The baptism of Jesus is easily misunderstood. We often understand this important event as Jesus simply going into the Jordan River and being baptized just like any other human being is baptized. What we fail to grasp is the deep significance of the meaning of God’s voice from heaven at Jesus’s baptism. The biblical text tells us that, “a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” Without a deeper connection with the Old Testament, we fail to see that Jesus is telling us exactly who Jesus is, and what his mission will be as the Son of God. Let me explain.
God’s heavenly voice combines three Old Testament texts to tell us about Jesus and his mission:
- "You are my Son" comes from Psalm 2:7. Psalm 2 is a Royal Psalm, first applied to King David and probably read at the coronation of subsequent Davidic Kings. When we understand this background, we see that God the Father is identifying Jesus as a Sovereign King in the line of King David, the highest ideal in Judaism.
- "whom I love" comes from Genesis 22:2. Remember when God told Abraham, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love" and sacrifice him on the mountain? As that story unfolds, Isaac is spared and a ram is sacrificed instead. When God speaks to Jesus at his baptism with these words “whom I love,” he is stating that Jesus is the unique Son of God and as the Lamb of God will sacrifice himself for the sins of the people. Jesus will be offered as a sacrifice, just as Isaac was. Jesus will die as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). This is very important, and easy to miss if we do not grasp the Old Testament connection.
- "with you I am well pleased" - this phrase is taken from Isaiah 42:1, the first of four servant songs in Isaiah 42-53. Jesus as the Servant would accomplish his purpose through suffering, as prophesied in Isaiah 53:5: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Using these three Old Testament texts at Jesus' baptism, the Father indicates that Jesus, the promised King and Messiah is also the Suffering Servant who will sacrifice himself to conquer sin and death. How important is that deeper understanding!! Moving out of the Jordan River waters, Jesus knows his identity and his purpose! His teachings and actions throughout his ministry try to make these two facts known to the world: Jesus is the kingly Messiah, but a warrior king, rather, Jesus will be a suffering Servant King who dies on the cross for our sins. Amazing. Thank you, Jesus!