Blessèd Be the Holy Trinity
|"Battesimo di Cristo," Verrocchio & Leonardo da Vinci|
Matthew 28:16–20 (ESV) Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The highest mystery of the Christian Faith is what Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Savior, has revealed to us about the One True God: that He is one God in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How can this be? Don’t ask me; I just work here! We can’t wrap our minds around “the how” of the doctrine of the Trinity, but by faith we rejoice in “the what”: that God has revealed Himself as the Trinity and has shown His mercy to us by the Incarnation of God the Son, who would suffer and die for our sins and rise on the third day for our justification, and then place His name upon us in Baptism, claiming us as His own beloved, forgiven children!
Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, once dead but now resurrected and immortal, is the One who reveals who God is to the world. You can’t know God apart from Jesus (John 14:6). As one of my seminary professors put it, “Talking about God without reference to Jesus is idolatry.” So Christ’s words recorded in Matthew 28 must be the starting point for our discussion of the Holy Trinity. Without them, we would not know God as the Trinity, nor would we know what words to use at a Baptism.
The grammar of this passage is important. Note that Matthew 28:19 says the Church is to baptize into one name (singular, the one true God), not more than one name (plural, as if there were multiple gods). At the same time, that one name of God is identified as three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Here we have a case where 3=1. You can’t work this out mathematically. It just doesn’t compute. Logicians will tell you that such an equation is impossible. Based on human, finite wisdom, they are right. But Jesus teaches it, and He has the authority to reveal this because of His status as the Resurrected One (Matthew 28:18). Since He “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4), He is the only Person who has the final say on how things really are—both things in heaven and on earth. As God the Father said at Jesus’ Transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). To Him, then, we listen.
The Baptism of Jesus also drives this point home, while showing the three Persons together: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 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).
In this scene we have a revelation of two great mysteries: the Trinity and the Incarnation. God reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and Jesus is revealed as both true God and true Man. This flesh and blood man in the river Jordan is identified by the voice of His Father: “You are My beloved Son” and the Holy Spirit rests on the Son in the form of a dove.
This also is what happens when we are baptized “into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”: since we are united with God the Son in Baptism, the Father calls us His beloved sons and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. And then we respond with a lifetime of worship and praise, as the Antiphon for the Introit on Holy Trinity Sunday puts it so wonderfully: “Blessèd be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to Him because He has shown His mercy to us.”
Prayer: Almighty and Everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty. Keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Holy Trinity Sunday)