Matthew 3:13–17: The Baptism of the Beloved Son
In the previous section, we saw the centrality of repentance to the message and ministry of John the Baptist. A question may arise from this theme of repentance, however, that we should not too quickly overlook: why does repentance “work”? Certainly, there is nothing in repentance that accomplishes some satisfaction for sin, or that itself forces God to pardon us from our guilt. Why, then, should repentance lead to salvation? The answer lies not in our own power or merit when we repent, but in the power and faithfulness of God to keep his own promises. God promises to save those who repent from their sins, and to look in faith toward Christ for salvation. This is a certain guarantee because of his grace alone, and not for anything we deserve on our own. God’s promise, then, stems from God’s purposes and plan to save the world through his Son. As we see Jesus baptized here in Matthew 3, then, we discover an extraordinary truth: King Jesus came to cleanse sinners.
1. Why do you think Matthew skips over the rest of Jesus’ childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood? What is the only thing Matthew tells us about Jesus as he abruptly reintroduces our Lord into his narrative (v. 13)? From what we know about John the Baptist’s baptism, why would it be a surprise for Jesus to want to be baptized by John (Matt. 3:11, 14). What does Jesus mean when he insists that his baptism is necessary to fulfill all righteousness (v. 15)?
2. Who is the “Spirit of God” (v. 16)? What relationship does the Spirit of God have to the eternally begotten Son of God? Why does the Spirit of God descend upon Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate, at Jesus’ baptism? Which offices in the Old Testament required anointing? How are we seeing that Jesus is the Christ/Messiah/Anointed One by the presence of the Holy Spirit? Why is this important for understanding Christ’s ministry and mission?
3. Who is speaking in v. 17? What is the significance of this statement? That is, is God the Father declaring that the Son has is eternally begotten of the Father, according to his divine nature? Or, is God the Father declaring that this person is the incarnate Son of God, the Mediator, the Christ, and the Savior of sinners? What does Christ gain from this declaration? What do we gain from Christ’s declaration?
4. How do we see the love of God for unclean sinners in this passage? How do we see this love of God manifested through each of the three persons of the Trinity in this passage? What might this passage correct for someone who thinks his or her sin to be too great to be saved? What might this passage correct for someone who does not think he or she needs to be saved from sin? What do you glean from this passage to correct your own misperceptions about God and his love for you?