“A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:22, ESV)
When God announced publicly that he was pleased with Jesus, Jesus’ ministry had not yet started. Based on tradition and Scripture, we believe that Jesus spent most of his adult life working as a carpenter. In Jewish culture this would have begun at age 12, so our best guess is that Jesus had spent 18 years supporting his family. In our terms, he had not yet begun to professionally “work for God.”
Think about what this means for you as a child of God. The Father, when he affirmed Jesus, was affirming over a decade of what we might term “secular” work. The carpenter of Nazareth forever consecrated manual labor.
We may think an awful lot of working for God and being used by God. It’s much better to please God than to be used by him.
Judas was used by God in the story of our atonement, but it would be better for him if he were never born.
The Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus was greatly used by God. God said that he had raised Pharaoh up for the purpose of showing his power and declaring his name in all the earth. But Pharaoh was determinedly wicked. He was part of a genocidal regime. He opposed the plan of God repeatedly. By God’s grace, his reign of ungodliness set the scene for a unprecedented revelation of God’s love and judgment.
So being used by God is not such a great goal in and of itself. Many men are used by God not because of their greatness, but in spite of their great wickedness. It is better to please God than to be used by God.
When God gave Jesus this word of approval, Jesus had been working with his hands. Baptism had marked his commitment to his mission, but his mission had not begun. He had no disciples yet. We do not know of any spiritual work that he had done. He had merely committed himself to God.
I remember telling a friend that I didn’t know what to pray for. I had been teaching, praying and interceding, in an intense atmosphere of spiritual work. My friend told me, “Even a soldier is in the reserves sometimes.” A soldier cannot fight all the time, and an intercessor cannot intercede all the time. Man was not made for the battle, but for God’s pleasure:
“For thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:11, KJV)
Times of prolonged illness must teach us this lesson: God is pleased with us, first and foremost, apart from anything that we do for him. The desert cannot take away this immutable pleasure of God.
May every sabbath remind us that our work is not the basis for the pleasure of God. God’s week begins with work; man’s week begins with the sabbath. The Father was pleased with Jesus before his spiritual work began, and he can be pleased with us in the desert place, where there is not another soul to whom we can minister.
Father, may we be affirmed in your pleasure, apart from any work that we do, but simply because you are our Father. You smiled on Jesus as he committed his days to you through baptism; we commit our days to you now.