Love Begins with Being Loved

When Jesus came up from the water following His baptism Mark reports that heaven was opened and the Spirit of God descended like a dove, alighting on Him, and a voice from heaven declared, “You are My Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Visibly and audibly, God affirmed his affection and his love for his Son. 

He presented no condition, ‘I will love you if you complete this assignment well.’

He expressed no doubt, ‘Are you sure you’re ready for this?’

He voiced no hesitation, ‘Well, Son, you are about to get started on a crucial mission; I hope you can keep your focus.’

He exhibited no distraction, ‘Just a minute, Son, I’ve got to settle a storm and answer a few prayers, then I’ll get back to you.’

He gave no preemptive lecture, ‘Now let me remind you that you are human now as well as divine, and you will face many temptations.  Don’t cause me to be disappointed in you.’

What we find here is a clear and certain affirmation of the Father’s love for the Son, expressed visibly and audibly.

Before Jesus does anything that could be considered worthy of such a compliment—before he heals anyone, before he feeds the crowd, before he teaches anything, before he does anything to show God’s power or love—God declares that he is well pleased with Jesus.

The Father does not hold off on this compliment, waiting until Jesus at least makes it safely through 40 days of temptation.  The Father just blurts it out before Jesus does anything worthwhile—anything that I would declare deserving of a compliment.

The Father’s words of endearment are not contingent on any success or accomplishment on Jesus’ part.  The words of endearment are contingent on only one thing: the love that has existed for eternity within the Trinity.

Forever Jesus has lived within the love of the Father and the Spirit.  Forevermore Jesus will continue to live within the love of the Father and the Spirit.  It is out of this eternal love that the Father declares, “You are My Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  It is out of this eternal love that the Spirit alights upon Jesus in the form of a dove. 

The Christian message of the Trinity is not merely theological catechism but is the DNA of love: From before the creation of the dimension of time, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have lived in love.  Throughout eternity the Father enjoys the love of the Son and the Spirit; the Spirit enjoys the love of the Father and the Son; and the Son enjoys the love of the Father and the Spirit.  God lives in love, so God loves! 

No wonder the angels sang on the night of Jesus’ birth.  It was not just to impart good tidings to the earth; it was because the messengers of God could do no less than to express the Father’s delight at the arrival of his Son in human form!

No wonder, a decade later, Joseph and Mary found Jesus in the temple when he was ‘lost’ from their company.  The most natural thing for him to do was to seek the company of his Father in whom he delights.

No wonder Jesus often withdrew by himself to pray.  He was continually delighting in that connection with his Father and with the Spirit.

No wonder, at his baptism, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended like a dove alighting on him, with a voice from heaven booming, “This is My Son, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased.”

This audible and visible expressions of the Father’s and the Spirit’s love for the Son are the natural outflow of the love within the Trinity, and they set the tone for Jesus’ earthly ministry: He genuinely and deeply loved because he was genuinely and deeply loved.  Love flows out of being loved.  Being loved results in love.

Interestingly, though, the very next person to speak to Jesus gave to Him an entirely different message—a message filled with conditions with a nudge to Jesus to prove his worth.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke each report that immediately after Jesus’ baptism—and the Father’s affirmation of love for the Son—Jesus went into the desert where he was tempted by the devil. 

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”  In other words, the devil said to him, ‘If you want to be considered worthy of affirmation and love, prove your identity; accomplish something meaningful to show who you are.’

Then the devil took Jesus to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple, and he said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.  For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”  In other words, the devil said to him, ‘If you want to be considered worthy of affirmation and love, prove your trust in your Father.  Do something bold enough to show God that you trust him.’

Finally, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, and he said to Jesus, “All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me.”  In other words, the devil said to him, ‘If you want to be considered worthy of affirmation and love, you need sufficient acquisitions and power and prominence.’

The Father’s words to the Son were free of conditions, hesitation, doubt, distraction, or preemptive lectures.  The devil’s temptations are full of conditions.  They are full of doubts.  They call upon Jesus to prove himself. 

Such temptations often prove to be successful in our lives because we are not so well grounded in the Father’s love as the Son is.  We fall to the temptation to try to prove our worth or our identity or even our faith.  We cave into the temptation to try to show that we have made sufficient accomplishments or that we have acquired enough possessions, power, or prominence.  We succumb to these temptations because we do not know as fully as Jesus did that we are loved fully and unconditionally by the Father. 

Because Jesus fully knew that he was fully loved, he withstood the temptations to prove himself.  Because Jesus fully knew that he was fully loved, he was able to live and love fully.

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