Text: Matthew 3:13-17
Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
Back in November Leah and I watched a show on Netflix called “The Crown.” It’s all about Queen Elizabeth and the royal family. So far, the episodes have covered her marriage to Prince Phillip, the death of her father George the IV, her coronation as Queen, and the early years of her reign. It has been a pretty interesting show so far. I’ve always been interested in the royal family and I have a great deal of appreciation and admiration for Queen Elizabeth so this kind of thing is right up my alley.
The episode about Elizabeth’s coronation was one I found particularly interesting. I was not alive when Elizabeth was crowned as Queen and even though it was televised and recordings of it are easily available on the internet I had never taken any time to watch any of it really. But there is this one part of the ceremony that is particularly significant that I did not know about. After swearing an oath to govern the people under her authority according to their respective laws and maintain justice and peace and things Queen Elizabeth was anointed with oil on her hands, head, and over her heart.
Anointing is not something we would be very familiar with today, but the anointing of kings and queens has a lot of precedence all the way back into the Bible. The kings of Israel in the Old Testament are anointed. Saul was anointed king. David was anointed king. Solomon was anointed king. For them anointing was the way in which God set a person apart to fill such an important role as king. The anointing was God’s means of choosing someone to rule. The people of Israel also waiting for an even more important anointed person, the messiah. The word “messiah” just means anointed one. That’s all the word “christ” means too, it just means “anointed.” Messiah and Christ are the same word just in different languages. Jesus is this anointed one, the Messiah, the Christ. He is the Saviour.
The baptism of Jesus got me thinking about the coronation of Queen Elizabeth because Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist could really be considered kind of the same thing. There, in the water of that river, Jesus is anointed by God as the Messiah. The Spirit comes down out of heaven as a dove and God’s voice booms from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus isn’t anointed with oil like kings and queens would be, He is anointed with the Holy Spirit and God Himself makes that pronouncement that this is the one that the world has been waiting for. The Saviour has come.
There is one big difference between Queen Elizabeth’s anointing as part of the coronation service and the way in which Jesus is anointed there in the Jordan. When Queen Elizabeth was anointed that part of the service was hidden away from public view. Her coronation was the first (and only so far) to be televised and that part of the service was not filmed. If you go on the internet now and check out the old recordings of the commentator mentions the anointing, but when it is time for it to happen the tape quickly skips to the next part. Just to make sure that the world did not see it and the cameras did not keep rolling they put a canopy over the queen’s head. Other than the royal family, the priests, and other distinguished guests gathered close by no one would see Elizabeth anointed as Queen.
Jesus was not anointed in this way. Jesus’ anointing took place in just about the most public way it could have happened. He was out in the Jordan River, there were not closed doors or canopies. All kinds of people were gathered around out there listening to John preach and being baptised by him. The Holy Spirit came down out of heaven and God’s voice called out for all to hear. This anointing was not a private affair. God’s Son is anointed as Messiah and Saviour in plain sight of all those people gathered there and in our sight as we read about it through the words of the gospels. God’s proclamation of who Jesus is isn’t hidden from our ears.
Which brings us to the questions why? Why was Jesus anointed as the Messiah, Christ, and Saviour in this way? Why did God’s voice echo from the heavens? Why did the Spirit come down? Why did this all happen in plain sight?
All of this happened the way that it did for our sake. Everything that Jesus does is for our sake. Jesus was born the way He was born for us and for our salvation. He died the way He died and rose from the dead for us. The same is true of His baptism. Jesus goes out to be baptised at the Jordan for us. God’s voice echoes from heaven for us. It’s not that Jesus is a down to earth man of the people and Queen Elizabeth isn’t. This all happens so that we can know with certainty that Jesus is the one. God’s voice confirms it. He says, “THIS is my beloved Son, there is no other, with Him I am well pleased.” Out there at the Jordan, Jesus is installed, confirmed, and anointed as the one that the world has been looking for. God removes all doubt for the people standing there and for us too. We hear God’s Word here clearly and directly pointing us to Jesus as His anointed, the Messiah and Saviour that He has sent. All this happens this way so that we can be certain that Jesus is the one.
This Gospel reading and this certainty that comes from God’s Word booming down from Heaven about who Jesus is, is a perfect way to start the season of Epiphany. After Christmas we work our way through Epiphany as gradually Jesus is revealed to us. We read Gospel readings that continue to introduce Jesus to us and build on our understanding of who He is. Listen over the next few weeks to the gospel readings and what they tell us about Jesus. For the most part, they are incredibly straightforward. Like our reading today they are clear and certain about who Jesus is.
The world we live in has some really messed up ideas about Jesus. Some of the messed up ideas seem harmless and others are downright lies. But in the midst of all of it we have clear words from God about who Jesus is. He is God’s beloved Son with whom He is well pleased. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour. He is the one. His mission to save us from sin was not hidden away. Jesus told His disciples why He had come into this world. He must go to Jerusalem and suffer and die and after three days be raised. He told them repeatedly.
Every Sunday we speak either the Nicene or the Apostles’ Creed. These creeds remind us about everything God has revealed to us about Himself. Have you ever noticed that in both of the creeds the longest section is the part about Jesus? That’s because our sinful, broken world and our sinful broken minds constantly overcomplicate Jesus and misunderstand Him and have been at it for centuries. In the Nicene Creed (which we just said) we are reminded that Jesus is “the only begotten Son of God, begotten of His father before all worlds, God of God, light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made.” These words speak about who Jesus is. Specifically, all these words confess that Jesus is God. And then we go on, “who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man.” Here we confess that Jesus became a man for us and for our salvation. It goes on, He “was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose from the dead according to the Scriptures and ascended into Heaven.” We confess Jesus again, this God man died for us and rose again.
We can be certain about Jesus. We know and hear from God Himself exactly who Jesus is. We can be certain about His salvation for us. In a world where everything can get so complicated sometimes, in our own lives where things can get so complicated sometimes, this assurance, this certainty is a wonderful thing. In the midst of all the confusion Jesus is what He is. He is our Saviour from sin who gave His life for us. He is God’s beloved Son with whom He is well pleased. We know because God has revealed it before our very eyes. In Jesus name. Amen.