Date: 20 Mar 2022
Sermon Text: Luke 2:1-52
Speaker: Pastor Daniel Tan
Blessed Sunday to all. We thank God that through technology, we can continue to worship God, One Hermon in Many Homes.
I know for families with young children, it is a challenge to participate in Sunday Service even as you try to help your children log on for bible classes. Take care of them first and don’t feel that you have to somehow be able to do 2 things at one time. The full service recording is available on our website for the whole of Sunday.
I trust for the rest of us however that we are getting used to the idea that Service starts at 9.30 am. Soon when we get the in-person approval, let’s aim to be in Henderson by 9.15 am so that we can warm up to our mutual fellowship before settling in for service.
Now for everything there are always 2 sides of the coin right? Technology has also been a bane for many.
According to the news, the police have mentioned that “In particular, online scams saw a significant increase as Singaporeans carried out more online transactions due to the COVID-19 situation”.
They further elaborate that “In the majority of these cases, victims were tricked into disclosing their mobile numbers or credit card information and One-Time Passwords (OTPs) to scammers who used compromised or spoofed social media accounts to impersonate their victims’ friends or followers on social media platforms”.
Many people get scammed because they think the person on the other end is their friend or someone known to them. Basically, the assumed identity gives credibility to their words and their actions.
Since scammers impersonate friends, they have credibility and so we interact with them because we trust our friends. So, in view of the many scams taking place online, POSB has on their website advice as to what we must do to avoid getting scammed.
The first point they have is to Confirm and double confirm someone’s identity. If you are going to share your password with or send money over to someone, make sure you double confirm who that is on the other side. May sure that person is genuine. Since we should go through such checks, to ensure that we are not scammed of our life savings, may we also be as vigilant to ensure that, whom we put our trust in for eternity, is also trustworthy.
Society tells us that the here and now is what matters only. Max out the 100 years we’ve got. But Scripture says the reality is that there is eternity awaiting for us after we pass on. Where would you and I end up standing when we walk through death’s door? Will it be in heaven in the presence of God or in hell, away from His loving presence and under His wrath?
Where we will end up, depends on whom we put our trust in today. So may we see from Scripture today that Jesus Christ, the Son of God is someone credible and dependable. Someone whom we can trust our eternity with.
At Jesus’ baptism, the Son of God identifies with sinful humanity
Let’s begin to look at our passage from Luke 3:21-22.
If you have been following us since we began Luke’s Gospel, you might realize that Dr Luke has been consistently putting John the Baptist and Jesus side by side. From the prophecy of their birth to their actual birth and now in chapter 3, we see the beginnings of their ministries. Last week we looked at John the Baptist’s and today, the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Last Sunday, we were asked the question – Why do we need this Gospel? And the answer is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news because there is a need for us to seek repentance for the forgiveness of our sins. Because salvation from our sins hinges on this person Jesus Christ, today, may Scripture show us that He is credible and dependable.
In the first 2 chapters, we have heard angels, devout Jews and humble shepherds testify who Jesus is – unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour who is Christ the Lord. Jesus, himself also informs us who he is at the temple when he was 12 years old.
Now at the baptism of Jesus, an even higher authority proclaims who Jesus is. If credibility is important for us to trust in someone. No higher authority can endorse Jesus.
The scene unfolds with the description ‘the heavens were opened’. It’s like the cosmic curtains were rolled back for earth to peek into Heaven. Like also the miraculous rolling back of the Red Sea so that the Jews can escape Egyptian slavery. Like how the Jordan waters parted so that the Jews could enter the Promised Land of Canaan. The heavens open and we witness our Triune God – God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit.
We have Jesus standing in the Jordan in prayer, the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove and then God the Father speaking – You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased. And what God the Father says, has echoes of 2 Old Testament passages. The phase ‘you are my beloved Son’ echoes Psalm 2:7.
I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. — Ps 2:7
Psalm 2 is an enthronement Psalm. The heading in the ESV of Psalm 2 says ‘The reign of the Lord’s Anointed’. God is saying, Yes, this man Jesus is my chosen one. He is the Davidic Messiah.
And Psalm 2 ends with these verses:
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. — Ps 2:11
Knowledge of who Jesus is as proclaimed by God the Father must to lead to specific appropriate responses. Jesus is divinely endorsed by God, He is credible. So let us put our faith in Jesus for blessed are all who take refuge in Him.
The 2nd part of God’s commendation (with whom I am well pleased) is taken from Isaiah 42:1.
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. — Isa 42:1
Isaiah has Servant Song has 4 parts, with the last in Isaiah 53 which is made famous by Handel’s Messiah. I’m sure v4 and 5 would be familiar to all of us.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. — Isa 53:4-5
Today, we are in the season of Lent. A time of preparation, leading to Easter. Where these verses from Isaiah 53 are the most appropriate. By combining Psalm 2 and Isaiah 42, God gives the picture to the audience at Jesus’ baptism, this Son is the Servant-Messiah. Jesus is the promised one. He is the servant whose blood will bring us out of slavery to sin. He is the Messiah who will lead us into the eternal Promise Land.
Now all this happened, as Jesus was praying with the non-verbal endorsement of the Holy Spirit, descending in the form of a dove on Jesus. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, the baptism of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit is immediately followed by the temptation.
Not only is the Holy Spirit endorsing Jesus, we see that it empowers Jesus for the stern test of the temptation in the wilderness by Satan. Thus, our summary statement of Luke has this at the end:
“God is fulfilling his plan to establish his upside-down, outside-in kingdom in the world through the Spirit-filled ministry of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus models for us at the start of His ministry what it means to be Spirit-enabled. It means we need to begin with prayer. Dr Luke will show us in his 2nd volume, how Jesus disciples are able to be His witness following His ascension.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” — Acts 1:8
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. — Acts 1:14
V8 informs that the power to be Christ witnesses comes through the Holy Spirit and v14 helps us see that it is very closely integrated with cultivating the discipline of prayer.
Church, if we hear the call of the Kingdom to be children of light, with the mercy of heaven, the humility of Christ. If we want to walk justly before Him, loving all that is right. Then the power of the Holy Spirit is needed. And that is closely related to the discipline of prayer. May this encourage us to seed the culture of prayerfulness in Hermon.
Now …. could everything that God the Father have said, and God the Holy Spirit had done, not be accomplished in another setting besides that of a baptism? Remember, John’s baptism was that of repentance. That means there was an acknowledgement of sin, thus the need for repentance and forgiveness. But Jesus is sinless. Jesus was not disobedience to God at all. He lived the perfect human life, in full obedience to God.
So why is it that Dr Luke says:
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized’. — Lk 2:v21
May I offer 2 reasons: firstly, and the key reason, Jesus does it because he wants to identify totally with sinful humanity.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! — Jn 1:29
We are all baptized because it is an outward sign of our sinfulness. We need to be washed white as snow. Jesus thus, by His baptism, identifies with us. So, Paul says, Jesus being the very nature of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Secondly, it shows the connection of Jesus with John the Baptist ministry. John is the forerunner, the Herald of the Messiah. John is called the Baptist because he was calling everyone towards repentance of their sins through the symbol of baptism. And then to live a life of repentance by bearing the right kind of fruit.
So as Jesus is baptised by John, John’s ministry comes to an end. He has pointed Israel to the Messiah. And so, John says, Jesus must increase and John must decrease. This account of Jesus baptism was carefully researched by Dr Luke. Many who witnessed it could be approached for verification. The baptism of Jesus has stood the test of time. So, it is credible that Jesus is the Son of God and upon Jesus lies the full approval and affection of God the Father.
At the 2016 Olympic Games, Joseph Schooling of Singapore won the gold medal in the 100m Butterfly. Even as we celebrated that one of our own had the ability to win an Olympic gold medal, the late Colin Schooling, Joseph’s father, had to debunk that he was not a true-blue Singaporean. It seems that some people felt that Joseph was foreign talent. He was not Majulah Singapura enough. But Colin was a true-blue Singaporean and so is Joseph. We can be proud that they have shown that Singaporeans to compete with the best in the world. So, a sense of being able to truly identify is important for encouragement for world-class swimming.
Through baptism, Jesus has identified totally with us. Not only is Jesus the divine Son of God, He has taken on human form and now identifies with our sinful humanity. As we wrestle with our sinful nature, sins of commission and of omission. Sins that we repeatedly done, sins that are so scarlet we hope no one will ever know.
May the fact that Jesus has identified with our sinful humanity be an encouragement that Jesus knows and He understands. He has come for such a purpose. He is able and willing to redeem our darkest sins.
Like crossing the Red Sea, Jesus will free us from slavery to sin. Like crossing the Jordan, not only is Jesus credible and identifies with us, Jesus has God’s affection. He is God’s beloved. God is well pleased with him.
That means, when we put our faith in Jesus, we too have God’s affection. The Good News of the Gospel is that in Christ, we have the wonderful eternal affection of our Heavenly Father. And there is no other more powerful demonstration of God’s extravagant love for us than the Cross. There Jesus took our place and received the punishment that we deserved.
The baptism of Jesus displays His credibility as the Son of God and Him identifying with sinful humanity. May it be a source of great comfort and assurance for all of us.
Through Jesus’ genealogy, the Son of God is the 2nd and better Adam
In the final verses of chapter 3, Luke gives us the family tree of Jesus. As one commentator says, ‘Genealogies in Scripture are not simply a record of human fertility. They undergird the status of one for a particular office where lineage is important.’
A case in point is found in Nehemiah.
Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it: …. These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food until a priest with Urim and Thummim should arise. — Neh7:5, 64-65
Here were the exiles who are returning from Babylon. Those who sought to be registered as priest and whose names were not found in the records were excluded. Now since there is also a genealogy at the beginning of Matthew, it is then logical that readers will look and compare.
There are a few theories which attempt to explain it. The most common accepted explanation for the difference is that Matthew traces the line of royal succession, moving from David to Solomon. Luke on the other hand, traces Joseph’s actual physical descent from David to Nathan a little known son and both genealogies converge eventually with Joseph.
And when we compare the genealogies, we would see that in Matthew, Joseph’s father is Jacob while in Luke, it is Heli. It has been explained using the Levirate marriage. This means that when a brother died and he didn’t have an heir, the law allows for his brother to marry his widow. So, Jacob is thought to be Joseph’s actual father and Heli is Joseph’s legal father.
Now the fact that we can’t reconcile them fully in the 21st century should not make these accounts inaccurate. It just means we have not been able to decipher them fully. The early church was able to keep them both side by side and accept them both, so I submit we can too.
Let’s then look at some significance of Luke’s genealogy. Firstly, Luke’s genealogy contained real people. The names to the first readers were much more significant than us. I’m sure they would be able to identify clearly the few generations prior to Joseph. It just shows that Jesus is a historical figure. The Son of God has come into time and space. There is historicity involved. This is not a myth, nor a fable. Remember earlier, we see that Jesus identifies with humanity thoroughly. He is not only divine, he is fully human as well.
Secondly, through the genealogy, Luke proves that Jesus the fulfilment of the Old Testament. Jesus is the Messiah. For he is the son of King David (v31). As has been mentioned in Chapter 1 & 2 already, Jesus is the long awaited Davidic king of 2 Samuel 7, who will sit on the throne forever.
Jesus fulfils the Abrahamic promise. He is the son of Abraham (v34). Because Jesus is the descendant of Abraham, he will fulfil God’s promise to Abraham in Gen 12.
I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” — Gen 12:3
Thus we say, Jesus’s kingdom is an outside-in one. For the Gospel will reach out to the Gentiles.
Thirdly, Jesus is the 2nd and better Adam. Unlike Matthew, Luke links Jesus past David, past Abraham, all the way to Adam. Jesus is connected to the whole human race. Jesus is the Messiah not just for the Jews but the Messiah for all people.
Luke brings us back to the garden of Eden. Brings us back to the fall of mankind in Genesis 3. And this will lead nicely into the temptation of Jesus in chapter 4 which we will look at in our next sermon.
By being the son of David, Jesus has the right to rule over everything. By being the son of Abraham, He fulfills God’s promises to bless everyone. By being the son of Adam, Jesus acts for all humans. Where the first Adam failed in obedience to God, Jesus the 2nd Adam will succeed.
So Paul explains the significance of Jesus being the 2nd Adam in Luke’s genealogy in Romans 5:12 – 20. May I highlight just 3 verses:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned …. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many …. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. — Rom 5:12, 15, 18
The first Adam brought in sin. Jesus the 2nd Adam will redeem the penalty of sin and provide justification. As we have seen how Dr Luke contrasts John with Jesus, Dr Luke will. So, Jesus’ genealogy shows us that Jesus is fully human and that He fulfils all Old Testament prophesy, going back to the beginning of creation.
Finally, may I add that the genealogy shows that we are not the solution, therefore only Jesus is. In this list we do have heroes of faith. We have mentioned already David and Abraham. This list too has Noah and Jacob. But if we know our bible well, we will know that these heroes are deeply flawed people. Abraham was a liar, Jacob was a cheater and thief, David was a murderer and an adulterer and Noah was a drunkard. All of them were sinners just like you and me. Yes, they were capable of heroic stuff for God yet at the same time, Scripture records their sinful deeds. Basically, they are as human as we all are.
From Adam the first man all the way down through history, no one can be the Messiah. But the genealogy stops at Jesus. Luke says Jesus being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph. Meaning he was conceived of the Holy Spirit and so though human, was without sin. The first Adam also was created sinless but fell. Jesus the 2nd Adam will not fall. Instead, he will fully obey and therefore be our perfect substitute.
The bible is no scam. It speaks the truth that Jesus is credible. He has been attested as the Son of God by our Heavenly Father. May it give us assurance that we can put our trust in Jesus. Jesus in his baptism, identifies with us sinful humanity. He knows we are dust, that we are just jars of clay. So, in our weakness, when we stumble and fall, when we feel so ashamed that we have blatantly disobeyed God, let us be comforted that Jesus understands for He has identified with us.
But more than understanding, He has become the solution to our sin problem. This is because Jesus is the 2nd Adam, He has succeeded by fulfilling all of God’s requirements. And remember what Romans 5 says, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life. May this help us believe that Jesus is, God’s solution to sin.
Finally, as we look forward to the narrative in chapter 4 of Jesus’ overcoming the temptations of Satan in the power of the Holy Spirit, may today’s text inspire us. For the discipline of prayer is closely connected with the transformative power of the Holy
Church the baptism and genealogy of Jesus has displayed for us who Jesus truly is.
May we response with the word of our closing hymn, that we seek for the Lord to grant us wisdom and courage to live for God’s glory and to please Him.