The Baptism of Jesus – Part 2

The Baptism of Jesus – Part 2

baptism of jesusWhen John saw his godly cousin, Jesus, coming out to join that rogues’ gallery of repentant sinners, John was incredulous. John says, if one of us should be repenting to the other, it should be me repenting to you Jesus. John wasn’t calling Jesus the Messiah. He was simply saying I have more sin than you do, so I need you to baptize me. Of course John was both right and wrong. On the one hand, John was right that he had more sin than Jesus. In fact, John didn’t realize how right he was as John had infinitely more sin than Jesus because Jesus was perfect, sinless, God incarnate.

But John was also wrong to think that Jesus shouldn’t be baptized. Because Jesus wasn’t coming to receive a baptism of repentance. Jesus had no need to repent. He was coming to John to serve a different purpose. Jesus was obeying the command of His Father and ensuring that John would likewise obey his calling. Specifically, Jesus says this moment was fitting to fulfill all righteousness. The Greek word translated “fitting” literally means to be clearly seen. In other words, Jesus is saying “in doing this we will be displaying righteousness as we obey the Father.” Jesus didn’t need to be baptized for repentance, but He did need to receive John’s baptism to be obedient to the Father. And that meant it was required to fulfill all righteousness. But if the baptism of Jesus by John wasn’t a baptism for repentance, what specifically  did John’s ministry of announcing the coming Messiah accomplish?  Continue reading

The Baptism of Jesus – Part 1

The Baptism of Jesus…

baptism of jesusis a well-known passage in the gospels. However, there might be some confusion among some because of the different accounts in the Gospels of Jesus’ baptism. But a closer look and understanding of these accounts will clear up any misunderstanding about the events of Jesus’ Baptism. In this post we will break down and reconcile what may appear as discrepancies. Another question we might ask: why does Jesus need baptizing in the first place. He was the son of God, sinless without any need for repentance. We will also answer that question as we move through the baptism of Jesus. We will start in Luke 3:21 —

Luke 3:21-22 New King James Version (NKJV) **

John Baptizes Jesus

21 When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. 22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”

** All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

Following the baptism of Jesus, Luke records the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus. The specific vision Luke records mentions a dove, which has become the symbol of the Holy Spirit. This is a theophany – God appearing in corporeal form – taking the form of His creation

From the parallel accounts in the other gospels, we know that John had been busy as usual baptizing at the Jordan River. When one day, from a distance he caught sight of Jesus approaching. John did not understand who Jesus was until this moment. In the gospel of John, John said he (John the Baptist) did not know Jesus was the Christ until the dove descended upon Jesus. John the Baptist had been told to look for a sign.

Matthew’s account of the baptism of Jesus provides some additional details…

Matthew 3:13-17 

John Baptizes Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Jesus travels from His home in the Galilee to find John, seeking to be baptized. John immediately objects to Jesus’ request by saying to Jesus that he (John) had need to be baptized by Jesus, not the other way around. Naturally, we assume that John knew Jesus was the Messiah. And therefore John felt it was inappropriate for him to baptize
Jesus. But in reality, the opposite was actually true. At the moment these two men met in the desert, John did not know Jesus was the Messiah. For if John had known Jesus was the Promised One, he would have been willing to baptize Jesus without question.

To understand this situation properly, we need to consult John’s Gospel where John the Baptist retells the story of this encounter.

John 1:29-34 

The Lamb of God

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”

32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

Notice first that this passage begins with the phrase “the next day.” We’re on the day after John baptized Jesus, and on that day John knows Jesus is the Messiah. How does John say he came to learn of Jesus’ true identity? He says it was because after he baptized Jesus, the Holy Spirit appeared as a dove and landed on Jesus. But then in verse 31 John adds that he did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah before that moment…and he repeats this statement in verse 33. So John did not know Jesus was the Messiah when Jesus came asking for baptism. He only knew after the event took place. The question we need to ask is why was John so determined to convince us that he didn’t know Jesus in advance? Some reasons to ponder:

  • Possibly, it’s because it probably seemed suspicious that John names his own cousin as the Messiah 
  • People might have questioned why John selected a family member to be the Messiah 
  • To defend his choice, John insists he didn’t know in advance… 
  • Only after the baptism had completed did the dove appear to confirm Jesus’ true identity 
  • This was the sign God told John to watch for to know the Messiah

Knowing Christ is sinless naturally leads us to ask the question, why would Jesus need to be baptized?  As a matter of fact, we need to review the purpose for baptism as given to us before we can understand what its purpose may have been for Jesus’ ministry. Baptism was done to disciple a believer – not to create a believer. It was and still is symbolic and depicts the cleansing of sin. It also depicts the death of the old man and resurrection into life. In both cases it is a depiction – a picture of something already done in the heart by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the one with the ministry to bring this new life. He gives this new spirit in a believer. He brings an awareness of a forgiveness of sins, the confidence of a believer. He is the one that gives us an awareness and understanding of the Word of God. He is the one who indwells us and empowers us for ministry. We call it being anointed. We use water to picture the salvation experience and we anoint men with oil to picture the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

We have these understandings from scripture, but in John’s day, baptism was a new idea. John was called John the Baptist because he introduced the idea of washing in the river to signify repentance. So for John and all who had been exposed to this new ministry of a symbolic washing away sin, there was no other purpose.

Now if John the Baptist was in the dark about Jesus’ true identity, then we can be certain everyone else was too. This fact reinforces for us the true humanity of Christ. He lived an absolutely normal human life, because He was fully human. Therefore, meaning Jesus was not a superhuman or Clark Kent figure who could stop bullets and see through walls. Jesus’ life prior to this moment was unremarkable. He truly was just a man, without anything to suggest He was God and the Creator.

Yet, Jesus was sinless, so apparently a person can live a sinless life without drawing much attention to himself. This would also explain why the Gospels contain so little details of Jesus’ early years. Why record details of a mundane, ordinary life? So John the Baptist didn’t know Jesus was the Messiah until after the baptism happened. He only learned the truth because he saw the sign God foretold of the Holy Spirit descending like a dove after he baptized Jesus. And even if John had thought Jesus might be the Messiah, that would have increased John’s desire to baptize Jesus. After all, God had told John that he would learn the Messiah’s identity by a baptism of the Holy Spirit.

So if John had suspected Jesus was the Messiah, John could only have confirmed his suspicions by going through with the baptism. And also, if John didn’t suspect Jesus was the Messiah, why did he hesitant to baptize Jesus? I think the reason goes back to Jesus’ sinless nature. Remember, John probably knew Jesus well…they were cousins
only 6 months apart in age. They probably grew up playing together from time to time.  And so John surely knew his cousin was the last person who needed to repent of a godless, sinful life.

Remember, John was ministering to tax collectors, Roman soldiers and prostitutes, the lowest of the low, performing a baptism of repentance. These people knew they were far from God and they were ashamed of their lives and felt convicted to get right with God. They were repenting, seeking to change their lives and to return to God. But Jesus…Jesus was a blameless, upright man. John knew Jesus to be the one person in the family Who always seemed to do and say the right thing…the loving, selfless person. So of all the people John knew, Jesus was easily the last one who needed to receive his baptism.

NEXT: If Jesus’ baptism wasn’t for repentance, then what did it achieve?

 

 

“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”

 

Compassion of Jesus

The Compassion of Jesus…

Compassion of Jesusis seen throughout the Gospels on different occasions toward the multitude following Him. Especially for those who are suffering and seek healing. In this account of Jesus, He is traveling from Capernaum and goes Southwest about 20 miles to a town in the Jezreel Valley called Nain. Jesus is continually being followed by large crowds.

Luke 7:11-13 (NKJV) **

Jesus Raises the Son of the Widow of Nain

11 Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

** All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

This scene plays out pretty straightforward. Jesus is approaching the gate of the town Nain. The gate is the only way in or out of the town. Towns in the time of Jesus were usually surrounded by thick walls for protection. Another thing to note about ancient culture was the dead was buried outside the city walls. This was because there were no space within the tight confines of the city for a cemetery.

So, as Jesus is near the gate of the town, He runs head long into this funeral procession leaving the town carrying a body that has been prepared for burial. Jesus encounters this woman and large funeral party proceeding out of the gate. Having been prepared for burial would entail that the body was wrapped in cloths and covered in drying powders like Myrrh. Which suggest the body has been dead a day or two by now. To the mother and the accompanying funeral party there would be no doubt that the body was definitely dead.

Luke tells us this is a body of a man, the only son of the mother. A widow in that culture was a very vulnerable person. If she is without a son to care for her, she could most likely live out her days begging or struggling to find a way to feed herself. And knowing this detail helps explain the compassion of Jesus for this woman. Furthermore, we need to understand that it was significant that Jesus even stopped to notice this woman and take pity. It was known in society of that day that a widow was the most vulnerable member of society. For a moment, consider this society had so little regard for its most vulnerable members, widows, that unless you had a son to care for you, you might starve to death.

The story of Ruth in the Old Testament reflects this exact kind of cultural thinking. Compassion in the Jewish culture was a rare commodity. They were a people not accustomed to showing mercy and compassion. Their misuse and interpretation of the law had left them with an unforgiving, uncompassionate, judgmental view of life.They were the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,” culture. Therefore, their thinking was that widows who were left without sons were simply being “judged by God” or were paying the price for their parents sin, etc.  But consider the fact that there were many mourners in the procession and yet this widow was destitute and facing terrible economic circumstances says a lot about how hard-hearted these “religious” people had become. No one stepping up to offer a helping hand.

But then comes Jesus. Not only did He take notice of her, but the compassion of Jesus was upon her and more importantly, to the point where it rose to the level where He took action to help her. Without question, I am sure many mourners there had compassion of sorts for this woman, but it was doubtful if any were willing to take her in and help her.

Because this problem was carrying over from the Jewish culture into the early Christian church, created the basis for James to write his letter. And he knew, despite their profession of faith in Christ, they continued to be hard-hearted toward one another. James was so concerned about this hard hardheartedness, that he felt compelled to put it as a question of whether they were really saved.

James 2:14-17 

Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Just as when Jesus walked the Earth, He still desires to show compassion to the least fortunate today. But He desires to do it through His church, us the believers. And when His church merely shows compassion through words, it is not really compassion. And James says if a professing Christian lives their life that way, without any visible compassion for the needs of others. Then we have reason to question the legitimacy or the usefulness of their faith. What made the compassion of Jesus known was His willingness to act upon it. Unlike the others around the widow who wouldn’t do more than what was simply required by tradition.

It’s easy to speak in compassionate words, to tell people that we will pray for them, go through the motions of obligatory protocol much like the mourners. But Jesus demonstrates what true compassion looks like and we are to be like Him. Therefore, we should take note of those that God places in our path, those who may be the overlooked or vulnerable in our culture. And do so without judgement or excuse.

Compassion means a true concern for their needs. Help means giving of your time and talents and help also means taking a real interest in them and their needs. But it is also always done with the purpose of teaching men and women about the Lord so they will know Him. As we are faithful to imitating Christ in this way, God can be showing His compassion through Christ again and this time it is seen as Christ through us.

When men concentrate all their attention on trying to make themselves righteous by works only. It results in a self-centered life absent any compassion or mercy. It is a self-centered pursuit. In an economy of works, the participates will always have a selfish outlook on the world. Everything they do is connected to making themselves look and feel righteous. There is no room for compassion and mercy. There is no true concern for the world, only for his or her self. Meanwhile, those who don’t measure up to their rules are seen as deserving whatever bad comes their way. And they certainly don’t think they owe them any compassion.

You probably know or heard of someone like this. The person who is constantly comparing people and condemning them for not adhering to the standard of measure they expect a person needs to be following. Or always making everyone aware of their own accomplishments and how good they are for helping someone looking for praise and commendation for their works. They are very self-absorbed in their own pursuits, especially pursuits that they believe are closely connected to their own righteousness of what’s right according to their system of beliefs. This is the natural effect of allowing our standard of righteousness being based on our actions on living out a system of misappropriate rules.

A viewpoint such as this is simply the opposite of grace in all respects. Consider that grace begins with compassion, because it is unearned favor. By definition, grace is an expression of mercy, because it seeks to give something that is undeserved. Grace precludes all judgement and condemnation, even though judgement and condemnation are deserved. Grace can never be self-focused, because it is inherently motivated by a consideration for the needs of others. And it requires placing the needs of another above any desire to demand retribution. Jesus taught that our obligation to show others grace in this way comes from the fact that God was the one who first showed us grace, a grace we can never equal.

So Jesus touched the body to show His compassion and to demonstrate the importance of love. And as the body rose up, the text says fear gripped the crowd..no doubt. Can you imagine? This would be fear in the truest form. Fear over the mystery of Jesus and His power and who He might be.

Today we have the New Testament. Who Jesus might be and knowing His power is no longer a mystery. We have the fulfillment of His word to rest on. The apostles recorded the ministry of Jesus and the beginnings of the church. It has been given to us so we know the will of God, have salvation and live in obedience to God’s commands  In Jesus’s day the people did not have access to what we know today in the New Testament. To them there were mysteries and fear of things they first did not understand. Even though they were with the Messiah Himself and saw first hand His miracles and heard His words. Many did not believe

John 20:29 

29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

 

“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”