Summary: Note: This sermon is part of a series provided to church's that purchase a marketing kit for the movie "I Can Only Imagine". They have been edited to fit our congregation and culture, but the main body of the sermon is not original to me.
A Loving Father
I want to talk to you today about imagination.
There is a small art organization that goes into public schools in rough areas of cities and teaches art therapy, so that kids whose imagination have been crushed by poverty can experience the possible through what they draw and create.
Each day as they enter the class, they begin by closing their eyes and entering into an “imagination station”. There, they have no limits to what they can do, nothing holding them back from their potential, and the same opportunities as every other person in the school.
It is their one time to imagine more and it is transforming the way they see the world.
Imagination is powerful to us because it invites us into a new story.
Imagination welcomes the impossible-that we serve the God who wants to do even more with us than we could ever ask or imagine.
Over the next few weeks we are going to see how Jesus, in his humanity, imagined more for the world around him and how that shaped a new legacy, a new story, and a new understanding of God with every person he met.
But before we can begin looking at what Jesus imagined for others - ourselves included - we have to look at what God imagined for Jesus, and that is where we find ourselves in Matthew chapter 3 at the baptism of Jesus.
There are a few things you need to know before we dive in. Between the end of Matthew chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3, a lot has happened.
The end of Matthew 2 tells us that Joseph and Mary moved to a small village called Nazareth. Jesus was raised there and with the exception of a story about Jesus as a 12-year-old in the temple in Luke’s Gospel account, we don’t hear any more of Jesus’ growing up years until we get to Matthew 3.
In Matthew 3, Jesus is now an adult and his cousin John the Baptist is obediently preparing the way for the time when Jesus will begin His public ministry to others. John played a key role in preparing for Jesus’ ministry because John invited people to imagine one who would come to bring even more than repentance for sins, but one who would bring redemption to all.
In Matt 3:11-12 John the Baptizer is speaking,
“I BAPTIZE YOU WITH WATER FOR REPENTANCE. BUT AFTER ME COMES ONE WHO IS MORE POWERFUL THAN I, WHOSE SANDALS I AM NOT WORTHY TO CARRY. HE WILL BAPTIZE YOU WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND FIRE. HIS WINNOWING FORK IS IN HIS HAND, AND HE WILL CLEAR HIS THRESHING FLOOR, GATHERING HIS WHEAT INTO THE BARN AND BURNING UP THE CHAFF WITH UNQUENCHABLE FIRE.”
John the Baptist was developing a large following even though he was out in the desert where very few lived. As people came to him, he continued to point to the one that was still to come. As he preached a message of repentance, he continued to remind people that there was one even greater than he, one who had even more to offer than John ever could. That person was Jesus, and Jesus enters the scene in verse 13.
Continuing to read from Matt 3:13
THEN JESUS CAME FROM GALILEE TO THE JORDAN TO BE BAPTIZED BY JOHN. BUT JOHN TRIED TO DETER HIM, SAYING, “I NEED TO BE BAPTIZED BY YOU, AND DO YOU COME TO ME?”
JESUS REPLIED, “LET IT BE SO NOW; IT IS PROPER FOR US TO DO THIS TO FULFILL ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS.” THEN JOHN CONSENTED.
The word for righteousness in Greek, dikaiosuné (dik-ah-yos-oo’-nay), is incredibly important for us to know because it is the understanding of living right or obedient before God.
Throughout the Gospel of Matthew this word was used as a way to describe obedience to the Father. We already know at this point that John was simply doing what the Lord had called him to by preparing the way. So then, when Jesus said to John, “It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all dikaiosuné”, even if John didn’t fully understand why, he did it out of dikaiosuné to Jesus, just as Jesus did it out of dikaiosuné to God.
Verses 16-17 say,
AS SOON AS JESUS WAS BAPTIZED, HE WENT UP OUT OF THE WATER. AT THAT MOMENT HEAVEN WAS OPENED, AND HE SAW THE SPIRIT OF GOD DESCENDING LIKE A DOVE AND ALIGHTING ON HIM. AND A VOICE FROM HEAVEN SAID, “THIS IS MY SON, WHOM I LOVE; WITH HIM I AM WELL PLEASED.”
In verse 17, we see the first glimpse of how Jesus’ obedience to God revealed what God imagined for Jesus.