Pastor Scott Andrews | November 26, 2023
It’s hard to believe, but in just under a year, we will elect the next President of the United States. I’m sure, like me, you’re sitting on the edge of your seats to see who it will be. The new President will become one of the most powerful people on the planet, as he or she becomes the chief executive of one of history’s most powerful countries, commander-in-chief of the most powerful military in the world. It is a position of great responsibility, due much honor and respect. Some of the greatest men in our nation’s history have served in the role of president.
Each time a new president is elected or re-elected, he goes through an inauguration ceremony of some pomp and circumstance, where he’s sworn into the position – the duties of the office. The oath, administered by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, is found in Article II of the US Constitution, which simply says, “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The ceremony takes place on January 20th every four years at noon, usually on the steps of the capital building.
The shortest inauguration speech ever delivered was given by our first president at the beginning of his second term. George Washington’s second speech was only 135 words long and lasted a mere couple of minutes. In my introduction, I’ve already said 257 words. Interestingly, the longest inaugural speech was given by the president who served the shortest time in office. After speaking for an hour and forty-five minutes – 8,445 words – on a cold, snowy day, William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia a month later in 1841. I guess there’s something to be said about short speeches. Which reminds me of the little boy who was quite concerned one Sunday to see a plaque dedicated to those from the church who had died in the service. When his mother asked him why he was so upset, he asked, “Did they die in the first or second service?”
Of course, the American inauguration ceremony is quite simple compared to coronation ceremonies of countries around the world. The coronation of kings and queens in countries still led by monarchs can be quite extravagant. The coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II of England, which took place in June of 1953, was broadcast around the world and lasted for hours, full of rich tradition and symbolism. An appropriate coronation fit for an incredible queen.
Well, this morning I want to talk about a different coronation ceremony – the coronation, if you will, of Jesus to fulfill the duties of His office. Now, if you were writing the script, you probably would have written it much differently. You would think that the king of the universe would have had the most extravagant, the most opulent coronation ceremony of all time. You would think the ceremony would have lasted for days, if not weeks. You would think that regal heralds would have been sent all over the world to announce the coronation of the King of kings – to invite the world’s inhabitants to a coronation celebration unequaled in history as He entered His duties – as He was anointed for His mission.
But, that’s not what happened, nor was it in keeping with the way Jesus came, the way He lived, and the way He died. Everything about Jesus spoke not of opulence, not of extravagance, not of pride or recognition, but of humility. Think, for example, of the way He came. We looked at His birth just a few weeks ago in Luke 2. We’ll celebrate it again in another few weeks – we actually celebrate it more than the actual event. Jesus, the divine Son of God, and God the Son, became flesh and lived awhile among us, but hardly anyone noticed. No pomp, no circumstance.
That’s not the way He came. We might wonder, why God didn’t use a few special effects when Jesus was born, and let loose a miracle or two that occurred at the dawn of creation, or with Moses at the Exodus. Why not go for maximum exposure by choosing Athens, Rome, Alexandria or even Jerusalem, for His birth? True, a star appeared, but not many knew why or for whom. A few wise men came from the east. And an angelic choir heralded the event, but only a few poor shepherds heard the announcement. Surely this was not the beginning you would expect for the birth of the King.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, where would you have looked for the hope of the world, the world’s king to be revealed? In the compound of Herod, who called himself “the Great”? In the palace of Caesar Augustus on the Palatine Hill in Rome? Yet to whom, and where was Christ born? To a working-class couple, a carpenter and his wife, pregnant before marriage, from a no count town in Galilee, giving birth to this son in a small, obscure village called Bethlehem – in a stable, no less. He was wrapped, not in Kingly attire, but in swaddling strips of cloth. He was laid, not in an ornate, bejeweled bed of gold, but in a manger, a feeding trough for animals.
There was no sounding of trumpets, no marching of armies, no retinue of servants, just his parents, perhaps surrounded by animals, and a few lowly shepherds. Why? His whole earthly life was one of unexpected humility. Paul said it this way in Philippians 2, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Listen, one of the proofs of the reality and veracity of the Christian faith is the lowliness of its hero. If you were making this up, you wouldn’t have done it this way.
The way of Jesus was the way of the cross, humble service. He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. And as we continue our study of the life of Christ today, we’ll see that even His anointing, His inauguration into ministry, depicted, again, condescending humility. I invite your attention to the text, Luke 3:21-22. Two verses – are you kidding me? John has been announcing the coming of the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah for a couple chapters, and the commencement of His mission covers what, two verses? Our high school graduates get more attention than that, walking into 43 repetitions of pomp and circumstance. And they get to wear robes and funny hats – that you pay for, that they’ll never wear again.
As we began the gospel of Luke, we saw the forerunner – a herald announcing the coming of the king – in the person of John the Baptist. You see, at this time in history, if a king were to pay a visit, a royal herald would be sent ahead to announce his coming. That’s the part John played, so it took some chapters to talk about John. Great efforts would be made to prepare for the sovereign’s visit – make straight his way – potholes would be filled, rocks removed, ruts smoothed out, trash collected. Great care would be given to prepare for the kingly visit.
So, John the Baptist heralded the coming of the King, just like Isaiah and Malachi said he would. And like the heralds of old, he cried out, prepare the way. But this time, their preparation was not to be in cleaning up the outside, but the inside – they were to repent – to turn from their sin to God, to prepare for His coming. They were to be spiritually prepared, for the King and His kingdom were at hand.
Now, to hear John preach, people by the hordes came from around Jerusalem, Judea and the districts beyond, even Galilee; further, they came to be baptized by John as a sign of their repentance. Some came wanting to bypass that necessary requirement – in other words, they wanted to just clean up the exterior – fill a few potholes, smooth out a few ruts. John railed against them, saying they needed the inside cleaned – they needed to repent, and produce fruit in keeping with repentance. As we saw last week, it didn’t matter who you were, he was an equal opportunity offender – he called out everyone, and called them all to repent.
Which brings us to our story. One day, when John was baptizing at the Jordan River, he had an unexpected, special visitor. We read about it in our text – hold onto your hats – George Washington’s second speech was 135 words, this one, in the English, is 49 words. Luke 3:21-22.
That’s it. Aren’t you impressed? We should be. You see, this was never said of or to any mere man. This was the Son of God, in whom the Father was well-pleased. Well-pleased in His sinless, law-fulfilling life, and well-pleased in the acceptance of His messiahship, well-pleased in His coming ministry. This morning, we want to look at the coronation or the anointing of the King, and the commencement of His work. Luke understates the event. He doesn’t even mention John, and barely mentions the baptism in passing – along with a bunch of other people.
But don’t miss it – Luke focuses on the voice or announcement from heaven. Everything in these two verses – one sentence – points to the voice. Everything said is subordinate to the voice of God. This voice from the Father of all that had been said about Jesus – by Gabriel to Mary and later to Joseph, by the angels to the shepherds, and by two aged saints – Simeon and Anna – is now affirmed by God. You are My Son. He didn’t need the swearing in, the pomp and circumstance – He had the affirmation of His Father. Today, we’ll simply look at:
- The Inaugural Oath (21)
- The Inaugural Anointing (22)
- The Inaugural Address (22)
We start with the Inaugural Oath. It’s the time of the Coronation Ceremony when the new Sovereign affirms He will fulfill the duties of the office. And Jesus so affirms. It happened this way. One day Jesus showed up with the crowds to be baptized by John. We’re not exactly sure how long John had been preaching and baptizing by this time, but most suppose it had been less than a year.
Now, you might wonder, did Jesus and John know each other at this time? Remember, Jesus had grown up as a carpenter’s son in Nazareth, which is in Galilee to the north, while John grew up the son of a priest in the south, in a hill country town of Judea before he moved out to the wilderness, likely as a young teenager. Probably after his aged parents passed off the scene.
But, remember also, their mothers, Mary and Elizabeth, were relatives. Mary visited Elizabeth while they were both pregnant and stayed with her for three months. Each of the mothers knew about the miraculous circumstances surrounding the birth of their respective boys. No doubt, each knew what the angelic messenger had said about the future roles of their sons. And no doubt, they shared that information with their sons as they grew up. Whether or not they spent time together during the first 30 years of their lives, we don’t know. Don’t miss that – 18 years have passed since Jesus was 12. But it’s safe to say they at least knew about the other one.
So, the other gospels tell us Jesus arrived at the Jordan and asked John to baptize Him. While Luke makes it clear other people were present, that is, others who were being baptized, Jesus appears to be alone. There doesn’t seem to be any family members present, and He doesn’t have any disciples yet, hasn’t called the Twelve yet. I want you to notice that: as the King of the universe is about to be crowned, anointed for ministry, no one except John even knows who He is – no servants, no bands playing pomp and circumstance, no dignitaries, no military salute, no parades, no celebration – just Jesus, in peasant garb – standing in line with the rest of them.
Well, in Matthew, understandably, John says, no, I can’t baptize you, for two reasons. First, he said, it needs to be the other way around – I need to be baptized by You. The pronouns are in the emphatic – I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” It could be that John is saying, I need Your Spirit baptism – You certainly don’t need my water baptism.
But, there’s a second very important reason John’s was understandably concerned. You see, his was a baptism of repentance. People were turning from their sin to God. As an outward sign of repentance, they were baptized by John.
But I ask you, as no doubt John thought, of what sin did Jesus have to repent? This story bothered the early church for decades – centuries. He was the spotless Lamb of God come to take away the sin of the world. He had no sin. When He was growing up, He never lied to His mother. He never disobeyed His father. He never cheated on a test. He never had feelings of unjustified anger. He never had an impure thought or spoke an unkind word or performed an unrighteous action. The author of Hebrews tells us that He was “temptedin all things as we are, yet without sin.” He was the perfect Son of God and Son of Man. Listen, while He had all things necessary to humanity, He did not have all things common to humanity. In other words, He was completely human, yet, without the attribute common to the rest of us, namely, sin. He had nothing of which to repent. So, why would He be baptized with a baptism of repentance?
Well, Jesus Himself gave the answer in Matthew 3, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” What in the world does that mean? I’ll tell you that there have been dozens of interpretations of this verse. Without going through all of them, I think there might be two or three important ideas here:
First, it is true that it was a baptism of repentance. But it was also a baptism signaling readiness for the kingdom of heaven, which was at hand. I think Jesus, by this act, was signaling His own readiness to do the work of the Messiah. This was, if you will, His inaugural oath – His acknowledgement that the Messiah and His kingdom, were indeed at hand, and He was prepared to fulfill the duties of the office.
Second, I believe His was an example of obedience to us. At this time, God was calling people who would be His followers to submit to a baptism of repentance. While Jesus didn’t need to be baptized, He was acknowledging John’s preaching was a valid standard to be followed. Jesus was baptized as an act of obedience since that’s what God was calling people to do.
Third, and this is most important, I believe Jesus was humbly identifying with humanity. John didn’t expect the Messiah to be baptized. But Jesus was the suffering Servant – He was the One to bear the sins of the world. Jesus is saying, I’m ready to identify with sinful humanity – while I have no sins of which to repent, I’m ready to bear the sins of the world. Isaiah 53 says, speaking of the suffering Servant, “… He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.”
Jesus’ baptism represented the willing identification of the sinless Son of God with the sinful people He came to save. He who had no sin took His place among those who had no righteousness. (The Great Exchange) Later, the Apostle Paul would say of Jesus, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Once again, we see the humble servant role Jesus readily accepted, for you and for me.
Now, we read in our Luke text that it was after His baptism while Jesus was praying that these next couple things happened. The other gospels tell us it was as Jesus was coming out of the water. These are not necessarily mutually exclusive, nor contradictory. Likely, after His baptism as He prayed while coming out of the water, the Spirit descended, the Father spoke. And we will find that Jesus often prayed, especially during those significant times in His life – at His baptism, when He chose the Twelve, after hearing about John’s martyrdom, at the Last Supper, in His high priestly prayer, in the Garden of Gethsemane, from the cross, to name a few. Let me just say as an aside – if Jesus felt the need to pray – all the time – shouldn’t we?
But that’s not all we see in this coronation ceremony. In addition to Jesus willfully submitting Himself to this act of righteousness, we also see the Inaugural Anointing in verse 22 – and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove.
It was common at that time, and to our present day, for a newly named sovereign to receive some symbol or token of his or her right to rule. It may come in the form of a crown, a staff, a scepter, a signet ring, a necklace, a royal robe, a sword. But for Jesus, it was none of those. His was no earthly kingdom – He was no earthly king that He should be crowned by men. He was crowned/ anointed not with some external symbol of sovereign power, but with the very Holy Spirit of God who was seen descending in bodily form like a dove. Don’t miss, Luke is emphasizing that this was not just a vision, but an actual occurrence.
The text doesn’t say that a bird came and landed on Him – it says the Holy Spirit was seen descending in the form of a dove. What that means, I don’t know. The Holy Spirit is never likened to a dove. Most agree it speaks of the gentleness, humility, grace and peace of a dove. Be wise as serpents, harmless as doves. What is clear is all the gospel writers viewed this descending form as the Holy Spirit, as did John the Baptist, who actually saw the event. John 1:32 says, “John testified saying, ‘I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained on Him.’” The point is, John saw the Spirit descend on Jesus – which the gospel of John also tells us was a sign confirming to John that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
Now, why did the Holy Spirit come to Jesus? Wasn’t Jesus fully God? Did He need the Holy Spirit? My favorite answer, yes, and no. When He became a man, Jesus did not lose His divinity – He was still God in every way. He veiled His glory so as not to blind us. In His deity, He needed nothing.
However, in His humble humanity, He was being anointed for service and being granted strength and power for ministry. Do you see the further humbling of the event – the eternal Son of God, as a man, received the anointing of the Spirit. I don’t think that means the Spirit wasn’t with Him – remember, the Spirit overshadowed Mary and the child born was of the Holy Spirit. I think it was a visible representation to us. Isaiah 61:1 says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners…” Jesus will later make the claim that this prophecy was being fulfilled in Him. We see the beginning of that here. The Holy Spirit was His divine anointing.
Finally, we see the Inaugural Address in verse 22 – the shortest inauguration speech on record. And this one was not given by the newly named sovereign, but by the Father. Remember, Luke downplays the baptism. Everything points to this divine affirmation. Look at it again, “and a voice came out of heaven – the now opened heaven, signifying something apocalyptic, prophetic or significant was about to happen – ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”
God the Father placed His seal of approval on Jesus of Nazareth, the divine Son of God. One called it both a divine enablement by the Spirit, and a divine endorsement by the Father. By the way, this anointing by the Spirit and affirmation by the Father was foreseen in Isaiah 42:1, “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” Further, most see an allusion to Psalm 2, “He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’” That doesn’t mean that Jesus was at this moment adopted by the Father – a false teaching called adoptionism. He is eternally the Son – it is simply an announcement of Jesus beginning His ministry and mission.
I used to work for a Christian Credit Union. To join the credit union, you had to be a professing evangelical Christian, and hold to orthodox Christian doctrine. Since I had a degree in theology, they would often come to me saying, such and such a group wants to join – are they orthodox? I loved that part of my job. Turning down someone for a loan – that wasn’t too fun. Turning down people because they were heretics, that was fun. Once, while I was in southern California for some meetings, the president’s secretary called to ask about a particular group that on the surface seemed okay. I did some research, because I didn’t know for sure. And I found out they weren’t orthodox, that they were modalists. You say, what’s that?
In the early church, there was a group of heretics running around espousing the teaching of one Sabellius. Sabellius was a modalist – that is, he denied the Trinity. He said that to believe in a Trinity was to have three gods. He said, we don’t have three gods, rather, we have one God who has manifested Himself in three modes throughout time. In the Old Testament, He was God the Father. In the New Testament, He was God the Son. And now, He is God the Holy Spirit – not one God eternally existing in three persons, but one God existing in three different manifestations throughout time, but not at one time.
Well, I think you know where I’m going with this. While it’s true the Bible never uses the word Trinity, it is a word we use to describe what the Bible teaches. The Bible clearly teaches there is one God. But it also teaches the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And here, we have all three persons present at one time. How do we explain that? As best we can in the Trinity – there is one God, eternally existing in three persons who are co-equal. They make one God, and yet it is not that each of them are one-third God – they each possess all the attributes necessary to deity – each one fully God. And, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father, and yet, we do not have three gods, but one God. If you want me to explain that any further, then join the multitudes of Christians throughout church history. Oh, and by the way, we didn’t let that group join the credit union.
Which brings us to our conclusion this morning. We have seen how Jesus confirmed by His baptism to be the Messiah, willing to accept the duties of the Messiah. We’ve seen Him anointed by the Spirit. And we’ve seen the Father give the inaugural address, stating Jesus was the divine Son of God, and the rightful King. So, what are we to do with all this today? I would leave you with two thoughts:
First, in this study, while we are being introduced to the Messiah, the Christ for whom John prepared the way, we are also seeing a humble servant, who gave up much on our behalf to be our Savior. While He was the King, worthy of praise and honor – worthy of the greatest of all coronation ceremonies, His was a life of humiliation. What more can we do but have hearts overflowing with gratitude for all He’s done for us. We tend to think only of the cross, but His condescension was much more than just the cross.
Second, as we see this humble Savior, we’re reminded again of the words of Paul I quoted earlier: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. Jesus has left us the supreme example of selfless, humble servanthood. So, let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” Let us selflessly and humbly serve one another.