Matthew 3:13-17

Coronation, 3 April 2011

Big Idea

Who is God? Who is Jesus? This passage beautifully reveals the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus at the beginning of HIs ministry.

Text (Matthew 3:13-17)

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”


Before we can appreciate the text, we must set the scene. This account is one of the few accounts that is found in all four Gospels—Matthew, Mark (1:9-11), Luke (3:21-22) and John (1:29-34).


The word “baptism” sparks different thoughts in our minds. You may think of an infant being baptized or a public confession of faith by a believer.

The Greek word for baptism is “baptizo” which means “immersion.” This was not a sprinkling or a pouring or a squirt gun fight but people getting dunked in the water.

What was the purpose of John baptizing people? Mark 1:4 says

Mark 1:4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

People would come to John and ask to be baptized for the remission of their sins. As we said a few weeks ago, repentance is agreeing that we have sinned against God (and often others) and turning away from our sins to live a new life.

“But Jesus had no sins (Hebrews 4:15)” you might say. That’s what John said, too!

But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

So why would Jesus insist on getting baptized? He came to do the will of the Father and to “fulfill all righteousness.” In other words, Jesus was baptized in obedience to the Father.

The entire third chapter of Matthew is the fulfillment of prophecy from the Italian prophet, Malachi!

Malachi 3:1 “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

Malachi 4:5-6 See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”


Sometimes God calls us to do things that don’t make sense. That’s where trust comes in. Imagine being Abraham and God telling you to grab your knife and start cutting foreskins. God told the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute. He told Moses to speak to a rock and expect water to flow out.

Ultimately it’s a trust issue.

God is good. All the time.
God is sovereign and in control. All the time.

He can be trusted, even when it might not make sense at the moment.

John didn’t understand why Jesus would seek baptism, but God had a purpose that was revealed in the following verses.

The Coronation

There is tremendous fanfare and festivities that surround the coronation of a king or queen. The closest thing we know of in our country is a presidential inauguration. Did any of you see President Obama’s inauguration? It cost donors and our government more than $170 million for the weekend...all to formally acknowledge a new leader.

Jesus, our great King, had no such pageantry and spectacle. He had something far greater, however.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

I’d call that a pronouncement! What does the Father say?

  • this is His Son
  • He loves His Son
  • He is well pleased with His Son

It kind of reminds me of a story Jesus told about three men given sums of money to invest (Matthew 25; Luke 19). At the end of the story, the master says, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

I live for two words—well done. That’s it. Although it seems crazy, I long for my heavenly Father to announce someday

  • I am His Son
  • He loves me
  • He is well pleased with me

Let me be clear, I’m not saying I am anything like Jesus. In fact, only by dying to myself and letting Jesus live through me do I even have a chance!

The Trinity

One of the most radical distinctions between orthodox Christianity and other religions is the Trinity. The Jewish Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4 proclaims

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Our one LORD exists in three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This, admittedly, is a mystery that analogies fail to adequately express, but we worship one “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity” as the great hymn announces.

Church father Tertullian (155-220 ad) was one of the first to use the term ‘Trinity” and it wasn’t until the Council of Nicea in 325 that the doctrine became firmly established within orthodoxy.

To say that God exists as a Trinity is to say that there is one God with a unified essence who exists in three equal persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By person it is meant that God thinks, feels, acts and speaks. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) summarizes the doctrine by saying, “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.”

There are some Christians who deny the Trinity. They believe that God is a single Person who reveals Himself in three different modes or forms, but that the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time, only one after another.

Do you see a problem with this passage for the modalist?

We don’t have time to even begin a full treatment of Trinitarianism, but suffice it to say that our text today is one of several that reveal our one God existing simultaneously in three Persons.

Have You Been Baptized?

While we are on the subject, have you been baptized? It’s not only something He experienced, it’s something He commanded. Last week we saw His final words to His followers:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

- Matthew 28:18-20

Oh, did you notice the Trinity there?


To summarize, this text reveals Jesus’ submission and obedience to the Father. His baptism is Christ’s coronation as He begins His ministry. The Trinity is in full view, showing one God existing as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s also a reminder that each of us—unlike Jesus—is a sinner in need of God’s grace and forgiveness, something only available through Jesus, His life, death, and resurrection. Finally, it underscore the need for all Christ-followers to follow Him in baptism, publicly declaring their faith, dying to their old life, and becoming resurrected with Jesus in new life as a new creation.

You can listen to the podcast