Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Vision (10/18/12): Why was Jesus baptized?

Note:  Here are some of my notes from the closing reflection in last Sunday’s sermon from Luke 3:15-22 on The Baptism of Jesus.


There are several important things that we are taught in Luke’s account of the baptism of Jesus.

1. Doctrinally:  Jesus’ baptism provides for us a visual picture of the triune God.

The modalist has a hard time with this account, for here in one moment is God the Son being baptized, God the Spirit descending as a dove, and God the Father speaking to his Son.

2.      Practically:  Jesus provides us an example of obedience in baptism.


As Jesus was submitted to John’s baptism, so we should be submitted to Christian baptism.  We should follow Christ’s example in following the proper mode (full immersion) and in the proper subject (one who has reached such a level of maturity that he can of his own volition be submitted to the ordinance).


Most importantly, as Jesus had a time in his life when he embraced his destiny, his calling, so we are to take a clear and incontrovertible stand for the Lord in our baptism.

3.   Soteriologically (regarding the doctrine of salvation):  The baptism of Jesus anticipates his saving death on the cross.


Let’s return to the question we started with:  If John preached “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3) why did Jesus submit to baptism?  The liberal would say that Jesus was just a man like everyone else.  Even one of the late, heretical Gnostic writings (The Preaching of Paul, see its citation by Godet, p. 125) has Jesus confessing sin to John before his baptism.  But the canonical Scriptures rightly teach that Jesus was without sin (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15).


In Matthew’s account of the baptism, he notes that those who came to the Jordan to be baptized by John were “confessing their sin” (Matthew 3:6).  We can see the publicans and soldier doing just that.  But what sin could Jesus confess?  Matthew alone of the Gospels records that when Jesus came, John forbade him saying, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” (Matt 3:14).  But Jesus says “Suffer it to be so for now; for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15).


Luke does not record this.  But I think it would not be wrong for us to imagine that when Jesus was asked to confess his sins before being baptized, he confessed not his own sin (for he had none), but he confessed the sins of all those for whom he would one day die upon the cross.  Can you see him there in a moment of time confessing your every sinful deed?  By submitting to baptism, Jesus was submitting to the destiny ordained for him in the eternal counsels of God, to give his life as a ransom for many.  Later, in Luke 12:50 Jesus will say, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am straightened till it be accomplished.”  He is speaking of his baptism of suffering upon the cross.  In his baptism Jesus the Son is submitting to the will of the Father.  This is what elicits the manifestation of the dove-like Spirit (it was a dove sent by Noah after the wrath of the flood) and the declaration of the Father’s good pleasure in the beloved and eternal Son.


Last Thursday I was speaking to a man from Nepal outside the Pavilion where the Dalai Lama was making an appearance.  This man told me he had once met the Dalai Lama and he had asked him, “Why, if you really believed in reincarnation, would you have bodyguards?  Why fear death if you know you will be reincarnated?”  I said to the man, “Yes.  That is so different from Jesus.  He did not try to run from the cross.  He did not try to hide from those who wanted to crucify him.  He did not try to defend himself.  He stood alone even while all deserted him.  He had a job to do.  And he did not run from it.  He embraced it!”


That is what we see anticipated in the baptism of our Lord. 

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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