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Our world is filled with fathers because it is a world created by God the Father. Fatherhood lies at the center of all things, and because the Father created the world, the world has to reflect that reality. But because it is a world that has—because of the disobedience of our first father—fallen into sin and rebellion, it is also a world that is filled with false information about fatherhood. We have a Father of all good things, but there is also a father of lies out there (John 8:44). This means that we must start our study of what fathers should be with a corrective. What is sinless fatherhood like?
“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased . . .” (Matt. 3:16-17).
Summary of the Text
The facts in this episode are well known. Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized by him—a baptism of repentance. John protests, but Jesus insists, identifying with the sins of His people from the very beginning of His ministry. As He was coming out of the water, the heavens opened up to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God in the form of a dove, descending until it rested upon Him. Then a voice from Heaven spoke concerning His Son. In these two brief verses, we are given a glorious vision of what fatherhood in its essence is actually like, and so let us begin there. In the first place, when Jesus was baptized, beginning His earthly ministry, His Father was there. His Father was present, not absent. The second point to make is that the Father made His presence felt by sending His Spirit. He was not present and detached, but rather present and engaged. In the third place, He made His presence known by speaking. The Father revealed His mind with propositional content. The rest of what we might glean is taken from what He said. Fourth, He identified with His Son. He said, “This is my Son.”This is a verbal affirmation that goes alongside the giving of the Spirit. He identifies with His Son, and claims the relationship. Fifth, He expressed His love for His Son. “This is my beloved Son.” And then the last thing we learn is that God the Father was well-pleased with His Son. He praised His Son.
In all of human history, there is no other event we might consider that will teach us more about what fatherhood ought to be like than this one. This is the heart of fatherhood. This describes it. This is therefore the pattern, this is the template. A human father is more like what a true father ought to be the more he lines up with this. The more he veers from it, the less so.
The divine Father speaks here for the first time in the New Testament. First words are important.
Consider the Opposite
Suppose a father (for some reason) wanted to act out the role of an anti-father? How would that look? · He would be absent, not present. He would be gone.
· If he had to be present, he would be emotionally absent. His presence would not be engaged.
· If he had to be present, he would remain silent. He wouldn’t say anything.
· If silent, he would therefore not then identify himself as being “with” his son or daughter. · If silent, he would therefore not express love for his son or daughter.
· If silent, he would therefore not praise or honor his son or daughter.
But a man acting this way would be a lying father, not an anti-father. This is because he still holds the office of father, but his discharge of that office is contrary to the job description for it that God provided for us in His Word. And it is this kind of disparity that provokes children to anger (Eph. 6:4). All fathers are talking about God the Father all the time. They do not have the option of remaining silent. God the Father has told the truth about Himself—He does this throughout all creation in natural revelation, and throughout all the Scriptures in special revelation, but particularly here, in the baptism of Jesus. Here is fatherhood.
As His Children
The Ephesians (together with us) are told to be imitators of God, as dearly loved children (Eph. 5:1). Notice that He is doing the same sort of thing with us that He did with the Lord Jesus. The Father was there; He was present (Eph. 1:3). The Spirit had been given to them (Eph. 1:2; 2:18). The mystery of God’s will in the gospel was now made known (Eph. 1:9). The fact of our adoption was declared; we are His children (Eph. 1:5). We are called His beloved children (Eph. 5:1). And He tells us that we can walk in a way that is worthy of our calling; He can be pleased with it (Eph. 4:1).
So Then, Fathers . . .
So then, fathers, you have a Father who has told you to imitate Him (Eph. 5:1). On the way home from church today, you all may be driving along in silence. Suddenly a voice comes from the back seat,
“Dad, don’t apply the sermon in any ways that make us all feel awkward.” And you know what you should say? “I’m gonna.” If you have drifted away from this biblical pattern, there is no way to recover your footing without some kind of ice-breaking weirdness. So go for it.
Let’s keep this simple.
· Be there. Unless providentially hindered, make your physical presence with your kids a high
priority. Be there for dinner; be there for school plays; be there for recitals.
· Be engaged while there. Pay emotional attention. Don’t go to the kindergarten graduation so you
can check your email on the phone.
· Say something about it. Talk about it. Register your presence verbally.
· Identify with your son or daughter every chance you get. “This is my son. “This is my daughter.” Everybody in your life should know who goes with you.
· Express your love for them to them. Do not assume that such things go without saying. If ever they could have gone without saying, it would have been at the baptism of the Son of God. And His Father still expressed His love.
· Praise them. Have the praise come from your pleasure in this, and not because somebody guilted
you with a sermon.