Intro to Jesus as THE Beloved
In the Christian ‘liturgical’ calendar the Feast of Epiphany follows Christmas. It’s held on 6 January to celebrate Jesus being revealed (manifest = epiphany) to the world. In the Western Church Epiphany focuses on the visit of the three Magi to baby Jesus. The Eastern Church focuses on Jesus’ water baptism, followed by his desert temptations. Both East and West Church then focus on Jesus’ ministry of the Kingdom from Epiphany to the beginning of Lent (starts 5 March), which prepares us for Jesus’ passion during Pesach (18-20 April). Here I teach on Jesus’ baptism in God’s Spirit of Love – his being revealed to the world as God’s Beloved Messiah.
The Historical Jesus as THE Beloved
Jesus was “illegitimately” conceived before his parent’s wedding. He probably was known as a “mamzer” (illegitimate), with suspicious paternity and social rejection. Imagine the effect? He had father issues! As Jesus grew up he listened to his parent’s amazing stories of supernatural visitations at his conception and birth. He learnt to receive and trust God as his Father (Abba) in a very real sense. His father apprenticed him in his business, through which Jesus learned to “be about my Father’s business” (at age 12, Luke 2:49). Jesus consciously experienced Abba’s love in each moment and in each event of every day. At age 30 he went to John and was baptized. Matthew 3:13-17 says: Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with him I am well pleased.”
Jesus’ baptism as THE Beloved
Jesus baptism was his great confirmation and empowering of Father’s LOVE by the Spirit. Jesus received John’s baptism of repentance in obedience to his Father’s call on his life – to “fulfill all righteousness”. He believed he was the One sent to redeem Israel. In the water he confessed and was immersed into Israel’s sin, symbolizing his sacrificial death. On coming out of the water he had a power encounter, a Spirit-baptism: 1) The heavens (atmosphere) were torn open, 2) God’s Spirit came on him like a dove, and 3) A voice from the heavens said, “YOU are my Son, my Beloved, with YOU I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22). Matthew’s version is an announcement to all, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with him I am well pleased.”
God had withdrawn his Spirit from Israel after the last Hebrew prophet, Malachi (430 BC). Then he spoke on rare occasions from the heavens with his bat kol (“daughter of a voice”). At Jesus’ baptism the bat kol from heaven confirms to Jesus and to all present that he is THE ONE who receives God’s Spirit, “The Anointed”, the Messiah-King. “You are my Son, my Beloved, with you I am well pleased” joins two Messianic texts: Psalm 2:7, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you (become your Father)”, and Isaiah 42:1, “Here’s my servant, my chosen one, whom I love (my delight), I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.” This was THE dramatic public announcement and confirmation of the Beloved Messiah-King, and THE personal affirmation and empowering of love that defined who Jesus was and what he did.
Beloved is the Greek Agapetos, which comes from agapeo (to love). It means specially loved – it’s an emotional/affectionate term of endearment. Each person is special to God, uniquely loved in personalized terms of endearment, just as we love our children and spouses, calling them by intimate names. The phrase “(in whom) with you I am well pleased” can be translated as “I delight in you” (Isaiah 42:1), or “My favor rests on you.” Think about each phrase: God not only loves us, but he likes us, delights in us! The key issue is that BEFORE Jesus did any public ‘ministry’, he was profoundly affirmed as totally loved. Therefore he was so free to love that he gave himself AS love to his friends and the world. Jesus didn’t have to prove himself or earn love, because he experienced such personalized burning love from the Father. So much so he prayed that his disciples would experience and live in that love: “I pray that the love, Father, you have for me may be in them… for you have loved them even as you have loved me… you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:23,24,26). In fact, Jesus loved directly out of his personal experience of his Father’s love: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you, now remain in my love” (John 15:9). Why not “Be Loved” by the Father, just as he loved Jesus? Jesus’ baptism – his affirmation and empowering of love by God’s Spirit – became the model for Christian baptism, which I will address next week.