Monday, March 18, 2013

Following Jesus in Baptism

PikiWiki Israel 29585 Jordan River
I read every comment on this blog.  Melissa does too. To be fair, however, they don't usually change the way I think about some major theological issue. One day though it did.  Shannon Morris, Melissa's mom, made a comment here that inspired this entire series and changed the way I think about obedience. The phrase she used was, "Follow Jesus in baptism."


As I thought about those 4 words, pictures formed.  A murmuring crowd, a sloping river bank, John looking up in shock at his approach.  The Spirit had promised him that he would know when the Messiah would be revealed, and here was the long-awaited King in the unlikely person of his younger cousin from Nazareth.  John hesitated.  How could he administer a baptism of repentance to God's innocent Lamb come to take away the sins of the world?   Jesus answered that he was here so the two of them could "fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15).

Jesus submitted obediently to John's call because John was the prophet of God.  The Father was pleased.  The very heavens opened.  The Spirit of God descended on our Savior and the Father spoke, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased" (Mark 1:11).  It's not often that we see all three members of the Trinity active in a single Bible story.  But here they are, obeying, speaking, and descending. 

Jesus's obedience in baptism foreshadows a much more difficult act of obedience.  Kneeling in the garden, he struggled to submit himself to his Father's will. Hanging on the cross, he could not feel the applause of heaven.  All that sad Sabbath God himself lay dead in the tomb. The Three alive before time began were broken by our sin-Two alive and One dead.  Then by the power of the Holy Spirit, with the seal of approval of the Father, he was raised from the dead (Romans 1:4, Romans 8:11).  

We truly follow Jesus in baptism.  Every baptism should be an act of obedience.  Jesus came to be baptized by John because John was the prophet of God. Through him God was commanding all Israel to repent and be baptized.  John knew that Jesus didn't need to repent, but Jesus knew he did need to obey. The tax collectors, soldiers, citizens and I needed both. If Jesus being himself God felt he should obey God's word spoken through the prophet, how dare I ignore the words of Jesus himself when he declares that his disciples need to be baptized? (Matthew 28:18-20)

When Jesus was baptized the entire Trinity was active and working.  Have you considered that in our baptism it happens again?  Paul lays out in Romans that in baptism we participate with Jesus in his obedient death. The act of baptism is a metaphor.  Dead to our sin, dead on the cross. Down into the water, down into the grave.  Raised to eternal life, raised by the Spirit (Romans 6:14).   We are following Jesus both to the Jordan and to the cross when we follow him in baptism.  

The Holy Spirit who descended upon Jesus as a dove at his baptism also comes upon us at ours.  His indwelling is the promise that just as the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead he will also see us raised (Acts 2:38, Romans 8:9-11). Moreover the Father who smiled down from heaven declaring for all the world to hear that this son of Israel was his own beloved son, smiles down at us too, his adopted sons and daughters (Romans 8:15-23, Ephesians 1:5).

Do you see the picture?  Jesus comes to John in obedience and is declared the son of God most high.  We come in obedient repentance, and God declares us His own children.  Jesus dripping with water welcomes the Spirit.  We, still wet from our own baptism, are the new hosts of the eternal Spirit of God.  Jesus died and was raised on our behalf and we are buried and raised to participate in His sacrifice.  

The difference between a student and a disciple is that a student has many teachers who come to him and a disciple has only one teacher whom he follows all his life.  If we want to be disciples of Jesus we need to be prepared to follow him.  Envisioning the beginning of Jesus' ministry we follow him down into the water. In view of his end, we follow him up onto the cross.  And by the promise of the Holy Spirit we believe that at the end of our lives we follow him once more out of the grave resurrected to life eternal.  Baptism pictures all this in a single act of obedience.

Helene

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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