God placed His unique Son into what seemed like an eternity of “fasting” followed by a fight with “the devil.” I can think of any number of places I’d rather be, can’t you?
The sending of the Son into these circumstances inspires confidence. Jesus obviously had confidence that God the Holy Spirit would only lead Him, God the Son, some place where He would have an opportunity to glorify God the Father. God the Father had confidence that God the Son would accomplish just that, so God the Spirit sent Him forward.
God had great confidence in the Old Testament patriarch Job. Job’s life became a veritable hell on earth because of it. God had great confidence in sending His Son to earth. Of course, we killed Him because of it. God had great confidence in sending the first Apostles to the world with the gospel. They all died doing it.
Do not let the idiot televangelists ever trick you into thinking that health and wealth are signs of success with God. Sometimes the very people God loves and trusts the most are the very people doing the hard work in hard places, away from the spotlights and the cameras, in the wilderness of this present world. Maybe the Lord will send you into such a place, and think about the people you will meet!
People to Meet
The one person Jesus met in this wilderness journey has three names: “the devil,” “the tempter,” and “Satan.” He has other names in Scripture as well, not the least of which are slanderer, liar, and murderer. Obviously, this meeting is not something most of us would have on our bucket list.
I do not know if it was the famous French poet Baudelaire, or the English apologist C.S. Lewis, or Keyser Söze of The Usual Suspects who said, “The greatest stunt the devil ever pulled was convincing people that he doesn’t exist.” But the person that Jesus met in the wilderness is a person taken so lightly in our day and age that most people believe he is not real. Schools make mascots out of him that render him a harmless caricature. Writers tell Faustian tales about him buying a soul from some unsuspecting chump. Even singers croon in comical tones, like Charlie Daniels’ The Devil Went Down to Georgia. I grew up in Georgia and I suspect he has been down there a time or two. And the damage he does is neither comical nor imaginary.
The devil is not fiction and he is not funny. He is a real, angelic, created being who rebelled against God and wreaks havoc among God’s people. He influences other demonic beings who influence many human beings to do things that are contrary to God’s will and detrimental to God’s kingdom. Combined with the every day temptations of this present world, and the depraved weakness of our own flesh, the devil completes an unholy trinity of tempters who seek to take us away from God. He even had the audacity to throw three common temptations at the very Son of God Himself.
Temptations to Face
Satan through his three best pitches at Jesus. The Lord hammered each one out of the park. It would be easy to just stand up and cheer. However, we had analyze Jesus’ smooth swing, for sooner than later it will be our time to step up to the plate and face these same temptations.
Satan tempted Jesus with pleasure. Turning stones into bread would have been something Jesus could have easily done, and certainly in and of itself it would be no sin. But Jesus was bent on doing what God directed Him to do, not Satan, and would not even eat food without a word or direction from God. For Jesus, hearing and heeding the word of God was more precious than the pleasure of food or any other human respite. Most people I know, even a great number of professing Christians, put personal pleasure at the top of their priority list. After all, God just wants us to be happy, doesn’t He?
Satan tempted Jesus with popularity. The second temptation invited Jesus to become a spiritual stunt man and thrill a crowd with acrobatic and angelic activity. If Jesus had succumbed to this temptation and performed this feat at the pinnacle of the Jewish Temple, a standing ovation would have been the least of His earthly rewards. Today’s televangelists gain fame and fortune for offering fake miracles and false promises, so just think what Jesus could have gained by flashing some real miracle like this in front of a crowd. But Jesus came to serve the Father in an important spiritual matter, not call on the Father to serve Him in some silly side show. He would not sell His soul for popularity, unlike so many people in our day.
Satan tempted Jesus with power. I don’t think the devil had PowerPoint and a projector, but I do think He showed Jesus a vision of the power and wealth of all the worldly kingdoms of the day. The GNP would have been in the trillions and Satan offered Jesus a position more powerful than any head of state, corporation, or bank. Jesus passed. Though sovereign and in control of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ became totally submissive to worship the Father and accomplish the Father’s will, which was not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
If you are a Christian and you have not been tempted to sell your soul or compromise your faith in exchange for pleasure, popularity, or power, you are either not really a Christian or you are not really living and breathing. It happens, every day. And the way to overcome any temptation, in the same way as the Lord Jesus Christ, is to use a treasure, a treasure you have already been given.
Treasure to Keep
Everyone notices that every answer Jesus gave to the questioning tempter is found in the sacred Scriptures we call the word of God, or the Bible. His particular quotes in this passage come from the book of Deuteronomy, on Old Testament text seldom studied in depth by New Testament Christians. Jesus had an advantage, to be sure, in memorizing, quoting, and applying God’s word to His life. But all followers of Jesus have the same opportunity to treasure God’s word above any words that arise from this present world, our own flesh, or even the devil himself.
The one who treasures God’s word treasures God, and whoever treasures God will never fall to the temptations of the world, the flesh, or the devil.
Do you have this treasure?
If you have the treasure of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then you have the treasure of the Holy Spirit living within you, and you have the added treasure of access to the written, inspired, infallible, inerrant word of God, the Bible. You have the word of God spoken to you, albeit somewhat subjectively, by the still small voice of the Spirit which speaks in mysterious ways. You have the word of God written to you, through the same Spirit and the aid of some forty human authors, objective texts to be read and studied in context, so that by obeying the word of God you may accomplish the will of God. You have treasure that is worth infinitely more than all the pleasure, popularity, and power this world has to offer. So treasure your treasure, and you will be able to face any temptation in this life with confidence and victory.
Most of what Jesus did you and I will never do. We were not virgin born, we are not sinlessly perfect, and we cannot shed our own blood for the remission of someone else’s sin. But we can treasure God. We can treasure the worship of God, the word of God, and the will of God. Satan is no match for Jesus, nor for any person so consumed with these treasures. Treasure trumps temptation!
THEN JESUS CAME
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
February 2, 2014
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
— Matthew 3:13-17, ESV
I love going to concerts to see and hear some of my favorite musicians. Usually there is an opening act of lesser fame. Though not the headliner, they are talented, perform well, and serve a good purpose to get your ready for the main event. But the real magic is in the moment when the star finally hits the stage.
Forgive me for likening the gospel to a rock concert, but each Gospel audience is warmed up by the work of John the Baptist before the Lord Jesus Christ steals the spotlight. John did a masterful job of getting an audience ready for the main event. And as the curtain begins to draw on his career, the Baptist shares the stage for a fleeting moment with the One people have been waiting in line for millenniums to see. Mark records that transcendent moment with the opening words in this text, “Then Jesus came …!”
Jesus Came to be Baptized
The first thing we learn Jesus came to do in this text is “to be baptized.” John the Baptist has set the stage for Jesus by preaching a message of repentance and baptism as a rite of passage into the new and improve version of the kingdom of God. Sinners flocked to John at the Jordan River to confess their sins, express their repentance, and be baptized.
Now it is a pivotal point of theology and the firm belief of every Christian that the Lord Jesus Christ never sinned. So why would a non-sinner, the only non-sinner who ever lived, submit to a baptism of repentance from sin? John obviously had qualms about this, too, but was assured by Jesus that this baptism was necessary or “fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” In other words, God decreed that this was the right thing to do. Why? For at least three reasons: inauguration, identification, and exemplification.
The baptism of Jesus was the inauguration of His public ministry as the great High Priest, the authoritative Rabbi, the Good Shepherd, and the promised Messiah. In the Old Covenant, the high priest was ceremonially washed with water before taking office (ref. Exodus 29:4). Jesus, who was doing literally Lord knows what for about thirty years, now comes publicly before the people of Israel to begin His priestly, prophetic, and propitiatory work on behalf of the world. So, Christ’s baptism was his ordination for ministry and the inauguration of the greatest story every told and a new and better Covenant.
The baptism of Jesus was a way and means of identification with repentant sinners. When a new Christian confesses their faith in baptism, they are claiming a new identity with the crucified, buried, and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ (ref. Romans 6:4). It is our way of saying to Jesus, “I accept you, I love you, and I’m going to walk with you for the rest of my life.” And while Jesus certainly did not need to be baptized on account of His sins, He was baptized on account of ours, so he could say to you, “I accept you, I love you, and I’m going to walk with you for the rest of your life.” There is a double identification symbolizing the double imputation between the Savior and the saved going on in the beautiful ordinance of baptism.
The baptism of Jesus was also conducted as an example to all future followers of Jesus Christ. Great leaders, including the greatest leader, lead by example. They seldom ask you do do something they have not done, or are not willing to do, themselves. Jesus submitted to baptism as the beginning of the New Covenant and expects His followers to do the same until He comes again. Are you a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ? Have you been baptized? If not, what are you waiting for?
Jesus came to be baptized for you so that you can be baptized for Him. But more importantly, Jesus came to bring us to God by bringing God, in all of His triune glory, to us.
Jesus Came to Bring Us to God by Bringing God to Us
Though the word “trinity” is not found in Scripture, the theological concept of the tri-unity between the three persons of the one, true, and living God is apparent everywhere. We see it in creation (ref. Genesis 1:1-2 combined with John 1:3; Genesis1:26 and the “majestic plural;” etc.), the incarnation (the Father through the Spirit conceives the Son), and in plain view during the baptism of Jesus. God the Father speaks, God the Spirit descends, as God the Son is baptized to begin His ministry of redemption.
It is truly at the baptism of Jesus that we see the fulfillment of the name “Immanuel,” or “God with us” (ref. Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). We also should reflect here on the meaning of the name “Jesus,” which is “God saves.” Jesus came to save us from sin and death and grant us forgiveness and everlasting life. God knows we could never climb up to Him, nor attain His righteousness with our own morality and works, nor in any way achieve or earn our own salvation. So like any outstanding father or faithful friend, when we could not come to Him, He came to us!
To say “Then Jesus came” is the same as to say, “Then God came.” At this great baptism, “Then God came” in the Son, in the flesh, in person, to begin a ministry that would accomplish the salvation of the world. The Son of God came with perfect character, perfect obedience, and a perfect love for you and me. God was in the Son at the baptism of Jesus.
At this great baptism, “Then God came” in the descent of the Spirit. We know Jesus and John saw the dove-like manifestation of the Holy Spirit, although we cannot be certain if anyone else cast a gaze upon this image. We know now that the Holy Spirit comes in invisibility and invincibility to do His work in and through us. We know now and for all time that the Holy Spirit is the power of God that creates, regenerates, and enables the human race. And somehow we know that as God embodied and identified with mankind in the person and work of the Son, the Spirit was necessary to give guidance and power to the Son. God was in the Spirit at the baptism of Jesus.
And at this great baptism, “Then God came” in the voice of the Father. Did He speak in Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Latin, or King James English? Did He sound like James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, or George Burns? Was His voice heard by all, by some, or just by Jesus and John? All I know is that when God the Father witnessed God the Son being loving, humble, and obedient, it made Him exceedingly proud and pleased. I think this is true for God and all of His children, too.
Are you one of them?
Jesus Came to Be Your Lord and Savior
“The Jesus came” to be baptized. “Then Jesus came” to be “God with us” in order to bring us to God. Has there been a day in your life when you could honest say, “Then Jesus came” to be your Lord and Savior?
The baptism that began Christ’s gospel ministry tells the tale of how it ended. The Lord Jesus Christ died, was buried, and He rose again. This is the gospel!
The gospel is never about what you can do for God, but what God has already done for you. It does demand repentance and faith, for there is no other way to be connected to the grace of God that saves. I hope there has been a time in your life when “Then Jesus came” to grant you repentance and faith. I hope you have honored and obeyed the Lord by being baptized in some Christian tradition. I hope you will hear God the Father say of you one day that He is “well pleased” with your life. For I know, then and now, that this is why “Jesus came.”
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org