I’ve been meditating on Matthew 3:17 a lot this year, how the Father says of Jesus at his baptism, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” This is before Jesus is recorded as doing anything remarkable. It is not transactional, but is based in an unconditional relationship of love. This pronouncement is the foundation for everything else that happens in the story, and is a terrific summary of the quality of relationship of the triune God.
Have we ever lived through a season where we have needed this foundation more?
Sadly, we haven’t done this well (loved unconditionally) since our emergence on this planet, despite a very promising beginning (Genesis 2:25). Instead, we grasped at the knowledge of good and evil and demonstrated our failure to rule in a way that differentiates the two (Genesis 3:5). We have been dis-integrated and divided since the Fall, hiding and ashamed.
We have been dis-integrated and divided since the Fall, hiding and ashamed.
Humanity has attempted to fill the hole of sonship, love, and favour with the false gods of tribalism (sonship), sex (love), and power (favour). Our idols have failed us as spectacularly as we have failed each other. We have proven that real love must come from somewhere else, from Someone else. There hasn’t been a living person who has done it perfectly. Except Jesus.
The gospel is that Jesus is that person who unconditionally has our best interest at heart. He exists eternally in that relationship with the Trinity, so he actually has no felt need for acceptance, love or power. You’ll see that if you read on to Matthew 4. Through his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, he has removed every barrier to us experiencing that unconditional relationship of love. He extends the invitation of His kingdom (where God’s love is the source and rule of life) to every human.
Through his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, he has removed every barrier to us experiencing that unconditional relationship of love.
Confession: Though I have accepted this invitation, I don’t always experience the warmth of sonship. Sometimes I underestimate the fullness of the love of God. I don’t always feel his pleasure. I have yet to hear a voice from heaven pronouncing these about me. Yet, I know that they are true of every believer, and that my soul needs desperately to live in this truth. How?
I read 1 Corinthians 4:17 again today, with this Matthew 3:17 lens on: “For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord.” For context, Timothy is Paul’s apprentice (in Christian terms, someone for whom Paul is modeling how to be a disciple of Jesus). There is so much more here than just a statement by Paul about Timothy’s character. Paul is restating to Timothy what the Father said of the Son. This has profound implications for how we love, especially in discipleship relationships.
I’ve come to realize that we all need someone to do this for us as well (with appropriate boundaries, of course!). We each need someone in our life who absolutely, without anything to gain, has our best interest at heart, and models God’s love for us. In the absence of connection to this sonship, love, and favour, we will inevitably build our identities on the aforementioned specious foundations.
We each need someone in our life who absolutely, without anything to gain, has our best interest at heart, and models God’s love for us.
This is the invitation of the gospel: to believe and trust in Jesus to save us and shape us into the kind of humanity we are intended to be. Then, by extension, to join God in his mission / kingdom. To that end, we are to both announce the good news and to model “Jesus” for others, as the one person who unconditionally has the best interest of all our fellow humans at heart.
 In 1st Century Greco-Roman culture, the term euangelion (which we translate as “gospel” or “good news”) referred to an announcement of victory or kingship. In the scriptural context, of Jesus’ victory/kingship.