Archive for the 'Why Was Jesus Baptized?' Category

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Friday, July 5th, 2013

When John came preaching baptism for the forgiveness of sins to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord how could it include Jesus who had no sin? And why did Jesus say to John to baptize Him so that all righteousness might be fulfilled? 

There are many mysteries rolled up in this and to arrive at a deeper understanding requires some prayerful enquiry.

To start with what would the Jews of the day make of baptism?  Surely the Jews had a thoroughly working process in place to cope with sin and that was the sacrificial system provided by the law.  So for John the Baptist to proclaim a baptism of repentance was a deep statement about the entire spiritual life of the nation.  The spiritual elite were certainly not coming in droves.  When John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized he said to them 'You brood of vipers who warned you of the wrath to come?'

To anyone with discernment something new and different was afoot.  The call to baptism was in some sense a negation of the Law.  It was declaring the insufficiency of the religious life of the nation.  It was a new beginning.  Jesus touched upon this sense when He said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the prophets; I did not come to abolish but fulfil.”  And also “…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Why then was Jesus baptized?  And why in the Jordan River? 

The people of Israel were baptized into Moses when they entered the Red Sea on dry land in their victorious flight from Egypt.  Moses did not lead his people into the Promised Land as if in prefigurement of Paul’s words that the Law was a tutor that led us to Christ.  So Moses glimpsed the Promised Land but did not arrive there. So Joshua, by name a prefigurement of Christ, led the people into the land which God had promised.  This land was not the spiritual land of promise, but, like the temple, a shadow of the heavenly hope to come.  Whereas they entered the worldly Promised Land on dry land through the Jordan, baptized as it were into Joshua, they were called now to be baptized into Jesus through the waters of the Jordan re-entering the Promised Land.  It was as if the original entry did not account for much, this time was deeper and permanent.  When they entered under Joshua it was on dry land, but now in Jesus they had to enter through the waters and the waters signified death. 

In the days of Noah the world perished in the waters because of its sin.  Noah however was saved being drawn through the waters in his obedience to God.  If there was no Ark there was no redemption.  Similarly if Jesus did not meet us in the water there can be no salvation.  If He was not baptized there was no point in anyone being baptized.  Jesus in baptism was accepting the burden of the sins of God's people and after He was baptized He was cast into the wilderness, like the scapegoat, bearing the sins of the people.

So the call to Israel was a new beginning.  God was declaring that the time had been fulfilled; no longer were they to be ruled by Law, with a priestly elite, but were to be a nation of priests ruled by love, love of Him and through that each other.  Jesus was baptized for the nation and the nation was baptized into Him.  He was the final way out of the wilderness, the spiritual wanderings of man, the doorway into the heavenly life of God.

 

The question that must be asked of Christians today is, “Have they really been baptized into Christ's death and thus are now living with Him free from sin, or have they trivialised the command and rendered baptism a powerless ritual?”