This coming Sunday is the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. The reading is from the Gospel of Luke (3:15-16, 21-22)
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The voice in Luke, as in Mark, speaks directly to Jesus. We overhear the words. In Matthew’s account of the baptism and all three accounts of the transfiguration, the voice speaks to those around Jesus: “This is my son….”
What does it mean to be the “Son of God?” Luke provides answers to this in the larger context. The baptism in Luke is followed by a genealogy which ends with “son of God.” This is followed by the temptation story where the devil tries to help Jesus get a “better” understanding. Twice he states: “If you are the Son of God” (4:3, 9).
Next Jesus reads in Nazareth from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me..” (quoted above) With these verses, we come to understand more clearly the meaning of the descending Spirit at Jesus’ baptism. Being the Son of God means facing temptation and being servant to all in need. It is not a life of glory, but a life that will lead to the cross. Tannehill (Luke, p.85) suggests that the devil tries to tempt Jesus “with another understanding of his role as Son of God, for it could be understood as privilege rather than calling. Through struggle, Jesus must arrive at the right understanding of his position as Son of God”.
A proper understanding of Jesus’ role is indicated by Luke’s other use of the term “beloved” (agapetos) in 20:13. In this parable, the owner of a vineyard decides to send his beloved son to the tenants of the vineyard after they had mistreated the slaves he had sent to them. He says to himself, “I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.” They don’t. They kill the beloved son, which is what will happen to Jesus.
Well-Pleased. I find it interesting that God is already “well pleased” (eudokeo) with Jesus. Jesus hasn’t done anything yet within the narrative, except the incident in the temple when he was twelve (2:41-51). In fact, it is in the verse following God’s indication of pleasure in Jesus, that we are told that Jesus begins his work. God’s pleasure in him began before Jesus started his public ministry.
Is God “well pleased” with us because we do things that please God; or does God’s positive attitude towards us because of who we are, before we have done anything pleasing or non-pleasing, motivate us to seek to do what is pleasing to God — to live up to what God has already declared us to be?
Tannehill (Luke, p.85): “God is affirming a special relationship with Jesus and uses words that express the closest kind of familial and emotional bond. Jesus is “my Son,” he is “the Beloved,” and he is one with whom God is “well pleased” (an indication of God’s special favor). With these words, God confirms a special relationship with Jesus and expresses confidence in him. But with the relationship goes responsibility, for the relationship implies obedience and the gift of the Spirit implies a mission. God’s expressed confidence in Jesus binds God’s cause to Jesus, who is now responsible for it. Jesus must respond to God’s trust by doing God’s will.”
I don’t think that Luke tell us about Jesus’ baptism just to inform us about what happened to Jesus. He relates this story also to indicate something about our baptisms, our need to be in prayer, our anointing with the Spirit, and our subsequent battles with evil and ministry in the world. We have a “beloved” and “well-pleasing” relationship with God. With that comes the responsibility to live out of that relationship – to fulfill the mission God sends before us – to live up to the confidence God has placed on us. Jesus’ baptism prefigures Pentecost. The era of Jesus’ ministry prefigures the era of the Church’s ministry, our ministry, in the world.
you are my beloved Son: As does Mark, Luke tells us of a direct address to Jesus – which given is was during Jesus’ prayer, we have the possibility that the voice was for Jesus alone and part of the prayer experience. The word “beloved” (agapētos) bears the nuance of “only son” as the LXX used it to translate the Hebrew yahid which means “only son.”
son: This episode in Luke focuses on the heavenly message identifying Jesus as Son and, through the allusion to Isaiah 42:1, as Servant of Yahweh. The relationship of Jesus to the Father has already been announced in the infancy narrative (Luke 1:32,35; 2:49); it occurs here at the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean ministry and will reappear in Luke 9:35 before another major section of Luke’s gospel, the travel narrative (Luke 9:51–19:27). Elsewhere in Luke’s writings (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38), this incident will be interpreted as a type of anointing of Jesus.
well pleased: eudekeo. God is affirming a special relationship with Jesus and uses words that express the closest kind of familial and emotional bond. Jesus is “my Son,” he is “the Beloved,” and he is one with whom God is “well pleased” (an indication of God’s special favor). With these words, God confirms a special relationship with Jesus and expresses confidence in him. But with the relationship goes responsibility, for the relationship implies obedience and the gift of the Spirit implies a mission. God’s expressed confidence in Jesus binds God’s cause to Jesus, who is now responsible for it. Jesus must respond to God’s trust by doing God’s will.