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When Jesus was baptized a voice from heaven stated :

This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. [Matthew 3:17, KJV]

What had Jesus done for God to be pleased?

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In Matt. 3:17, the word translated into English as “I am well pleased” is the Greek verb εὐδόκησα, conjugated from the lemma εὐδοκέω (εὐδοκῶ). Notably, this verb occurs in Matt. 12:18, wherein it is written,

Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He will declare justice to the Gentiles. NKJV, ©1982

ἰδοὺ ὁ παῖς μου ὃν ᾑρέτισα, ὁ ἀγαπητός μου εἰς ὃν εὐδόκησεν ἡ ψυχή μου· θήσω τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπ’ αὐτόν, καὶ κρίσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἀπαγγελεῖ. NA28, ©2012

At first glance, it appears that Matthew 12:18 is a quotation or reference to Isaiah 42:1,1 wherein it is written,

“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. NKJV, ©1982

There are certainly striking similarities! However, the Greek text of the Septuagint does not have a conjugation of εὐδοκῶ, the verb that occurs in Matt. 3:17 and 12:18. Rather, it has προσεδέξατο, a conjugation of προσδέχομαι.

Yet, when we look at other ancient Greek translations of Isa. 42:1, such as Theodotion’s translation, it has ηὐδόκησεν, the same verb in Matt. 12:18 (and a conjugation of εὐδοκῶ).

Here is an excerpt from Frederick Field’s Origenis Hexaplorum,2

Field, Frederick. Origenis Hexaplorum. Vol. 2, p. 515, Isa. 42:1.

Theodotion’s Greek text of Isa. 42:1 translates into English as,

Behold, My servant! I shall help him. My chosen one, in whom My soul is well pleased.

It is possible that the evangelists were familiar with a different Greek text than what is presented in what we know today as the Septuagint. We may be able to examine the context of Isa. 42 to determine why God was “well pleased” with His servant, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Later in Isa. 42:21, it is written,

Yahveh is well pleased because of his righteousness. He will magnify the Law and make it honorable.

Recall that just before the Lord Jesus Christ was baptized, he said to John the Baptist, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”3 Comparing both Isa. 42:21 and Matt. 3:15, it seems that the answer to your question is: God the Father was well pleased with His Son because of His Son’s righteousness.

The Lord Jesus Christ repeatedly emphasized that he did not do his own will, but rather, the will of his Father who sent him.4 The Lord Jesus Christ was “the righteous servant.”5


References

Field, Frederick. Origenis Hexaplorum. Vol. 2. Oxonii: E Typographeo Clarendoniano, 1875.

MacDonald, Deven K. Allegiance, Opposition, and Misunderstanding: A Narrative Critical Approach to Mark’s Christology. Eugene: Pickwick, 2018.

Footnotes

1 Deven K. MacDonald (p. 99) wrote the following,

The phrase, “with you I am well pleased” likely finds its source in Isa 42:1b.

2 Vol. 2, p. 515, Isa. 42:1
3 Matt. 3:15
4 John 5:19, 5:30, 8:28
5 Isa. 53:11

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Why was God pleased with Jesus at his baptism?

This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. [Matthew 3:17, KJV]

Those words spoken by God at the time of Jesus' baptism candidly showed the deep affection of the Father for his Son and that He was pleased with him. Thus such expressions of his Father's love gave Jesus the confidence to face the temptations from Satan, the criticism and opposition from his own people, and also to maintain emotional stability and remain faithful to the end, to face death.

The scriptures do not tell us much of Jesus' life prior to his baptism, so I believe that such expression of love may have to do with Jesus' prehuman existence.

Jesus had a prehuman existence. In his letter to the Christians in Colossae, the apostle Paul described Jesus as "the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation."Colossians 1:15.YTL

Master worker alongside his Father.

Proverbs 8:30 (NASB)

30 Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; And I was daily His delight, [a]Rejoicing always before Him,

He had delight with the sons of men, said the prehuman Jesus

Proverbs 8:31 (KJV)

31 Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth and my delights were with the sons of men.

The apostle John acknowledged Jesus’ prehuman role in the creation.

John 1:3 (KJV)

3 All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

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John 1:30-31 adds another dimension to the narrative.

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”

This establishes the context for the purpose of the baptism of Jesus. John's baptism was for “repentance unto the remission of sin.” Since Jesus had no sin, and nothing of which to repent, why did he submit to John's baptism? The reason is two-fold.

It was an act of obedience – “To fulfill all righteousness.” Notice in Matthew 3:15, Jesus did not say it behooves ME to fulfill all righteousness but, “It behooves US to fulfill all righteousness.” The 'us' is all men. Baptism as an act of obedience to the will of God, an act of righteousness. Jesus did it because God had sent John to teach and baptize the people of Israel. Jesus is a son of Israel and is thus was bound to the divine laws imposed upon the people. He is fulfilling the Law of God.

It was also “That He might be manifested to Israel.” This was done in the three-fold theophonic manifestation when the Holy Spirit descended upon him and the voice came from heaven declaring, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." This testified to the fact that God was pleased with his obedience to God.

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