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Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – Luke 3:21-22 [ESV]
What do you think when your favorite celebrity endorses something you don’t believe in? What about when your least favorite endorses your go-to brand? When the likes of Osama Ben Laden endorses violent terrorism, it’s an easy call to reject. When Mother Theresa endorses helping the poor, the choice is clear. How much more when the Father in heaven endorses his Son!
But let’s step back a few paces. In Romans 3:23 we learn that “all have sinned and fall shore of the glory of God.” Other translations express the same general thought: we’ve all failed to attain the standards of God’s glory. We fall short. No matter how hard we run, high we reach, and far we jump, we’ll fall short. We don’t measure up to God’s demands.
Some people want to minimize that fact. They want to pretend we aren’t really that bad, or that we don’t really need to be perfect. We need basically to have our good outweigh our bad. We want to be judged on our overall decency, morality, and effort. In other words, we try hard to be good, isn’t that enough?
Scripture is clear on this matter however. If we keep the whole law and stumble in just one part, we’re guilty of breaking the whole law. It’s not a multiple choice option. It’s pass/fail. There is no sliding rule or curve taken into consideration for the grade.
I like to use the analogy of hanging by a rope over the edge of the Grand Canyon. If I – in a fit of anger and self-destructive rebellion, take a machete to the rope, and chop it into 100 pieces, I’ll fall to my death. If, on the other hand, I take a razor blade and make one very precise cut in the rope – just one cut – I’ll fall to my death.
Our sin has severed our relationship with God. All of us have done it. We’ve all sinned. We’ve failed to meet God’s standards of perfection. So “the soul that sins will die,” is not just a theological concept, it’s a profound truth with which we must all deal. And because of that we fall short of God’s glory.
But the word in Romans 3 is actually properly translated, “praise.” All have sinned and fallen short of [earning, receiving] the praise of God.
But hear what God says to Jesus at his baptism: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Sounds like praise to me. And want to hear the best part of all? Through faith in Jesus we are credited with Jesus’ righteousness! We who are baptized into Christ are clothed with Christ.
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. To do so required that he fully participate in the human experience. So he did – including being baptized along with a bunch of sinners. Now that he has begun that mission in public, the Father praises him. Jesus will not fall short. Nor will any who put their faith in him.