Jesus Christ (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.” (Matthew 3:13-17) 

The Scripture we just read is from the Gospel of Matthew, which is the first book in the New Testament. We read the early parts of Matthew chapter 3, but before that, a man named John the Baptist appears. This story takes place in the region that is now known as Palestine. It is where Israel is located, and there is a lake called the Sea of Galilee. The river that flows from the lake is the Jordan River, and at the end of the Jordan is the Dead Sea. Although it is called the Sea of Galilee, it is actually a lake. Because it’s quite large, it is also referred to as a sea.

The region where all of this took place was where Jesus primarily carried out His ministry, which was Galilee. John the Baptist, a man who appeared before Jesus, gave a baptism of repentance to the people of Israel. When the people were self-satisfied, thinking, ‘Yes, I am faithfully following God’s law!’ John the Baptist came and baptized them, saying, “You people are sinners! Though you believe you have been keeping God’s law well, you have not! Therefore, come and confess before God, ‘I’m a sinner!’” He helped them to be immersed in the water. If they stayed under water, they would surely drown, right? So, he brought them out of the water again.

Baptism, specifically John’s baptism is the mark of repentance. Therefore, John referred to his baptism as the “baptism that leads to repentance!” It signifies a complete surrender before God. Someone who once lived with self-assurance now approached God, kneeling in total surrender, and says, “I don’t have any strength! I am a sinner. I need God’s help! I tried to love God and keep His laws by myself, but I haven’t any strength to do that.” Those who confessed, “I need help. What should I do?” came to John to receive baptism. Consequently, many people lined up to be baptized.

And among those who came to be baptized, Jesus appeared. However, John the Baptist recognized that Jesus was someone special when He approached him. So, when Jesus came to him, John said, “I need to be baptized by you, so how can I baptize you instead?” and didn’t know what to do. But Jesus replied, “Let it be so now! Why? It is first and foremost that we fulfil God’s righteousness!” In other words, “Even if you don’t understand it now, there is a profound will of God behind this. Therefore, go ahead and baptize me.” And so, John baptized Jesus. He did it with nervousness and a deep sense of regret because he knew that Jesus was without sin. Therefore, he felt sorry because Jesus was being baptized just like all the other sinners. It also seemed unfair because someone who is without sin was being treated like a sinner. “But let us fulfill the work we ought to before God!”

As Jesus was baptized and came out of the water, Jesus witnessed the presence of  the Holy Spirit. He saw the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of God, descending upon Himself. Although the Holy Spirit is typically invisible, He can manifest in a way to be seen because He is God. Jesus saw the Holy Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. At the same time, a voice came from heaven. What did the voice say? It was God speaking about Jesus. He said, “This is my beloved Son!” And then He said, “He is the one I am pleased with!” These are the words spoken by God. “This is my Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased!”

This is a situation that is entirely different from what people knew before. Because Jesus came to be baptized, even those who had respected Jesus or thought that He was different from others might have thought, “Oh, He’s just the same as everyone else. He is a sinner!” And from Jesus’ perspective, this might have felt unfair. He knows who He is. He was sent by God and is without sin, yet He was baptized. Then, after being baptized and coming out of the water, there was a voice from heaven that testified, saying, “This is my Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased”. The righteousness of God represents the standard that pleases God the most. So, if someone fulfills God’s will, they fulfill God’s righteousness. Therefore, as you follow God’s will, people may misunderstand you, despise you, treat you as a sinner, or even consider you a fool. But in order to fulfill God’s righteousness, we must endure all of that. When we do so, God will acknowledge us even if people don’t. So, when Jesus did all of this, God Himself acknowledged Him and said, “This is my Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased!”

This is true for our faith life as well. People may not accept us. They may not accept our belief in Jesus. Moreover, your decision to come to our church is not an easy one, especially considering the challenges our church is currently facing. Some might even ask, “Why did you choose to attend that particular church?” But this pattern has existed since the time of Jesus. Many people pointed fingers at Him, treated Him like a sinner from the start, and in the end, accused Him of being a sinner and crucified Him.  As He hung on the cross, passerby mocked Him, saying, “He claimed to be the Son of God, and now He’s on the cross!” Others even said, “If you’re truly the Son of God, save yourself and come down from there!” Even the criminal crucified alongside Him said, “Save yourself and us!” while ridiculing, insulting, and despising Him. However, we believe, follow, and serve Him as the one whom God loves and is pleased with. The One whom others mock, attack and ridicule is our Lord, Savior, and God. To believe in and follow Him in this manner is the essence of our faith.

Personally, even though our church is going through challenging times, it has made me reflect and realize, “Ah! This is how our faith is meant to be, isn’t it?” Our faith is fundamentally about honoring and serving Him, even when others despise, mock, and reject Him, as our God and our Lord.

When God referred to Jesus as “My beloved Son,” what exactly does the term “Son” mean? Did God birth Jesus? Does it imply that Jesus is of lesser status, and God is of greater status, and therefore saying, “My Son” means “You must kneel before Me”? It is easy for us humans to think in a way based on our familiar norms, but when the Bible uses the term “Son”, it carries a slightly different concept we think of. In Korean culture, there is often a distinction in status between fathers and sons, where sons are expected to obey and honor their fathers. While this aspect is a part of the relationship, the fundamental concept that should be understood first is that a “Son” implies equality with the Father. This is the key point. Thus, when God says, “He is My Son”, it essentially means, “You are equal to Me!” It differs somewhat from what we commonly know.

In ancient times, when people accumulated wealth, what would they typically do? If someone had hundreds of sheep and cattle and later passed away, who would inherit their wealth? It would be inherited by their son. So, if the father had a hundred sheep, how many sheep would the son have later? The son would inherit the same one hundred sheep. Therefore, God was conveying, “You are the One who will inherit everything I have! You will inherit My name! You will have all the authority I possess! You are My beloved Son!”

So, when people saw Jesus on earth, filled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, they saw something in Him – namely, the glory of God’s only begotten. When we say “only begotten”, how many sons are there in total? Just one, right? If there were two sons and the father had a hundred sheep, each son would get fifty, assuming they were divided equally. Now, if there were two sons, and you saw one of them, would that mean you saw the father too? No, it wouldn’t. If you saw one of the sons, you would only be seeing half of the father, which is 50%. However, the term “only begotten” means there is just one and only one son. In other words, if the father had a hundred sheep, he inherited all of them to his only son. So, when you see the son, whom have you seen? You have seen the father! Therefore, it means that when you look at Jesus, you can see the Father in Jesus 100%”. Saying, “the glory of the only begotten” conveys this: “Seeing Jesus is the same as seeing the Father”.

In that sense, the phrase “Jesus is God’s only begotten” can also be expressed in another way – Jesus is the image of God. Why? Because there is an image that can be seen. So, we say that “Jesus is the image of God” in the sense that “Jesus reveals God as He is”. Therefore, saying “Jesus is God’s begotten!” and “Jesus is the image of God” essentially convey the same meaning. It can also be stated as, “seeing Jesus means seeing God the Father”. Additionally, it can be expressed as “believing in Jesus is believing in God the Father who sent Him”.

Therefore, when God said, “Jesus is My beloved Son”, it means that Jesus is equal to God. Even though He was a human being and had just been baptized and came out of the water. Did people in those times wash their faces every day? Did they brush their teeth every day? Did they even wash their hair every day? Yet, despite His shabby and rugged appearance, God said, “He is equal to Me!” How can anyone believe this? However, we can believe that when God gives us His grace upon us and when He helps us. Who can receive such help from God? Those who kneel before Him and confess, “I am a sinner!” can understand this mystery.

So, we’ve come to understand that Jesus is One who is equal to God. But what comes after that statement is, “with whom I am well pleased.” Does being a son always bring a joy? Not necessarily; often, sons can bring sorrow. A lot of the times, your son will be displeasing to you, a source of heartache. However, when God said, “This is my Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased,” it means that His Son was obedient. This means that God had commanded Him to do something, right? It means this: “He has done everything I commanded. Therefore, I am pleased with Him!” In other words, Jesus is the One who faithfully carried out everything God commanded, obediently submitting even to the point of death. He is God’s servant!” To say “Jesus is God’s servant”, it to say “Jesus is Christ”.

The term “Christ” means a servant, the One anointed or chosen by God to do His work. Why would someone equal to God choose to be a servant? ‘It might not seem fitting, but in Jesus both qualities coexist. There is a significant distinction between the title “Son of God” and “Christ.” However, we believe that Jesus, who is equal to God, came to earth as a servant of God, obeyed God completely, and fulfilled God’s will. Therefore, He is both equal to God and the One who pleases God. This is how Jesus came.

Why would the One equal to God come here and endure such suffering? Why would He who is equal to God come here and be crucified? Why? Who made Him do that? Who commanded it? God did. Why did God command Him to do that? To save us. It was to save us because we were suffering in sin; we were under a curse and on the path to eternal punishment. That is why God sent His beloved Son, who is equal to God, to endure such suffering. So, when we see how Jesus, – the One equal to God came and suffered this way for us. He obeyed everything God commanded to Him. Then, we can understand what kind of God He is. So, what is God like? He is love.

God is love, right? He sent His beloved Son for us; He displayed such love for us humans. Therefore, when we say, “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”, it’s essentially saying, “God is love.” That what it means. This is why the Bible begins in the book of Matthew by stating, “Jesus is Christ, the Son of God!” and it concludes towards the end of the Bible in 1 John with confession, “God is love!” And then it comes to an end.

So, our faith is all about receiving the love of God. And the way to receive it is by responding to everything God says with a resounding, “Yes! You are right!” When God declared of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son!” we ought to respond to it in agreement and say, “Yes, that’s absolutely right! Jesus is equal to God, the Son of God!” Similarly, when God proclaimed, “I am well pleased with Him!”, our response should be, “Yes, that is right! Jesus is the Christ”. Salvation is found for those who confess in this manner. Because God said, “Jesus is My beloved Son; the One I am well pleased with”, what is the faith that leads to salvation? Our faith is to believe and confess, “Jesus is the Son of God and Christ! He is equal to God, yet He obeyed God to the point of death! Jesus perfectly reveals the love of God!” God gives salvation unto those who hold this faith, and He gathers them together to become the church.

Therefore, the church, including Sungrak Church and every church worldwide, is built upon this faith. I bless you in Jesus’ name that you will keep hold of this faith until the end. Confessing this truth holds a deep significance, and as you continue your church life, you will come to understand these meanings. Additionally, our faith life is to serve God, who gave us His Son. I bless you in the name of Jesus that you will succeed in your faith life.

God our Father, we thank you for sending us your beloved Son, Jesus. We also thank Jesus for you are the Son who obeyed the Father to the point of death and fulfilled God’s will. Through the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ we have been saved and received life. Help us to know more of God’s will and spread this salvation to many people. We pray for all those beginning their faith journey, that our God will give grace and use them as a blessing through whom many souls are blessed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center