Evangelicals sometimes do not fully grasp the reality of the humanity of our Lord. Desirous to protect His real and eternal deity, of one eternal uncreated essence with the Father and Spirit, we sometimes downplay or lessen His humanity. (Most of us do not even realize that to an extent, our Lord’s humanity was not simply generic humanity but that of a specific, prophesied man—the Son of David!) We forget, or cannot understand, that God truly became a man. He did not merely indwell or empower or anoint a man (though all those things are true). The eternal, sovereign, holy, perfect, one God of all the universe became a man Himself!
Because they do not fully grasp the humanity of Jesus, many Christians do not understand the full implications of that fact, nor their blessedness. For this means though Jesus was always sovereign God, He lived, ministered, died, and rose not in His own divine power, but that of the Holy Spirit. Rarely do we see Jesus using His divine attributes, like omniscience. Rather, we see a flesh-and-blood man who is fully relying on the power of the eternal Spirit of God—that Spirit who is the fullness of God Himself as to His essence—to do the work His Father sent Him to do.
Jesus really was a man. He was not merely a man. But He was a real, actual, sinless, human male. He was so thoroughly human that Peter, who would later call Jesus “our God and Savior” (2 Pet. 1:1), on the day of Pentecost repeatedly refers to Jesus as a man anointed and empowered by God (e.g., Acts 2:22-23). Some heretics and cultists would take this as proof that the early church simply viewed Jesus as a sinless, virgin-born Messiah—a holy and sinless man appointed by God to a sovereign position, but certainly not eternal God in flesh. But they would be wrong. It is their (and our) inability to wrestle with the two natures within the one person of our wonderful Lord that makes us overemphasize one truth or deny one because of another.
This week, we caught a glimpse of the perfect humanity of our Lord as we studied His empowering and inauguration as Davidic, Messianic king.
A. The Servant’s Appearing (v. 9)
It is during the heralding ministry of John the Baptist, when thousands of sin-sick Jews are coming to him to hear the gospel (!) and be baptized in preparation for the coming Messiah, when that promised One steps into the crowd. These men and women are being warned and exhorted about the coming kingdom—the same kingdom promised in the Old Testament, ruled by the One of God’s choosing through the line of David—and the king Himself appears among them. He is like them—dark skinned, perhaps slight of build, same accent, a body like theirs that can grow sick and weak and die and sweat under the Judean sun.
He is from the wrong side of the tracks—so much so that Nathaniel will ask the first disciples if anything good can come out of Nazareth when told Jesus is from there (Jn. 1:46). The region Jesus calls home, Galilee, was invaded by Gentiles during the exile, thus contaminating Jewish land with their paganism and darkness. But upon this region God’s saving light will shine, for the Servant will come there first to show both Jews and Gentiles the way of reconciliation to a holy God (Isaiah 9:1-2; cf. 42:1-4, 49:6). The air is thick with divine expectation and sensitivity, and the King has stepped into His world and His nation ready to begin His rescue mission, and to rule and reign.
Matthew tells us a bit more about Jesus’ baptism. Recall that this is a baptism for repentance. It is for those people who recognize their sin and have repented of it, and wish to identify themselves publicly as repenters who are preparing for the imminent rule of God’s kingdom. John, of course, knows who Jesus is, and he protests rather vividly. The one who has said he is unworthy to untie Jesus’ sandals does not feel right about baptizing the sinless one with a baptism for repentance!
But Jesus, conscious of His plan, assures him it is the right thing to do, for He has to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:14-15). Jesus has come to identify with sinners, indeed, to be treated as one to rescue them from the deserved wrath of a holy God (2 Cor. 5:21). He must identify with them now as their substitute, as one of them. This also identifies Him with the message of comprehensive repentance He will proclaim to Israel and through His apostles to the world. And in doing this, he begins to fulfill the righteousness they need to stand accepted before God—His perfect righteousness which He will grant freely to all who trust Him.
The One with no sin begins His public ministry by identifying with sinners. For how else will God get surrendered, transformed worshippers to inhabit His kingdom? Only though the work of the Servant King.
It is to His anointing for and inauguration into that office that we now turn.
B. The Divine Validation of His Ministry (vv. 10-11)
Jesus did not take up the role of Messianic king on His own initiative. It was part of the sovereign plan of God from eternity past. Within the eternal counsels of the Godhead, this was marked out from all eternity. Here, we see the other members of the Godhead voicing their affirmation of His position.
Anointing by the Spirit
I said above that Jesus did His Messianic ministry as a man empowered by the Spirit. He was and is eternal God, but He did not use His personal divine power to resist temptation, work miracles, or teach and preach. Rather, He relied solely on the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to empower all He did. Because Jesus was perfectly sinless, He had no possibility of quenching, resisting, grieving, or limiting the Holy Spirit’s powerful influence. The Spirit could move unhindered and sovereign through Jesus’ humanity, cooperating perfectly with our Lord’s unfallen (though finite) human mind, will, emotions, and spirit. What a glorious man to behold and love!
But this fullness of the Holy Spirit in its official capacity and anointing had to come at a particular time. Certainly Jesus lived the first thirty or so years of His life as a sinless man, but He was not embarking on His kingly mission then. The next three years would be nonstop, fulltime ministry, culminating in His very public death for rebel sinners. Doubtless there would be demonic attacks, temptations, threats within (from the weaknesses and fallenness of His apostolic band) and without (from the fallen world around Him). He had to be a sinless sacrifice. He had to, as a man, resist the onslaught of Satan, unlike the first man. He had to preach and teach the impending kingdom of God. And He had to eventually rule as king over men and the world. From where would the sheer omnipotent, divine power come to do all this? Only the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus enjoyed without measure.
When He came up out of the water after His first act of identifying with sinners, the heavens were torn open and the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descended and rested upon our Lord. Besides expressing divine affirmation of what He had just done, this also marks the point of our Lord’s perfect and overflowing infilling and anointing by the Holy Spirit for His ministry. In the Old Testament, prophets, priests, and kings were regularly anointed with oil to mark them off as divinely chosen for God’s purposes, and to symbolize the unction of the Holy Spirit needed for their task. But here, the Spirit Himself visibly rests upon Jesus, fully possessing and infilling His sinless humanity so that He might exude divine power not as incarnate God but as sinless man.
It is important to view this moment as our Lord’s anointing especially for kingship. While older dispensationalists were reluctant to see any Davidic rulership or kingdom presence before our Lord’s second advent, the biblical text is clear the Lord worked in His earthly ministry and even today (before and after Israel’s rejection) as anointed Davidic king, ruling over the realm of people yielded to God in Christ. While He was not coronated as king until after His resurrection, Jesus was anointed as king at His baptism and began exercising kingly, divine authority even in His humiliation. That reached a new zenith upon His glorification and will grow to greater heights in the millennial empire and forever upon the new earth. But He is anointed now, ruling now, and has a kingdom now—the same kingdom constantly promised in the OT.
Affirmation by the Father
As if the fullness of the Holy Spirit were not enough, God the Father adds His personal affirmation of our Lord. Only two other times does He speak audibly in the gospels (at the Transfiguration and on the Monday of Passion Week). Here, He uses the emphatic position in Greek: “You and You alone are My beloved Son. In You and You alone I am well pleased!” “Beloved” in Greek refers to a devoted and deep, profound affectionate love. God the Father loves His Son deeply. Indeed, the world was created for and by Him (Col. 1:16). “Son” refers at once to Jesus’ eternal deity (for He shares the eternal nature of His Father) as well as to the kingly position He has stepped into (notice again Romans 1:4). Indeed, it is not wrong to see our Heavenly Father encouraging Jesus to remember who He is and how God sees Him as He embarks on the glorious battle of the next three years. He will be mocked, hated, rebelled against, misunderstood, tempted, judged, arrested, tortured, and killed. But He is and always will be God’s perfectly loved eternal Son. And that Son will be gloriously raised immortal to a position of universal dominion by the same Father who loves Him and in the power of the same Holy Spirit who enabled His earthly ministry.
Father, Son, and Spirit work seamlessly together to enable, affirm, and execute the perfect divine mission and ministry planned from eternity past, prophesied in Scripture, and unfolding before our eyes each day. This is the One God says is His appointed King. Will you yield to Him in all things and know His sovereign, ruling power in all areas of your life? May God help us, like the repentant Jews of old, to humble ourselves and offer our entire beings to this One who rules forever God’s present and future kingdom!