March 22, 2019

Jesus’ Baptism

Event number 17. Jesus’ baptism – Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-23

Narrative*

Notes

Jesus’ baptism marks the initiation and introduction of his ministry to the Jewish people, God’s people. It was Jesus’ first public act as the promised Messiah. This alone makes the event enormously important.

But there were other aspects of the event that make it worthy of considerable attention. In addition to being the first recorded event of Jesus’ public ministry, it was filled with symbolism, it was accompanied by miraculous, divine affirmation, and it was included in all four Gospels.

The actual baptism of Jesus is recorded only by the synoptic writers (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). John’s narrative in John 1:29-34 isn’t a description of the actual baptism, but is John the Baptist’s recollection of the event for the purpose of explaining how he knew Jesus was the promised “Lamb of God”. In essence, John the Baptist was saying. . . “God told me that the one upon whom I see the Spirit of God descending at his baptism is the Messiah. That’s what happened when I baptized Jesus!”

So, while only Matthew, Mark, and Luke recorded the actual baptism, John also gave attention to the event. In fact, when taken in context of the ministry of John the Baptist, John’s Gospel actually gives significantly more attention to the event than any of the other three Gospel writers.

By the time the Gospels were written, the church had begun to associate Christian baptism with more than cleansing. The AGENT of baptism (water) and the MODE of baptism (immersion or dipping) supported an understanding of baptism as a picture of the believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. (See Baptism in the New Testament.) This was due, in part, to the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ own baptism.

If baptism had been purely a picture of cleansing, then it would have been inappropriate for Jesus to be baptized. That’s why John the Baptist initially objected to Jesus’ baptism. It was Jesus who indicated his baptism was necessary to “fulfill all righteousness”. Jesus’ baptism was essential to his redemptive mission to die as a sacrifice for human sin.

A sacrifice makes sense only as it is IDENTIFIED with the one or ones for whom the sacrifice is offered. A sacrifice is, by definition, something that is SUBSTITUTED for something or someone else. Jesus’ baptism was a public declaration of his identification with humanity for the purpose of becoming a substitutionary sacrifice. This is important because it establishes at the very beginning of his ministry the context for all that will come after this.

Jesus’ baptism defined and announced WHY he was here. It provides the framework for his entire ministry. It makes clear the simple fact that Jesus came to die as a sacrifice for mankind. He was, as John the Baptist put it, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

So, Christ’s ministry began with a PICTURE of death, burial, and resurrection and ended with the REALITY of death, burial, and resurrection. His baptism ANNOUNCED his redemptive sacrifice and his crucifixion FULFILLED it. His baptism demonstrated God’s approval upon his emergence from the WATER (Matthew 3:17). His crucifixion demonstrated God’s approval with Christ’s emergence from the TOMB (Romans 1:4)!

These events (his baptism and sacrifice) are the bookends of his ministry. Nothing in between these two bookends will make sense without understanding the centrality of his redemptive and sacrificial mission. Jesus was not merely a man who did good things and set a good example. He was, indeed, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

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