“Then Jesus Arrived”

Matthew 3:13-17

[Mt 3:13] Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. [14] But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” [15] But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him.

[16] After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, [17] and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”


These verses represent the beloved blessing of the ultimate parent to most wonderful child. In this case the parent is God and the child is Jesus. It is the most perfect blessing in eternity. When Jesus stepped into the Jordan, he knew full well that his choice would put him in direct contrast with both the governmental and the religious powers of his day. Herod and the Sanhedrin as well as the Pharisees had already sent their spies to build a case against John. We know also that Roman soldiers were coming to hear his message.

Stepping into the Jordan to be baptized by John meant that Jesus was stepping into controversy and our Lord was not so naïve as to think that this decision wouldn’t lead him to his own confrontation with those powers as well. Greater still, our Lord knew that this decision would lead him to be dead center in the battle for eternity. He would become the sacrificial lamb required to free all people from sin.

God blesses Jesus twice during our Lord’s earthly life, once here at the Jordan and then again during the Transfiguration. The blessing is the same both times: “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
This blessing is found in the following verses:

There is a slight differentiation in the versions of the blessing however. Matthew uses the term “This is my Beloved Son [G3778 houtos],” while Mark and Luke use the term, “Thou art my Beloved Son [G25 Agapetos],” or simply “My Beloved.”

Why the difference? Remember that Matthew is most interested in speaking to Jewish believers and tying Jesus’ life to the prophesies of the Messiah. Thus, he ties his version of the “Beloved Blessing” to Isaiah 42:1-4.

Isaiah 42:1-4

[1] “Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.

[2] “He will not cry out of raise His voice, not make His voice heard in the streets.

[3] “A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish. He will faithfully bring forth justice.

[4] “He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.”

Matthew makes the statement a pronouncement to all gathered, Mark and Luke show us an image of intimacy between a loving parent and a beloved child.

Regardless of which version tugs most upon our hearts. The underlying truth is this: This was not a blessing of what Jesus had or did. It was a blessing of the life that Jesus had chosen; a life of service and love. This was no approval based upon performance, this was the unconditional dignity that every human being requires in order to become manipulation-proof in a corrupt world.

Any child who receives this blessing can withstand the lure of Satan who always tempts us with, “If you are God’s beloved, prove it…”

Because of this blessing Jesus is able to withstand the three temptations of Satan – comfort, approval, and manipulative power. Don’t we desire to raise a people who could be that liberated. A child that knows they are unconditionally loved can detect and reject manipulation in all its forms.

Below is a letter from just such a child of God that I received in the mail. He was an inmate in our outreaches at the Yakima County Jail before being sent to a penitentiary in Oregon. While in the jail, he experienced God’s beloved and unconditional blessing. Listen to the deep strength that blessing has given to him.

“Dear Jerry;
“You know that God decided to send me to the State Penitentiary in Oregon. Even though, I miss the body of believers in Yakima County Jail, I rejoice in what He has done. Last week, I was stabbed three times in the stomach by my roommate. I think he didn’t like how happy I was. He thought I was crazy  – but you know this feeling. I am crazy – crazy for Jesus!

“I already forgave him (who has time to be angry when there’s so much to do)? At any rate, they’re going to keep me in the hole for a while  – which is a great place to witness about the love of Jesus.
“I hope you can visit me soon…”

I pray that you will experience that type of blessing as you read this incredible story of the baptism of the Jordan.

When we know that blessing, Jesus has truly “arrived” in our lives.

Matthew 3:13-15

[Mt 3:13] Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. [14] But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” [15] But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him.

Then Jesus arrived from Galilee

G5119, then, tote (tot’-eh); G3854, He arrived, paraginomai (par-ag-in’-om-ahee)

Perhaps the most important word in this sentence is “then.” This word is so commonly used that we might miss its significance. Yet, it is rudimentary to understanding this reading. For indeed, all creation had been straining for this moment!

It wasn’t just the thirty years that Jesus had waited to commit to public ministry  – but the eons the heavenly hosts had waited for the dawn to break.

Thirty years was the traditional time a rabbi waited to be committed to God. The commitment was solemnized through the ancient ceremony of baptism. In Jesus’ first thirty years, he had the additional task of caring for his mother. He had both earthly and spiritual responsibilities  – Jesus was not confused about these roles as is often our tendency. Similarly, Paul was never confused about making tents all day and preaching all night. Like my friend in the letter above, no matter where they were, they were serving the Lord.

Yet now, the time had come. The Time! The time of eternity’s dawn.

God has a time for our life too. A time when our purpose breaks upon the sunrise. We needn’t rush it. Think of the error made when Jacob rushed God’s plan by stealing Esau’s blessing. Look at the years that it cost him. Think of Moses, trying to force God’s justice by killing an Egyptian slave driver. Look at the years that it cost him. Remember Joseph, who tried to share his dream too soon. Look at the years that it cost him.

Pause, listen, be loved.

There is another important lesson in Christ’s waiting. This reading displays the power of God’s revelation in the person who “gets clean for God.” The revelation of God is in proportion to the depth with which we respond. If someone had told me (as I was finishing up my MBA), that I would be using my skills to help families broken by incarceration  – I would have laughed like Abraham and Sarah laughed. I couldn’t have handled it.

Therefore, God instead revealed to me a shorter perspective. A perspective that allowed me to say; “Well, I can do that.” Sometimes I see one step ahead  – sometimes I see a lifespan. Yet, always, it is just enough vision to keep me going today. The more I step out in faith, the more I “get it” in terms of God’s eternity-perspective.

Were this short three-word sentence (“then Jesus arrived”) written about me  – it might instead read; “finally… Jerry got it!”

God has a time for us. We will “get it” because inclusion is His passion. he wants willing partners, not mindless automatons. God longs to give us enough of eternity that we understand his perspective. Enough of his plan that we can see we are wanted. He will give us that “eternity-moment” if we give him our heart.

To be baptized

G907 baptizo (bap-tid’-zo)

Baptized (from the root word, bapto [911, (bap’-to)], is a simple word used for someone who needs to wash. The word can be used for being submerged, sprinkled, or just splashing your face. Just as if I told my son to wash, I wouldn’t care if he stepped in the shower or jumped in the bathtub. If I tell him to wash his face, I don’t care if he uses a washcloth or a fancy “loofa” sponge. That is not an issue to me. The issue is; “Are you clean?”

That is the only issue to God as well. The theology of baptism is made too complicated by theologians with too much head time and not enough street time. They spend far too much time delineating “the correct method” of washing. Vainly (or, in vanity), they debate whether the Lord intends for us to be dipped, sprinkled, or dunked. It is like debating whether we should fry, boil, or roast a chicken for a starving family. Just feed them!

One might as well argue if the true believer can then only be baptized in the Jordan River.  Wouldn’t we suddenly find ourselves back to ritualism?

How alien to the very premise of Christ’s death where the power of salvationt is available on any street corner!
Yet, we must also not trivialize the intent of what our Lord was doing on this momentous day either. Jesus wasn’t just saying to John; “Hey where can a guy get a bath around here.” Baptism was the way to consecrate or “ordain” a person to ministry who was in the Aaronic line (the line of Aaron was supposedly a genetic family tree of the royal class of priests). They were appointed priests by right of their birth and their claim to be direct descendants of Aaron.
John the Baptist’s approach was a surprising twist that simplified the overburdened ceremonies of the exclusive religious class. He moved the ceremony to the side of a thoroughfare (the Jordan River crossing) and virtually gave the rite of cleansing to all who wanted to prepare themselves to be available to God.

John was not breaking tradition  – he was exceeding it. He was pushing God’s compassion and desire to be in relationship with all of us far beyond the exclusivity of family lines and educational / financial boundaries. In Jerusalem, only certain men could be cleansed. At the Jordan, any individual (male of female) who made a decision to change their life was welcome to the water.

“All are welcome.” Do you want to be cleansed? Then, forget whether a bathtub, shower, or golden dunk tanks are available. What is necessary is the right heart and a community of faith (The Holy Spirit came to a community of believers).

Christ made it so simple. He tore down the veil of complex worship put up by theologians who wanted to be gatekeepers. Since that time, we have done an sadly efficient job of trying to sew that curtain back together. New rituals, new doctrines, new requirements; did the lack of those items affect the effectiveness of Christ’s baptism!

Come to the water. Be cleansed, be loved. Be whole.

I have need

G1473, I, ego (eg-o’); G2192, have, echo (ekh’-o); G5532, need of, chreia (khri’-ah); G907, baptism, baptizo (bap-tid’-zo);

John did not want to baptize Jesus. He might have been thinking something like; “That’s like a coal miner cleaning a wedding dress!” This shows is that John’s ego (the Greek word for “I and Me”) was in the right place. He knew where his position was  – relative to the savior, Jesus Christ. “I am not worthy to tie his sandals!”
However, John is called to baptize Jesus so that the world would know that Jesus could fulfill all of the commands of the prophets.

Think of it like this, Jesus was telling John; “Lay aside your needs, John. To fulfill the prophets  – there are things that must be done.”

For us to fulfill the prophesied role of the church  – we too have to look beyond our needs and abilities and exmine his call. It is our needs that tell us; “We can’t teach, visit, or carry the Gospel.” It is His voice that says; “It’s not an option.”

Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness

G863, Permit, aphiemi (af-ee’-ay-mee); G737, now, arti (ar’-tee); 1063, because, gar (gar); G3779, in this manner, houto (hoo’-to); G4241, it is suitable, prepo (prep’-o); G2254, for us, hemin (hay-meen’); G4137, to fulfill, pleroo (play-ro’-o); G3956, all, pas (pas); G1343, righteousness, dikaiosune (dik-ah-yos-oo’-nay)

Jesus’ response to John’s reasoning is indicative of where the Christian must be in a relationship with his Lord. One way of interpreting this reading is the common; “Permit it at this time, for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

However, the phrase; “Permit it at this time,” can also be translated as; “Suspend your judgment and reasoning for now.”

A more meaningful translation of this verse might well be; “Suspend your rational thinking for the moment, God is doing something deeper here than you could possibly understand.”

Jesus had to bring the “fulfillment of the law.” Therefore, he had to fulfill the law by presenting himself for ceremonial cleansing in the ancient Aaronic right of baptism.

Christ’s revelation to John is so appropriate to us in this time. First of all, I am often saddened by people who ask me to pray for them  – but don’t want to involve the whole community in prayer. “Jerry, will you pray for this; but don’t tell anyone else about it.”

My prayer is nothing compared to our prayers! Jesus is telling John that “we must ceremonially involve the people.”
Jesus didn’t “need” the ceremonies! He didn’t need to be “cleansed.” He wasn’t baptized for his own healing or out of his own need. Can you imagine the patience of our Lord  – who sat in synagogues every Saturday for thirty years listening to someone telling him about scripture?

Jesus was baptized for our needs. So that no one could say; “He’s not the Lord, he didn’t jump the hoops.” I know pastors right now who will not see detained kids from their own church because “they don’t want to jump through the hoops.” They are too busy to do the paperwork. They have too much to do in their church! All I can think is: “Ouch, that’s gonna hurt when you try to explain that to God  – who wasn’t too busy to send His son to die for you.”

That is the whole point of this verse! It’s not about what Jesus wanted to do. It was not about his own needs. The first step into ministry is to be available to others. I shouldn’t go to church and wait for it to “do something for me.” I should go to church and see what God would have me offer him!

Matthew 3:16-17

[16] After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, [17] and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

And behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw

G3772, the heavens, ouranos (oo-ran-os’); G3735, oros (or’-os); G455 Opened up, anoigo (an-oy’-go); G846, to him, autos (ow-tos’); G1438, to him, heautou (heh-ow-too’); G1492, He saw, eido (i’-do)

There are a couple ways that a person could interpret this reading.

This interpretation would imply that the sky literally tore in half in a manner that all people would be shocked by this manifestation. Is God capable of this? Never doubt that the One who created the rules of the universe can also bend them to his will.

However, why tamper with perfection? God doesn’t need to bend physical rules to bring about wholeness. The miracle of each day is not the extraordinary abnormalities of nature, but what we have witnessed  – and usually overlook  – in the ordinary moments of this week and the last. The sun that rises daily, the stars that shine nightly, the cycles of earth, moon and sun in the dance of all creation.

In the Hebrew mind, which is where Matthew’s training was centered, the heaven’s were not the “place of God” as much as they were the “presence of God.” More consistently, the “heavens opened up” would mean; “In an instant, the power and elation of eternity was revealed.”

Matthew uses the words; “Autos Heautou Eido.” These words indicate that revelation was specially unveiled to an individual.

What becomes evident is not that thunder shook all the people and stars fell from the sky, but a whisper embraced an individual. “In a heartbeat, at the moment of decision, Jesus understood His role in the universe. His past, present and future were revealed in a way that he had not previously perceived  – and he knew what he must do!”

Here is a story close to the heart of the convert. This is the story of eternity (the perspective of God) being revealed in purpose, direction, and power to a believer’s life. This is exactly what is available to all who turn to Jesus in the act modeled at the river Jordan. Eternity in this moment! The heavens granting perspective and power to the searching heart!

God is ready. Let’s go!

And he saw the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove

G1492, He saw, eido (i’-do); G2597, The Spirit Descended, katabaino (kat-ab-ah’-ee-no); G4058, a dove, peristera (per-is-ter-ah’)

The term for “he saw” is much more than visually recognizing an object. It literally means to “become aware of” or “to have understanding of” certain knowledge. The term would not mean, “he saw a bird,” but, “he had insight into the Holy Spirit.”

These words are so much deeper than the physical experience. It is insight into what God has to offer us. He is not just available to our eyes  – but through the totality of our senses. In other words, he isn’t just willing to offer us sight, he is willing to give us a vision. God reveals to us why we do what we do. He heals us by giving us purpose even in our pain.

The word for “descended” is also filled with multiple meanings. It is the combination of two root words;

What we have here is a vivid picture of the Holy Spirit coming down to walk with Jesus. The very Spirit of God putting his foot down to share in our journey.

One might imagine a man being sent by his King on a sacred and dangerous quest. His face set with resolve, yet understanding that he will never return from this mission. Boldly, he tells his family good-bye and picks up his traveling sack. Suddenly the prince himself shows up with a backpack and says; “the King wants to know if you’d mind if I joined you?”

In this case, the Holy Spirit was sent to walk with the Prince. Yet, the most important aspect is that this same Holy Spirit is willing to walk the journey with each of us.

The story of Acts is the story of how this occurred in the early church. First, the Holy Spirit goes to walk among the Jewish believers, then the Samaritan believers, and finally, the Gentile believers.

We are not walking alone. We are accompanied by His Holy Presence in the power of the community of believers.

This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased

G27, my beloved, agapetos (ag-ap-ay-tos’); G5207, son, huios (hwee-os’); G1722, In, en (en); G3739, Whom, hos (hos); G2106, I am well-pleased, eudokeo (yoo-dok-eh’-o);

Herein are perhaps the most touching words of the entire New Testament. God revealed in his complete state. The Psalmist would say, “Selah” – pause and dwell upon – contemplate the incredible wonder of God.
First of all, what is it that God blesses? If we look closely, we will see the essence of what matters to God. God is not joyous at the things Jesus did  – because he had not done anything of note yet! There were no miracles, no conversions and no sermons prior to this moment.

Therefore, if God was not blessing the works of Jesus, what was he blessing?

Here is the ultimate insight into the unique love of our God! God blesses Jesus’ decision – not his accomplishments. Most precious to God is our decision to live sacrificial lives, not how much we accomplish or possess.

This is extremely hard to fathom in a consumer culture  – yet, rarely have we been so close to losing the essence of God. Today, as in ages past, we have created God into our own image  – that of materialism and consumerism.
We define people by what they do and how much they own (or how busy they are). We ask our elderly; “So, what were you?” As if they do not exist once they are no longer employed. We ask our children; “What are you going to be?” As if they cannot be used by God until they are finished with the hoop-jumping purgatory that often masquerades as education. We have created Humans Belated (Humans that were) and Humans Becoming (Humans that will be), and, worst of all, Human Doings – humans measured by performance. Yet, God offers us an unconditional-based dignity solely in the fact that we are his children!

Jeremiah 1:5

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations."

Alternatively, our God blesses the ones who choose to discover their purpose in Him. He falls in love with the person who simply turns to him in longing and says; “I’m tired of living my way, I want to be your child.” Those are the words that fulfill God’s heart.

In a consumer culture, we love each other only for what “you can do for me.” When a child gets A’s, gets a degree, gets a job, gets a spouse, gets a house, gets a car  – how manipulative!

In a God-Culture, we are loved when we give our hearts, give our minds, give our love,  and give our lives to the One who loves without manipulation.

Understanding this will help us understand the concept of God’s term for love; “Beloved.”

The best way to define “beloved” (agapetos), is simply to say, “Be Loved.”

“STOP, BE LOVED!” I want to shout.

Yet, these words cannot be shouted. I don’t imagine that on that precious day, the curtain of the sky parted and the earth shook with booming thunder. I don’t imagine the mountains trembled and the clouds ran from sight.

I imagine that as Jesus stood up from cousin John’s blessing, his heart was deeply warmed with the embrace of God.
STOP! Pause and listen: “Oh my son… my cherished treasure. I couldn’t love you more.”

Dearest friends, this love is ours today! We can put all of our struggling away right now. We needn’t impress anyone. We needn’t try to convince the parent who was never satisfied, the friends who manipulate us, the peers with whom we compete, the drugs that leave us emaciated, the advertisements that promise happiness and deliver only more credit debt.

We can be a ditch digger, newspaper deliverer, construction worker, inmate, carpenter, or tent-maker – it makes no difference to God. As long as we am his. All we need say is; “Lord, I lean on you. Please help me live your life and know your joy.”

Take a moment. Return to the letter at the top of this study. This dear, young man was one of my most joyous baptisms. Hidden in the darkest corner of the Yakima County Jail is a plastic mop bucket. It’s used to clean the latrine. Three years ago, it was the only baptismal font we had for him. That’s where he was baptized.

The power of the Holy Spirit is not confined to my capabilities, our fledgling belief or the carat rating of the baptismal font. It is solely related to faith. “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus would ask. “Go, then, your faith has healed you.”

About the Author

Jerry Goebel has worked with youth and young adults for over thirty years. Twenty of those years have been spent focusing primarily on reaching out to at-risk youth on the streets or in the juvenile court system.  Jerry developed ONEFamily Outreach, which trains mentors to work with disconnected youth (incarcerated youth, youth in recovery, and youth who are expelled from school). Jerry travels extensively to teach adults how to become more effective in empowering young people to become a positive influence within their communities.

He also leads retreats, mission weeks, and concerts for adults and young people on a variety of topics ranging from social justice and compassionate leadership to how communities, schools, and churches can prevent at-risk behavior.
Jerry has received five popular music awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, a Best Educational Video Award from the National Catholic Education Association, and a lifetime achievement award from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry for living Gospel Values.

To contact or book Jerry for a presentation in your area write or call:

Jerry Goebel
ONEFamily Outreach
(509) 525-0709

Other Works by Jerry Goebel

Weekly Gospel Study based upon the Lectionary Cycle (membership, by donation)

To subscribe, go to: http://onefamilyoutreach.com

Jerry began these studies when he was a missionary in the Yakima County Jails. The focus of these in-depth commentaries was to provide knowledge about Jesus Christ, his culture, and his language, but also to reveal the compassion of our Lord and our call to discipleship. A very important aspect of this study was to provide practical applications for the readers as well as challenge them to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

Youth Curriculum Accompaniment to the Weekly Gospel Study (membership, by donation)

To subscribe, contact: jerry@onefamilyoutreach.com

Every week, Jerry takes a group of adults into the local County Juvenile Detention Center to lead “Significant Conversations.” Though this outreach is part of the public education component of the detention center the material is based upon values found in each week’s reading. Each session has a brief overview of the topic followed by a series of strength-based, open-ended questions, that help the young person move the values from their hearts to their minds, and finally to practical application. Whether you work with young people or adults, in a secular or faith-based climate, the principles used and the topics chosen will have an impact on the people you see.

The Deepest Longing of Young People: Loving Without Conditions $14.95 (paperback)

To order, go to: http://www.smp.org/ItemDetail.cfm?ItemNum=3823
This book is a faith-based overview of the needs of young people in a culture that has a difficult time understanding the difference between performance-based approval and unconditional dignity. It is a scriptural framework for engaging a young person in a healthy adult relationship in today’s society.

Significant Conversations: Helping Young People Live Meaningful Lives $14.95 (8.5 x 11 inch spiral bound with printable worksheets)

Significant Conversations is a workbook for adults who want to have a meaning-filled relationship with a young person. There are 14 conversations in this workbook and each section includes an adult overview, a youth overview, and an opportunity to “expand your emotional vocabulary.” Finally, each of the conversations ends with strength-based, open-ended questions that deepen the impact of the topic and a weekly calendar that identifies opportunities for applying the topic to one’s life.

Is There Hope For Me Now? $8.95 (paperback with writing space for journaling)

This book is actually for young people who are going through a rough time. It helps them to work through some critical issues by journaling about such important matters as their emotions, forgiveness, choosing a healthy self-identity, and creating a positive vision for their life.

Musical Collections $12.95 (CD’s, each with 15 original works by Jerry Goebel)

To subscribe, go to: http://onefamilyoutreach.com/bookscds.html
Jerry’s career began in the late 1970’s when, as a teenager, he left home to begin a musical career that has lasted three decades and spanned the world. During that time, Jerry received five popular music awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers as well as being nominated for two Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association.

Copyright Notice

Copyright © 2005 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved.  This study may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution: Source: Jerry Goebel: 2005 © http://onefamilyoutreach.com.

Scripture Quotations noted from NASB are from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION of the bible. Copyright © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

The New Testament Greek Lexicon based on Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary plus others; this is keyed to the large Kittel and the “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.” These files are public domain.

The Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon is Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon; this is keyed to the “Theological Word Book of the Old Testament.” These files are considered public domain.

NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries. Copyright © 1981, 1998 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved. (www.Lockman.org)