Christ and the Holy Spirit
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Matthew 3:13-17
January 12, 2020

Today, we see Jesus come to John the Baptist at the Jordan River to be baptized. He goes with John into the Jordan and is baptized there. As Jesus is coming out of the River, the heavens are opened. The Spirit of God descends upon Jesus like a dove. The voice from heaven booms, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  

We recognize Jesus as the anointed one. He is the Servant of the Lord upon whom the Lord has put His Spirit. He is the Servant of the Lord who is gentle with the bruised reed and will not snuff out the faintly burning wick (Isaiah 42:1-3a).

This scene is Jesus’s anointing by God for ministry. Immediately after this, the Spirit of God drives Jesus out into the wilderness to be confronted by the Devil.

Among other things, we see here how Jesus identifies with us and the connection between Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus identifies with us. Matthew tells us about the dialogue between Jesus and John. John looks up and there is Jesus coming to him to be baptized. John says to Jesus, “Wait a minute. This is backwards. I need to be baptized by You, Jesus. You do not need to be baptized by me.”

Jesus agrees with John; it is John that needs to be baptized by Jesus. But Jesus says to John, “It’s okay. Let it be for now. Accommodate Me. It is fitting to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).

The thing is that John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance from sin for forgiveness. John is recognizing that Jesus does not need such a baptism. He is the only one who doesn’t. But Jesus undertakes this baptism anyway. The truly righteous One, Jesus, receives John’s baptism for sinners.

The important thing to see is that Jesus does this to identify with sinners to redeem them. Jesus identifies completely with you and me. This is the sheer grace and mercy of God. He does not turn away from us because we have sinned. Rather, He comes to us and says to us: “Here friend, let me walk with you in your burden. Let me take your sin unto myself and redeem you.”

So, He does. In our place He will defeat the Devil’s temptations. In our place, He will die an atoning death to redeem us. In our place, He will then take life again to bring God’s life into ours and give us the promise and hope of resurrection. He will comfort us with His grace and strengthen us for the fight.

Later, when sinners, like us, are baptized into Jesus, we are identified with Him. As such, we are called by God “My son, My daughter; my beloved.” He speaks to us His estimation of us, by pure grace: “I am pleased with you. Now have My Spirit.”

And heaven is opened to us. God hears. We can enter there and be home.

This is the reality of Christian baptism. It is not what we are doing for God, but what God is calling us and giving to us. When Jesus is baptized, He is passive. It is being done to Him. So, we too are receivers as we are baptized into Christ. And we hear and believe what the Father calls us and gives. This is great joy for the heart that longs for grace and gift from God.

Now let us talk about Christ and the Spirit. As Jesus comes out of the Jordan, He is anointed by the Father with the Spirit of God. He is anointed with the Spirit for ministry. Jesus does not do anything in His ministry apart from the Spirit. Jesus and the Spirit work in tandem. They are God’s dynamic duo. The Spirit is not off doing something that is not in tandem with Jesus, and vice versa. Where Jesus is working so also the Holy Spirit is working. Where the Holy Spirit is working, there conviction of sin will take place and Christ will be glorified.

This is the way it has always been. In Genesis 1:2, it says that the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Matthew refers to the Spirit here in the exact same way that the Spirit is referred to in Genesis 1:2, as the “Spirit of God.” The words are exactly the same.

Then God spoke. He sent forth His Son to create all things. The Spirit was there with the Son. Now Matthew refers to the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus. God calls Jesus His Son. As Son, Jesus is anointed with the Spirit, and then begins His work. Jesus and the Spirit go together.

But how do they work together? We can say this. Outwardly, the word of Christ is spoken to us and the Sacraments are administered. The Holy Spirit works in this outward working inwardly to fill our hearts with Jesus. This is what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons [and daughters], by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, . . .” (Rom. 8:15-17 ESV).

Where Jesus is, the Spirit is working. Where the Spirit is working, Jesus is glorified and His identification with us and redeeming work comfort our hearts. As we are looking at Jesus trustingly, it is the Spirit of God that is causing us so to look at Jesus this way.

And it is the Spirit that will bring to fruition in our lives Christ’s redeeming work. There is a wonderful phrase in the Third Article of the Nicene Creed. It refers to the Spirit as the “Lord and giver of life.” The Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies, as Paul says (Romans 8:11).

Jesus rose from the dead in the power of the Spirit (Romans 1:4), as He also had the authority from the Father to take His life back again (John 10:18). Jesus and the Spirit work in tandem. But on that Day, when Jesus appears visibly once again in power and great glory, His voice will boom and the Spirit of God will fill that voice and recreate us new, in body and soul, as the Spirit is the Lord and giver of life.

Jesus and the Spirit, what a dynamic duo, who give us the rescue we need. They are both God’s gift to us, and they, together, working in tandem, lead us home to the Father’s house. Amen.