and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:17 ESV
When reading or studying the baptism of Jesus, we rightly tend to fixate upon the stunning display of the Trinity. In that one moment, we find God the Son incarnate and standing in the waters of the Jordan. We find God the Spirit descending upon the Son like a dove. And we hear God the Father’s pronouncement of pleasure in His Son. It is certainly right that we would stand amazed by this scene and by the wondrous mystery of our triune God.
Yet I would like to focus upon the Father’s declaration at Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” While this pronouncement was certainly a testament to others of Jesus’ Sonship at the beginning of His ministry, it seems that it was also given as a testament to Jesus Himself. Though we cannot understand the depths of this mystery, we must remember that Christ lived His earthly life in His humanity. Of course, He never ceased to be divine as some theologians argue from Philippians 2:7, yet it is true that He apparently did not actively exercise His divinity, which would include His omniscience.
Indeed, while studying to understand Mark 13:32, someone (I cannot remember who) referenced John 11, where Jesus knows supernaturally when Lazarus died (John 11:11) yet apparently did not know where his tomb was (John 11:34). While it appears that Jesus’ divinity breaks through at key moments in the Gospels, He seems to have lived His life with His divine nature veiled.
This is relevant to Matthew 3:17 because while Jesus certainly knew that He was the Christ, the Son of God, such a verbal declaration must have been an invaluable seal upon His ministry. In fact, immediately after His baptism, Jesus was taken by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, and the first two temptations are directly related to Jesus’ Sonship: “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3, 6). Jesus did not need to turn a stone into bread to prove that He is God’s Son; He had the word and testimony of His Father.
Of course, the onslaught of temptation did not cease then; rather, Christ fulfilled His ministry as one despised and rejected of men yet always within the Father’s good pleasure. Indeed, I think it was this tension that made Christ’s final suffering so agonizing. In order to accomplish His Father’s will, He took upon Himself the sins of the world which then placed Him under the Father’s wrath. He endured being forsaken for the joy of accomplishing the eternal purpose of His Father.
In Ephesians 1-2, we find what implications this has for us. Since have been adopted by the Father through Christ our Lord by grace through faith, we now have the same pronouncement of the Father declared over us. Of course, the Father was pleased with Christ because He was perfectly and entirely obedient. He is only pleased with us because the perfect obedience of Christ has been fully imputed onto us. Therefore, whenever we think upon the works (Ephesians 2:10) or ministry (Ephesians 4:12) that the Father has set for us to accomplish, we do so by faith in the good pleasure of our Father that has been sealed for us beforehand through Jesus our Savior.