Luke 3:21-37 (click to display NIV text)
January 13, 2013
Pastor Dwight A. Nelson

“And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ “

The voice from heaven says to Jesus, “You are my son,” and then goes on to say, “whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus had not yet begun his ministry; he had performed no miracles, forgiven no sins, taught no people. Yet God says he is well pleased with his Son, Jesus. It is this love of God, this affirmation of God concerning the identity of Jesus, which signals the beginning of the active ministry of Jesus. Darrell Bock writes, “This event does not make Jesus what he was not before, but recognizes that now the beloved Son will launch out into actively exercising the authority he possesses.”

In the genealogy of Jesus, Luke tells us that Adam is the son of God (verse 38.) But God was not well pleased with Adam. In these beginning chapters, Luke contrasts the Son Jesus, and the son, Adam. Adam lived in a garden, and was deceived by the serpent into disobedience to God. Jesus is in the wilderness, and he is tempted by Satan, but he holds to God’s Word and obeys God. David Tiede writes, “Jesus is not the adopted son of God, like David. Jesus is the true Son of God in terms of begetting and in his complete concurrence with God’s Will.”

Adam was expelled from his home in the garden because of his disobedience to God. Jesus, in chapter 4 of Luke, was rejected in his hometown of Nazareth because he embraced God’s purpose and will; he accepted and proclaimed God’s call upon his life. Yet he, too, had to leave his home.

Adam, in leaving his home, spread sin, evil, disease and death to all humanity, beginning with his family. Jesus, in chapters 4 and 5, drives out an evil spirit, heals many, cures a man with leprosy and forgives a paralyzed man even as he heals him. Jesus brings healing, life and salvation to humanity.

Adam has a son, Abel, who is murdered by his brother, Cain. Then Cain must become a restless wanderer on the earth. Jesus, in chapter 5, calls disciples to himself and provides a great catch of fish. He also calls Levi, a tax collector, and eats with sinners. Jesus creates community, creates family. So Luke helps us to see the mission of Jesus, the Son of God, to bring salvation to the destruction begun by Adam. Jesus is the Son of God who fully embraces the purposes of God.

After Jesus is baptized, he spends time in prayer, and as he prays heaven is opened and we hear the voice of God. The meaning of heaven opening is that we have direct insight into God’s view of things. So the voice clarifies for us the identity of Jesus and his mission. It brings to mind Isaiah 42:1: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. I will put my spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.”

There is one other place in the Gospel where the voice of God speaks from heaven, in chapter 9, at the transfiguration of Jesus; God speaks to Peter, John and James, “This is my son, whom I have chosen. Listen to him.” The first voice, at the time of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, expresses love, and states that God is pleased with Jesus. The second time we hear the voice from heaven, a word is spoken to us: “Listen to him.” I think we are to hear these two messages together. Joel Green writes that “Jesus recognizes his status as God’s Son in terms of ultimate allegiance and service.” Jesus is the Son who embraces the purposes of God. That is why we should listen to him.

December is always a very busy month for me, and I find it stressful. This year I found myself getting tired towards the end of the month, and I began forgetting things and making mistakes. Christmas Eve was on Monday and I was worn out. I came in and wrote a sermon for Christmas Eve, and then we did the 4 o’clock service, which went well, and then we had a smorgasbord at our house, which went well, and then we did the 10 o’clock service, which went well, and we got home about midnight. By the time we got the house cleaned up and the bags packed, it was 1:30, and the alarm went off at 4:30, so we could get to the airport on time for our flight to Seattle.

We parked in one of the distant lots, and by now I was not picking up on things very well. The attendant helped me through the process, and I settled into the shuttle bus. That is when I realized that I had left my briefcase in the car, and it had too many things in it that I really did need. So I ran out through the office, and into the lot, and the car had already been moved, and that was when I realized just how large that particular lot was, and the helpful attendant was nowhere in sight and it occurred to me that even if I found the car, I did not have the keys to it, and all those people on the shuttle needed to get to their flights. As Garrison Keilor says, “Wouldn’t this be a good time for a piece of rhubarb pie?”

When it all worked out and I got back on the bus, filled with very patent people, I realized that life kind of gets like that sometimes. We have days filled with distracted doing, and we lose focus and we make mistakes. We do not need to try to do more. We need to listen. I needed to listen to the attendant who said, “Your car is right over there. Don’t worry. They will wait for you.”

And I need to listen to Jesus, the Son of God, who speaks into my distraction and my trouble and my anxious days. That is why we have a winter retreat at St. Mary’s. Most of us probably feel we do not have time to go, but we need to take time to listen. This is more than stress relief; it is about finding God in our lives, listening to the Son, and walking in his ways.

This week I shared with you my decision to retire at the end of the summer. There are many parts to such a decision and whether to retire this summer or next or the next is never perfectly clear or easy. There is significant loss in leaving. When the time comes it will be hard for us to leave you. But there were three questions that I had to answer for myself in choosing to conclude this year.

  • Considering the context of the larger and longer life of this church do I feel I gave what I was called to give in this time of its life?

Yes,  I feel I have done that.

  • Being honest about my own shortcomings and failings, did I neglect some of what needs to be done and even what I was called to do, and would staying another year of two change that?

Yes, there are things left undone, and no, I don’t think more time would help. I understand  what I probably am not going to do or become at this point in my life.

  • Is someone else being prepared and called to do a further work, a work that goes beyond what I was called to do?

Yes, I believe there is such a person.

Here is what I believe: Listening to Jesus is hearing what it is you have to give and are asked to give; and it is being honest to admit your partial obedience, because that keeps you near the cross; and it is trusting the obedience of others who are also listening.

Most of all, listening to Jesus is hearing deep in the soul that you are loved by God, and that in that love you are able to begin actions of obedience to God.


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