Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Witness of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit

(Message Preached at Heritage Baptist Sept 16, 2015)
 
And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Mark 1:9-11)

I would like to remind you of two items, the theme of Mark, To Disclose or Unveil the Suffering Servant.  And also the key verse for the book is Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” 

Where John was baptizing it was the far southern end of the Jordan River, only 20 miles or so from Jerusalem.  I was surprised to find this out.  Johns ministry was much closer to the population centers than I had realized.  As a reference I would like to add that Nazareth of Galilee is nearly 90 miles north of John’s ministry area – and that’s assuming one travels through Samaria – which we know our Lord did.

When I prepare my messages, I try to start with some goals, and part of that process is my asking questions of the text.  Sometimes it’s quite helpful to ask the negative questions, which can often eliminate errant views or as in the case before us clear up some misunderstanding.

One of the questions I put before the text this time is a simple one, and it references another passage, so I would like to read that portion from Matthew:

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. (Matt. 3:13-15)
 

Here is the question posed. Why does Mark leave out such a significant dialogue?  As I began to investigate I discovered that one of my presumptions was wrong.  I had presumed that this dialog was present in both Matthew and Luke, and even perhaps John – but it wasn’t.  It is actually found only in Matthews rendering.  And think of the significance of the question John the Baptist posed.  There is a rich theological matter here presented especially concerning Christ’s response, and only Matthew has presented it to us.  Why?

To get at this, we need to consider the 4 gospels and their intended initial audiences. 

1.   Matthew was writing to the Jews and his theme is the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven.

2.   Mark, as we have been learning, is a disclosing of the Suffering Servant.  His audience is gentile & Roman Christians.

3.   Luke is the only Gentile to write any book of Scripture and his gospel is to present Jesus Christ as the Son of Man. His audience is to the Greek world.

4.   John is writing to the Christian Church, presenting Christ as the Son of God to the whole World.

Having thus briefly considered the purpose and audience of each Gospel it should be apparent that the dialog of John & Christ, is at first primarily relevant to the Jewish people whose righteousness was frequently defined by the law – something Romans and gentiles might not even understand.
 

So can you see how having the greater historical context helps in our interpretation?  This book does not reside in a vacuum.  The context is not ONLY the order of the words, paragraphs and books within the pages of the Bible, but even the historical period and people addressed. 
 

Having considered that question we come to another matter – The account of the baptism of Christ exists in all 4 gospels – so there is a certain significance to it for all parties in all times and all places.  It is our job to mine out the significance and then apply it to our lives.
 

I really appreciate Dr. Saxon’s message several weeks ago, as his exposition of Ezekiel 1 helped me grasp a significant aspect of Christ’s baptism.  As he explained in his exposition the priest was to begin his ministry at the age of about 30.  Numbers 4:1-3 is our reference and while Ezekiel was prepared to be a priest, he became a prophet at the same age instead.  In Luke’s gospel, we read that Jesus was about the age of 30 when he was baptized (Luke 3:23) It is significant that Christ was the same age as that which was needed for one to be eligible for the priesthood.
 

With regard to the text today I have 3 matters I’d like to deal with.  First off the testimony of John as he came out of the water having baptized Christ.  Secondarily the symbolism of the Spirits alighting on Christ, and lastly the statement of the Father regarding Christ.
 


Verse 10 states, ‘And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:’ John saw the ‘heavens opened’ What do we have here?  The rending of the heavens!  I prefer to use the word ‘rend’ just to point out that the Greek work here used is ‘schizo’ - a tearing or rending.  The word is used also in Matt, Mark & Luke of the veil of the temple having been torn, and in John of the soldier’s decision to cast lots for Christs clothing rather than tear it.  The heavens opened in such a way it was like a rending.  The clouds did not simply move aside, but the sky opened right up allowing the Spirit to descend as a dove.  And while it isn’t the same word, Ezekiel in 1:1 also at this same time states ‘that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.’
 

In my Bible I have several cross-references on this event pointing to it as an anointing.  Leviticus 8:12 references Aaron being sanctified by anointing oil.  Psalm 89:20 says, ‘I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him.’ This was interesting, but when I got to the 3rd reference it all came together.  In Acts, Peter was preaching and here is our matter explained.  His message is declared in Acts 10:34-43.  The verse of significance is 38, ‘How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.’ So Peter tells us that Christ's anointing was not of oil, but the Holy Spirit of God.  And this accords nicely with the testimony we read in Mark.
 

So when we see that Christ was anointed, with the Holy Spirit, at the age accorded for the priesthood it is even more significant.  Let’s consider the Spirits arrival descending upon him as a dove.  John Gill has a very interesting note on verse 10.  The quote is very extensive, and so I’ll quote only a portion.  Speaking of the Spirit, Gill states, "He may be likened to a dove, for its simplicity and sincerity ...  and for its mildness and meekness; one of the fruit of the Spirit of God is meekness, Gal. 5:23. And this it produces in converted persons, making them meek; humble, and gentle: and also for its harmlessness and innocence; and which appears, or at least should, in those who mind the things of the Spirit: hence that advice of Christ, "be harmless as doves", Matt 10:16. Likewise for its purity and cleanness; the Spirit of God is a Spirit of holiness, he is the author of sanctification; such as are washed, sanctified, and justified, are so in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God, 1 Cor. 6:11.”
 

Here is where the commentary that John Gill gives becomes a great blessing, “To which may be added, that Noah's dove bringing the olive leaf in its mouth, as a sign, of peace and reconciliation, fitly resembled the Holy Spirit, one of whose fruit is peace, Gal. 5:22, and which he produces, by leading to the blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of Christ, whereby peace is made, and reconciliation obtained: and his descending upon Christ here, points him out as the peacemaker, through whom was come peace on earth, good will towards men, and glory to God.”
 

Isn’t that a rich statement?  Have you ever thought deeply on how the Spirit descending upon our Lord pointed to the reconciliation and peace which he procured for us? 
 

Recently I was listening to a review on War Room and the reviewer among other things was stating it was weak on The Gospel.  And a thought came to me, How could it be strong?  The Gospel is a WRITTEN gospel.  It is not suitable for the medium of film.  It's really only rightly presenting verbally.


In John’s gospel 1:32-34 we have the testimony of John the Baptist concerning this event, “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”  John’s testimony here recorded is that the dove was to him a sign of the Messiah – who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.  He received this as a prophet from the Father immediately.  It’s a beautiful picture set before us, of a dove landing upon the Lord.  The dove – the very Spirit of God would in this act anoint others with the Holy Spirit as they put on this same Christ in salvation! 
 

In Isaiah 11:1-2 we read of some of the other aspects of the anointing of the Spirit, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
 

Isaiah goes on to describe some of the work of the Messiah, all of which is tied to the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
 

For the remainder of the message I’d like to consider the testimony of the Father concerning the Son from verse 11, “And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  In Mark (and Luke incidentally) it is the Father speaking to the Son, “Thou art my beloved.”  Matthew reports the testimony as the Father speaking to all present, “This is my beloved This should not pose any issues to you, as we are not seeing here a discrepancy of any significance. Rather we see a great deal of agreement and as John Haley suggests, “It is beyond question that in each [example] the fundamental idea [is] preserved under all the various forms. And this we think, is all, and precisely what, the sacred writers intended.” (Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, page 154)

And what is that fundamental idea? That Jesus, is God’s beloved Son and that the Father is well pleased!
 

A very close parallel passage is found in Isaiah 42:1, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.  In Isaiah we read an almost exact rendering of the Fathers words in Mark.  It’s always striking to see such, yet it ought not to surprise us, as it is the same God the Father who gave the prophets what to say who himself testified for our sakes at the baptism of the Lord.  And the chief witness of this was John who gave very particular testimony, and as it was coming from John – all held him to be a prophet (Luke 20:6) – a reliable witness to the fact for those of his contemporaries. Contemporaries who might question the truth of the very report.  We can stand upon that ‘more sure word of prophesy’ which we read about in 2 Peter.
 

Consider this – “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:” (2 Peter 1:16-19 emphasis added)
 

This more sure word spoken of by Peter is the written record we have here in our Bible.  Let’s examine it more closely.

Peter says ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ Did you realize that Peter is NOT speaking of the Baptism of Christ and what was spoken then, but what the Father said at the transfiguration?!  What an amazing coincidence?  No – this is no Coincidence – This is the deliberate and very significant testimony of God the Father to his people of his Son. 
 

In yet another passage, Matt. 12:17 – 21 we read, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
 

This is an extended quotation of Isaiah 42 and Matthew applies it to Jesus in verses 15-16.  The testimony of God is simply overwhelming!  We have read in Isaiah 42 and in all 4 gospel accounts of the baptism, and in 2 Peter, and in the account of the transfiguration in Matthew, Mark and Luke, and here in Matthew 12 referencing the application of Isaiah 42:1 to Christ.  Nine distinct testimonials of the Father for our sake to the truth of Christ as the chosen One – that Seed, the Messiah.  Eight of them verbal in nature and the portion in Matthew 12 while not verbal was a reference to the verbal testimony in Isaiah and the apostolic testimony is that this passage is applied to Christ also!  Whether the particular testimony or the instructional application we do indeed have that ‘more sure word of prophecy’!  
 

Several years ago I was in a musical team and one of the numbers was called ‘Go and Tell John”  It was a simple retelling of that brief period of doubt the Prophet John the Baptist had while in Herod’s prison.  We read of it in Matt 11:1-5.  Jesus instruct his disciples to tell John that, ‘The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  Why?  Do you realize that while we were not the parties present to see and witness the events – those parties, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote down their testimony for us.  Here it is!  The same Holy Spirit whose witness to John was that Christ is the Messiah has given us a sure word of prophecy and we barely even take the time to read it, notwithstanding to study it. 
 

Brothers and Sisters – I challenge you and myself also, Labor over this book!  It is the ONLY and sufficient Word of God not for them alone but for us especially. 
 

We read of another prophecy in Luke 4:18, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised" And you recall what Christ said of that passage, right? This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. How did you know that?  It’s in your Bible! You didn’t have to witness it to know it happened did you?  Why is that so?
 

The very Spirit of God, who in his first fruits descended upon the Lord Jesus, – you have that self-same Spirit, if you have put on the Lord Jesus Christ. One and the same.  He it is who testifies to us that the Scriptures themselves are true!
 

The opening of the book of Hebrews tells us how the Lord speaks today – and it is not by the mouths of Prophets but by the Son of God.  We have this more sure Word!
 

Go and tell John people!  Tell them what you read today! Tell them what he taught you today.  Don’t spend your time in debate.  Just read, labor, and study it.  We have such a rich treasure before us!
 

How could we ignore it so we can watch television or log on to Facebook or play with our smartphones?
 

How can we with our lives, deny it by not boldly testifying of the grace bestowed on us in it pages!
 

How can we let our witness be so weak and thin when we have so rich a treasure before us? 
 

Tell the World what Christ has done for you!  There is no better use of your day that to testify to the lost.  After all – the Father condescended to use an audible voice for our sakes. 
 

Be willing to let the world judge you for being so heavenly minded your no earthly good.  Earthly good is not what I am striving for, are you?
 

Providentially there was a statement by Spurgeon which really sparked me, and fits so well, “The more you read the Bible; the more you meditate on it, the more you will be astonished with it.”
 

As we are going to the prayer time let me suggest just one thing – let’s call upon the Lord, that he send the Spirit among us – not just for tonight but that our witness to the world as we go back out there – will be Spirit driven!  I want to hear Sunday what the Spirit is doing in your lives this week! Amen?

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