January 8 – Matthew 3:13-17
Main focus: The Triune God reveals himself personally—Father, Son, and Spirit—so that we may know him personally.
As we announced at our December all-church members’ night, our year-long theme for 2023 is on the Trinity. That might seem like we’re trying to shove you through a seminary class, but Vintage pastors and staff want so much more for you and for our church, so we’re trying to approach this theme thoughtfully. It’s all too easy to treat the Doctrine of the Trinity like something it isn’t, just a philosophical puzzle to show off your mental muscles, or the dry fare of scholars, or an impossible head-scratcher that isn’t worth dwelling on. But the Doctrine of the Trinity has so much more for us than that, and by studying what the Bible has to say about God’s triune nature really we just want to take a year to learn more about who God is and grow in our worship of him. The title of our theme, and the first series of the year, tells you what we’re aiming for: “All of God for All of Us.”
This first series on the Trinity will lay the groundwork for our year-long focus, and our goal for the series is two-fold: to better understand what God reveals to us about himself and to better experience and enjoy him. We’ll do this by turning to passages that feature the imagery-laced titles and names that God assigns to himself, names including Father, Son, and Spirit, while making intentional use of passages that feature all three members of the Trinity so as not to miss God’s simultaneous triunity and unity.
Understandably, this week bears the burden of teeing up the whole series, so we’ll turn to one of the simplest, clearest passages in the Bible regarding the Trinity: the baptism of Jesus. There in one moment we see the sovereign Father, the sent Son, and the commissioning Spirit all interacting and working together. Jesus’s baptism is one of only a few events recorded in all four Gospels; parallel passages are Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, and John 1:32-34 (technically John recounts it after the fact, as told by John the Baptist, but it reinforces the account). You’ll notice some minor differences (ex. “This is my son” vs. “You are my son”), but interestingly all four accounts specify the bodily presence of the Holy Spirit as a dove and all but John report the voice from heaven. This four-fold redundancy in the Bible should help us see the importance of this moment; God specifically wants to reveal himself and his triune nature through the baptism of Jesus.
In discussion we’ll take a bit of a side-route from the passage to talk about what we typically think (or don’t think) about the Trinity and what questions we have about God’s triune nature. Doing this with the passage already open is intentional. Here we have a story brimming with experience and personality—how astounding is it that the infinite, holy, abundant God would choose an afternoon on a muddy riverbank to reveal himself to mankind? Our assumptions or even lack of thought about the Trinity are often abstracted from the sort of personal, literally in-the-flesh way that God reveals himself to us. But we’ll also note our questions in order to invite God, through the series and through his word, to answer them, because we don’t believe the Trinity is some mystical, impenetrable truth but something we should pursue and grow in our knowledge of.
We’ll begin to wrap up by discussing the specific moment of Jesus’s baptism. Why did God choose that afternoon and method for revealing so clearly his three-part nature? A lot is going on under the surface. This is the commissioning of Jesus, the very start of his earthly ministry, which will culminate in his death on a cross. This one moment helps us see how God uses the whole history of redemption, from the Garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem, to reveal himself to us. That God would disclose his triune nature at such a key moment in the history of redemption shows us that all of God is emphatically for us.
It was in Jesus’s incarnation, his coming to be with us, that God has specially revealed himself to us (John 1:18). It was through Jesus’s identification with his people and perfect obedience to God, including being baptized as his people are baptized (3:15), that his righteousness can stand in their place. It was the same Spirit that empowered Jesus to fulfill his ministry and raised him from the grave that now indwells his people and will raise them on the last day. And it is because of Jesus’s work of redemption that the same voice, bursting with all glory and laden with all authority, can say to us, “You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”
To summarize, this little scene is a hotbed of hyperlinks to other parts of scripture identifying the God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. But it’s worth reiterating that the Trinity is revealed here not as some math problem or philosophical monologue but on a hot afternoon at the river Jordan. God reveals himself through story and experience; just by reading this story we can tell that the doctrine of the Trinity is something that is meant to intersect with our daily lives, that we would daily catch glimpses of God’s bigness and revel in his closeness, that “All of God” would leave us in awe and “for All of Us” would leave us breathless in gratitude.
• Could someone read Matthew 3:13-17 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• How does this passage introduce us to the three members of the Trinity?
• When you typically (if ever) think about the Trinity, what comes to mind?
• What questions do you have about the Trinity that you would like to investigate during this sermon series?
• Back to Matthew 3, what do you think it was like to be there as a witness?
• Why do you think God chose this moment and this way to reveal his triune nature?
• How might growing in your understanding of the Trinity affect the way you relate to God?