June 28, 2010 David Balzer

Luke 3:21-4:13: What if God was one of us?

Who AM I? It’s the question lots of people ask themselves. Who am I? Well, I’m a father, and a husband, and a friend, and a pastor. I’m a sportsman. A handyman. A cyclist. I’m balding. I’m short-sighted. And I’m short-tempered. But that’s only WHAT I’M LIKE. If I strip all of that away – who AM I?

Maybe I need to do an Adult Education course to find out. We got the latest catalogue from the College of Adult Education. Hundreds of courses. And quite a lot were to do with developing your human potential. Finding out what you’re like. How you tick. Raising your self-awareness.

Who AM I? What is it that makes me, ME?

Some people travel to India or Tibet. And sit on a mountain, or at the feet of some guru. They do it to FIND THEMSELVES.

And then there’s the case of San Diego computer programmer, Dennis Smith. According to Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper, he wants to turn himself into a tiger.

He’s trying to raise $100,000 to pay for a/ FUR GRAFT. His body is already covered in orange and black stripe tattoos. He also has chiselled teeth, and latex whisker implants. And cosmetic lip surgery has transformed his mouth into a permanent snarl.

“When I have the coat of a tiger, I feel I will have reached my goal in life,” he said.

That’s one guy with an unusual self-identity!

1. Jesus: Fully God and fully man

But if you think Dennis Smith’s unique, he’s got nothing on Jesus. Jesus was a man like no other. As far as human beings go, he breaks every mould.

If we look at everything the Bible says about Jesus, the only conclusion we can come to is that he was truly man – like us in every way (except for sin). AND he was truly God.

And he was Fully God and fully man – AT THE SAME TIME. Not like Dennis Smith who’s really a man, but looks like a tiger. Jesus isn’t God, but just looks like a man.

Colossians 2: 9 says that “in Christ ALL THE FULLNESS OF THE DEITY lives IN BODILY FORM”

It’s what the theologians call the TWO RES of Christ. And the problem they’ve got is describing how those two things fit together.

He’s fully God, AND he’s fully man. He’s existed since before the creation of the world, AND he was born at a moment in time.

His powerful hands made the universe, AND he was also a frail, vulnerable, and helpless baby. Dependant on his mum for everything.

He is total wisdom and knowledge, (guiding and maintaining the Universe), AND as a man/ he GREW in wisdom, and in knowledge of God.

. The crucial time was at the moment he became a man. It’s called the INCARNATION. When he did that, he had to GIVE UP CERTAIN THINGS. Philippians 2 verse 6 says that Jesus,

“who, being in very re God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, {7} but made himself nothing (it’s literally EMPTIED himself), taking the very re of a servant, being made in human likeness.

So what did Jesus empty himself of?

It’s here we need to be very careful. If we say that he emptied himself of TOO MUCH, then he’s no longer God.

I think Charles Wesley got it wrong in the hymn “And can it be” when he said that Jesus “emptied himself of ALL BUT LOVE”. If that was the case, then Jesus would no longer be God.

And if we say he emptied himself of too LITTLE, then he’s not really a man – he just LOOKS like a man. (In the same way Dennis Smith only LOOKS like a tiger)

Let me suggest that Jesus emptied himself BY taking the form of a servant. He LET GO OF equality with God/ by becoming a servant – becoming a human.

While he didn’t stop being what God was BY RE, he became SUBORDINATE IN FUNCTION to the Father (second-in-charge in the way he did things) for the time he was on earth.

He still had the power to be everywhere, but he CHOSE to be limited in the exercise of that power while he was human. He still had the power to KNOW everything, but he chose to LIMIT that knowledge by taking on a human body – with its normal senses and nervous system and brain. A brain that learned in the normal way. He grew in wisdom, and he grew in favour with God it says in Luke 2: 52.

Millard Erickson gives a good example.

“Imagine the world’s fastest sprinter is entered in a three-legged race… Although his physical capacity is not diminished, the conditions under which he exercises it are severly restricted… the conditions … limit actual performance.

This is the situation of the incarnate Christ (That is, Jesus the man). Just as the runner could undo the tie, but chooses to restrict himself for the duration of the event, so Christ’s incarnation was a voluntary, self-chosen limitation. He did not have to take on humanity, but chose to do so for the period of the incarnation.”

Now, we might have lots of questions about how that works itself out in practise, but the problem is, the Bible doesn’t really say much by way of EXPLANATION. Mostly, it just ASSUMES that it’s true.

And that’s what we see in these verses. Luke describes the start of Jesus’ ministry. And in each of the three sections, we see something of Jesus’ GOD-ness, and something of his MAN-ness. His DEITY/ and his HUMANITY.

We see that Jesus is;

  • BAPTISED like us, but God declares him his special, beloved Son of God.
  • He’s BORN like us, yet he’s the only true son of God since Adam.
  • And he’s TEMPTED like us, yet he never sinned.

It’s taken us a long time to actually get to the Bible passage, but hopefully it will be time well-spent. And it will help us to better understand these verses.

2. Baptised like us … yet declared beloved Son of God (3:21-22)

If you haven’t already got the passage in front of you/ please turn there with me. It’s Luke 3 v21.

And it’s the start of Jesus’ public ministry. It’s the first we’ve heard from Jesus for 18 years. Since that one episode in the temple when he was 12.

And right here, in the very first verse, two things that should stand up, and grab us by the throat. Verse 21

(Luke 3:21 NIV)  When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was BAPTIZED TOO. And as HE WAS PRAYING, heaven was opened

Jesus was BAPTISED. And Jesus PRAYED.

The sinless Son of God was baptised. Washed with water as a sign of forgiveness of sin.

Now, for most people, that seems to be the big question/ why was Jesus baptised? He was sinless. He didn’t NEED to be baptised.

But that’s not a question Luke answers. It’s not his emphasis at all! It’s almost like it’s a minor detail mentioned in passing. The PEOPLE were baptised, and so was Jesus. He was a person just like the rest.

What interests Luke the most/ is what ELSE Jesus did. “When all the people had been baptised, Jesus, having been baptised, was PRAYING.”

You know/ Luke’s the only gospel writer to mention that Jesus was praying here. The One who had enjoyed intimate fellowship with the Father for all eternity. The closest possible communication. A one-ness that doesn’t have a parallel. Was praying.

This closeness was ONE of the things the Son put aside when he came to earth. And he longed for it. And so he prayed.

And look at what happens. His Father answers him. “Heaven was opened” and (v22)

(Luke 3:22 NIV)  the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

That just spins me out! God the Son was talking to God the Father. And then God the Father sends God the Holy Spirit to God the Son. And then he says, “You are my Son”

I just can’t get my head around that!

They’re two of the biggies of Christianity. Understanding the Trinity. And understanding the two res of Christ! And we have to try and get our heads around BOTH of them this morning! So much for being on holidays!

Now, it’s Matthew’s Gospel that records the words as “THIS is my Son”. And that reads more like it’s a public announcement – God talking to EVERYONE ELSE about who Jesus is. And there’s a sense in which that’s the case here, too.

But I’d like to think that it’s just as much for JESUS’ benefit/ that the announcement comes. Perhaps Jesus was even praying, “Who am I, Father? What is it you want me to be doing? How do I go about saving your people? Where do I start?”

And God the Father gives two answers. His first answer is to send God the Holy Spirit to lead and guide Jesus on the journey. That’s his answer to the “How?”

And his answer to the “Who?”?

“You are my Son, whom I love. With you I’m well pleased”

I think the Father’s saying two sorts of things here .

  • He’s saying something about Jesus’ IDENTITY.    … and
  • He’s saying something Jesus’ JOB DESCRIPTION.

Firstly, what’s he saying about Jesus’ identity?

Jesus is God’s SON. Together with God the Holy Spirit they make up the Trinitarian God that Christianity believes in. The Trinity – God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

And that’s a relationship that’s ALWAYS BEEN THERE. He’s always existed, just like God the Father. Infinitely powerful, infinitely wise. Equal with the Father in every way. Yet, as the Son, he submits and obeys his Father in everything.

And God is pleased with what he sees in Jesus. He enjoys watching his Son, relating to his son. That’s something the Father’s done for eternity.

But there’s an echo here of Genesis, too. Creation. How God enjoyed the world when he first made it. It’s not exactly the same, but when God saw all that he’d made, in Gen 1, – especially after he’d made mankind – he said that it was VERY GOOD…. For a while.

But although the Father hasn’t CREATED Jesus in the same way, Jesus has been BORN INTO THE CREATED WORLD. And he’s PERFECT. Exactly the way God meant mankind to be. And the Father is pretty pleased with what he sees.

So, here is Jesus – the Father’s special and unique SON, and also His unique and perfect MAN- the pinnacle of creation.

(That’s what He’s saying about Jesus’ IDENTITY. But he’s also saying something about Jesus’ JOB DESCRIPTION)

“You are my son” is also a quote from Psalm 2, which describes God’s anointed one – his Messiah, his King. The one God will send to lead and rescue his people.

So God’s answer is that Jesus will be his appointed rescuer. Hs Messiah.

But it’s the second part of God’s message that SHEDS SOME LIGHT on that. On HOW the rescue will happen.  – “with you I am well pleased”.

It reminds us of Is 42 v1 where God is talking about his SUFFERING servant.

(Isa 42:1 NIV)  “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one IN WHOM I DELIGHT; I will put MY SPIRIT on him and he will bring justice to the nations.

And the description of this servant culminates in Is 53.

(Isa 53:3-7 NIV)  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. … {4} Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, …{5} But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Jesus’ task was going to be about suffering. The Father’s beloved Son would be WOUNDED so that his people could be HEALED. And it was THAT ministry that really pleased God.

3. Born like us …. yet the only true son of God (3:23-37)

That’s the Father’s answer to who Jesus is. But Luke goes on. (point 3 of the outline) Jesus was BORN LIKE US. (And I’ll be a lot quicker here)

Luke chooses to put the genealogy here. A big long list of names. At the start of Jesus’ MINISTRY rather than at his birth, or at the start of the whole book.

It helps to answer the question for us, “Who is Jesus?”

Half way through v30. He was the Son SO IT WAS THOUGHT of Joseph. In that one little phrase he sums up the story of Jesus’ miraculous conception and birth. His UNIQUE place in human history. The only one ever to be born without the help of an earthly father.

Yet, he was fully human. He deserved his spot in the human race. That’s Luke’s point with the genealogy. He had real ancestors. Including King David.

In fact, Luke goes right back to Adam. Look over at v37. Near the end. “… the son of Seth, who was the son of Adam, who was the son of God” The SON OF GOD.

Yes, that’s right! Adam was a son of God. Created in God’s image. Perfect. He and Eve were the only ones ever. Until they sinned. The only PERFECT ones ever. Until Jesus, that is.

Who is Jesus? 100% human. Born like us. Yet the only TRUE PERFECT SON OF GOD. The only TRUE image of God. The ONLY ONE who ever kept the original family resemblance.

4. Tempted like us … yet without sin

Well, now Luke gets back to the story. You could actually cut out the list of names. And the story would keep going without skipping a beat.

Jesus is at the Jordan with John. He’s baptised, receives the Holy Spirit, and the Father speaks to him. And then, Ch 4 v1;

(Luke 4:1-2 NIV)  Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, {2} where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

He receives the Holy Spirit, and straight away, the Spirit starts doing his stuff. He leads him into the desert. Perhaps even as an answer to Jesus’ prayer – “Who am I? What am I to do?”

It’s often by pushing the boundaries that you work out the measure of a man. By finding out how far you can go that you learn new things about yourself. It’s what people involved in extreme adventures say. “I learned things about myself I never knew before.”

And one of the extremes was no food. It’s one of the wonderful pieces of understatement in the Bible. “He ate nothing for 40 days, and at the end of them he was hungry.”

Solitude and fasting. Two of the traditional ways to encourage closeness to God. To focus your mind on him. And that’s what Jesus was doing. It was a way to foster that closeness that he’d always had up until now.

But it was also a TEST. A chance to see how much he’d learned. This was the true son of God. The new man. The new Israel.

The old Israel had been led out of Egypt into the desert, and had stumbled. Fallen into sin because they’d given in to temptation.

But Jesus doesn’t. He succeeds/ where Israel failed. He’s following the path that God’s people SHOULD have followed.

I think we’re meant to make that comparison because of the PARTICULAR verses Jesus quotes. He quotes Deuteronomy. God’s words to Israel in the desert.

Hebrews expands on this idea. Jesus was COMPLETELY man. He was tempted in EVERY WAY, just as we are–yet was without sin. (Heb 4:15)

Some people say that Jesus wasn’t really human because he didn’t sin. “Humans sin. Jesus didn’t. Therefore Jesus wasn’t human. Q.E.D.”

But the problem with that argument/ is it’s OUR definition of “human” – human’s sin.

But GOD’S definition of human. His original . Was sinless. And that’s what Jesus was. And so, in that sense, Jesus is MORE human than we are. He’s the PROTOTYPE for the NEW man. The GOAL for humanity. The one in who’s glorious likeness we’ll be made when he comes back.

So let’s have a quick look at how he S that new humanity for us. What goal he gives us to aim for.

Satan’s tempting him. Verse 3. “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread”. IF you are the Son of God. He’s undermining the very declaration of God – “ You ARE my son, whom I love”

“Did God REALLY say that?” Just like the snake in the garden of Eden – Did God really say…?

He’s offering Jesus an easy way out. You don’t have to SUFFER to win the victory. Take the easy way out! Who says you have to suffer?

Jesus responds. “Mankind was designed for more than just food. And because I’m a man, that’s what I’ll do”

So Satan tries again, v5, “You don’t need suffering to be victorious. Just worship me, and you’ll get all the kingdoms of the world”

But it’s such a PUNY taunt! He’s not even talking about the UNIVERSE. It’s the inhabited world he’s offering. And that’s only a drop in the ocean.

And notice what else he says. Verse 6

(Luke 4:6 NIV)  And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.

He’s only offering it/ because God’s given it to him anyway!

And Jesus answers, “Mankind was designed to only worship the Lord your God. And because I’m a man. That’s what I’ll do, too!”

Satan has a third go. Verse 9. “Throw yourself down from the top of the temple. Shortcut God’s plans. Force his hand. Why sit back and let HIM control your life? It doesn’t have to be this way!”

And once again Jesus answers, “Mankind was designed NOT to test God. Since I’m a man, that’s what I’ll do too!”

That’s our example. The way to resist temptation. When we’re tempted, we need to remember the way we were designed. The maker’s instructions always produce the best results. Knowing God’s word – his commands and his promises – are the way to defeat Satan.

And so we come to the end of the desert testing program. Just like new s of cars. They undergo extreme testing in the outback. If they can cope with that, they can cope with anything.

And the new passes with flying colours. He’s ready for the task. But you’ll have to wait until next week for that!

5. So what?

Well, it’s been hard work this morning. Thinking about the two res of Jesus.

He’s fully man. Baptised like us, praying like us, born like us, and tempted like us.

But he’s also fully God. Declared God’s special Son, the perfect image of God, completely without sin.

So what’s all that mean? Why is that important? Let me share Erickson’s reasons. Five reasons why it’s important that Jesus was a man. And four reasons why it’s important Jesus was God.

Why is it important that Jesus was a man?

  1. Only a man could offer a sacrifice on behalf of men
  2. Jesus can truly sympathise with me. He knows.
  3. Jesus shows me what true humanity is like. He is my example
  4. Human re, and the physical world, is good. I can enjoy life now.
  5. God isn’t distant.

Why is it important that Jesus is God?

  1. We can truly know what God is like
  2. Christ’s is sufficient for ALL. It is not merely finite human who died, but infinite God
  3. God and man have been reunited. Not simply an angel, or messenger, but God himself who crossed the gap.
  4. Worship of Christ is appropriate. He deserves our praise, adoration, and obedience – just like the Father.

And they’re great reasons to thank God. Let’s do that now. Let’s pray.

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