Well Pleased (a meditation on identity)

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” ~ Matthew 3:17

Other than a brief scene in Luke of Jesus at age 12, we really don’t know much about Jesus’ life between his birth and the start of his public ministry. It seems he worked with Joseph in the family business as a carpenter until he was near the age of thirty. Then at the height of John the Baptist’s ministry, Jesus came out to the Jordan River so that John would baptize him. John protested at first that it should be the other way around, yet Jesus insisted and John agreed.

When Jesus came out of the water, the Holy Spirit rested upon him and the voice of God the Father boomed, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

This was the first of two times the gospels tell us about such an announcement from the Father, the second being on the mount where Jesus was transfigured briefly into his glorious state. Immediately after this baptismal announcement, Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan yet proved fully obedient. Then for three years he taught, healed, traveled, shared, and spoke of the magnificent glory of God, all before being arrested, crucified, and resurrected.

Through it all, Jesus never lost the status of well pleased before the Father.

The great wonder of grace is that Jesus shares that status with us. Paul would later write to the church at Corinth: “God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Receiving this righteousness moves us from being an enemy to God in sin to being part of God’s Family—a brother or sister with Jesus. When we belong to Jesus, he shares freely what is his with us (Romans 8:12-17). The Father now sees us through Jesus. We are still the unique individuals he has designed us to be, but no longer carrying our sin and instead covered with Jesus’ righteousness we are perfected and greatly loved.

In fact, Jesus promised that on the day of his return, his faithful people will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23). We are those well-pleasing to God.

This wonderful grace frees us. As it is given to us by Jesus himself, the truly Well-pleasing One, we don’t have to try to earn God’s favor. Instead, what we do to serve God flows in response to his grace. He is well-pleased with us and our desire becomes to live out this reality and do that which we know is according to this declaration, that which pleases God. And when we do fail, those moments were are actions are not pleasing to God, we are able to rest and recover also in his grace, repenting from our sin and moving forward knowing that he will never take from us that label of well-pleased.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

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