Saturday, December 25, 2010

Why Did The Son of God Submit Himself To Baptism?

The baptism of Jesus has been difficult to interpret. Why did the Son of God submitted Himself to be baptized? Even John himself asked a similar question (Mt 3:14)

The three possible reasons why Jesus wanted to be baptized:

His identification with the penitent people of God, the community of the Kingdom of God that John founded. Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented. (Matthew 3:15 NIV)

His readiness to break out from the silence of his past thirty years, and to usher in His messianic task

His demonstration of His wholehearted commitment and devotion to His Father’s work. "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" "We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared." (Mark 10:38-40 NIV)

Three unusual events that occurred at Jesus’ baptism:

1. Heaven being “torn open” (Mark 1:10)
Whether this event of heaven being torn apart is a physical event or indicating a theological reality or both, is unclear. The bottom line is, this indicates that Jesus possessed a direct access to God. Mark uses a similar term in Mark 15:38, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:38 NIV)

2. The Spirit “descending like a dove” (Mark 1:11)
Again, this does not necessarily mean that an actual dove was physically present. The significance of this is that, in Mark 1:8, John the Baptist says that “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Before the Son of God would bestow the Spirit on His followers, He must Himself be anointed by the Spirit. Jesus’ awareness of the Spirit’s anointing is also evident from the first sermon he preached in Nazareth where, opening the scroll of Isaiah 61:1-2, he said that "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:21 NIV) (Stein, Robert H. "Chapter 6." Jesus the Messiah: a Survey of the Life of Christ. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1996. Print.)

3. A voice from heaven was heard (Mark 1:11)
This does not mean that at that moment, God the Father adopted Jesus as His Son. In John’s gospel, for example, it is clear that Jesus is the Son of God even before His incarnation (John 1:1-4 predtes 1:14).

In other words, as Stein said, He (Jesus) is not “promoted” at his baptism. Rather, the voice is an affirmation of who Jesus was and a commendation that God was pleased with the silent years. (Stein, Robert H. "Chapter 6." Jesus the Messiah: a Survey of the Life of Christ. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1996. Print.)

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