Read Matthew 3
In the first service I went through all of the Old Testament scriptures concerning baptism. It took no time at all. Literally, it took no time. There aren’t any.
There are some general analogies we might make, such as Jonah and his time underwater in the great fish, but upon further examination; we see Jesus use the Jonah reference with regard to resurrection.
But by the time that Jesus had come into the world, baptism was common enough that none of the religious leaders questioned the baptism part about what John was doing. They were more focused on being called a bunch of snakes and defending their righteousness based on the fact that they had Abraham as their father.
I suppose that you could count the flood noted in Genesis as a huge baptism, but those who went under the water here did not reemerge.
There is ritual cleansing but not the baptism that we know today, at least in Christianity. Pagan religious, mainly eastern religions, had a water purification which may have included immersion. In fact, the Sumerian tradition from some three millennia earlier was adopted into the Greek culture and mythology and accredited to the god Ioannes which in English is John.
You might see why some consider the baptism of John a continuation of this myth. You might also see why the religious leaders were interested in what John was doing at the Jordan.
In any case, John was real and not a myth. He baptized with water. He drew quite a crowd and then Jesus came for baptism.
We don’t’ get the words that we do in John’s gospel. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
We do have a little insight into the words that preceded the baptism of the Lord. John did not ask Jesus if he repented of his sins. That would have been awkward.
How do you ask the one who has not sinned if he repents of his sin?
Instead, John inquires if instead of him baptizing Jesus, that Jesus should baptize him. That would make more sense, wouldn’t it?
It would! Absolutely it would make more sense from John’s perspective and probably from ours, except that Jesus was on a mission from his Father that was about to jump into high gear. His baptism was like the commissioning of a ship. The journey was about to begin in earnest and it had to begin the right way.
Jesus would not only go to the cross as a lamb that had not sinned by refraining from doing things he should not have done; he must arrive at that point doing everything that he was sent to do.
He must live a life that continued in right standing with his Father for the duration of his time in the flesh.
He would fulfill the law. He would fulfill the prophets. He would fulfill all righteousness.
Baptism was one of the first things on that bucket list and Jesus hit the target. How do we know?
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Dad said, You nailed it, Kid.
Jesus did this not because he needed to repent, but so that while he was in this world, he would do what no person had ever done. He would do everything right in the sight of his Father, not because he needed it. It was all for us.
Let’s see how that fits into our lives. Do we do things because other people have expectations? Sometimes, we do. Sometimes the expectations of others are like a prison that we build for ourselves.
Do we do things because God has called us to do them and, whether others see them or not, we want to be right with God and his expectations for us.
Yes, we will fall short, and God promises forgiveness with every confession, but we want to hit the target that God has given us. That’s really had to hit if the expectations of the world are in opposition or even just in competition with God’s direction.
Whose expectations influence our decisions?
How can you hit a target if you can’t decide where to aim? Which expectations influence our decisions?
Jesus told John that he had his marching orders from his Father and baptism was on that list. Do you want to do this your way or God’s way? Sometimes all expectations are in sync with God’s way and there is no dilemma, but often we must choose.
There is a question that should hit home with us today. Do we want to do what we think is the best course of action or do we trust God that his way is best?
It’s a Joshua sort of question. Choose this day whom you will serve. You have plenty of choices of who or what you put first in your life. Some may seem very attractive and profitable. Some may help you blend in with the crowd.
Some may make you appear unique and feed your esteem.
Jesus had no personal need for a baptism of repentance. He did it because it was the right thing to do before his Father and he was on a mission to do everything right. That would ruffle some feathers along the way, but it brought a lamb without blemish to the cross.
That’s bigtime for us, so let us celebrate this simple display of doing what was right by his Father in heaven that we might have an unblemished sacrifice offered for our sins.
And let us consider our own lives. What do we do out of the expectation of others and what do we do because God has revealed his will to us?