The Baptism of Jesus

Today in the Church Year we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus.  There is actually a close connection between Jesus’s baptism in Matthew 3 and the first act of God’s creation in Genesis 1.  In fact, there are parallels in this section of Matthew’s Gospel with the first few chapters of Genesis.  In Genesis, the order of things is that God creates everything, Adam and Eve are tempted, and then God promises a Savior.  In Matthew, the order of things is that Jesus is baptized, then he is tempted, and then he begins his public ministry.

This parallel structure reveals an important truth to us.  Jesus is the Savior who has been promised; he has finally come to begin the restoration of all creation.  He’s ushering in a new beginning.

So, in Jesus’ baptism we see parallels with God’s first acts of creation in Genesis.  Then, in his temptation we see parallels with the temptation of Adam and Eve.  But, where Adam and Eve fall into temptation and bring sin and death into the world, Jesus is victorious; he is perfect and has come to remove sin and death.  Then, when Jesus’ public ministry begins we see the fulfillment of God’s promise of the Savior first given in Genesis 3:15.

I want to focus on Jesus’ baptism today and discuss how it parallels God’s first acts of creation in Genesis.

In the very beginning there was nothing, just God.  Then, God created all things from nothing through the power of His Word.  His Word creates reality.  If you think about it, our words also create reality to some extent.  We pronounce marriages and divorces, we give names to things, we take oaths and commissions.  Yet, we can’t create matter from nothing.  Only God can do that.  He speaks things into existence.

And this is exactly what we see in the opening verses of the book of Genesis: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  And God said let there be light and there was light…” (Genesis 1:1-3).

So, the Bible begins with God creating all things.  Everything we know about God also begins at this point, because this is also the beginning of God’s self-revelation to His creation.  In the Scriptures God tells us who He is, who we are, and what He is doing and planning for us.

So, in Genesis the first things we see of God are Him creating all things through His Word with His Spirit hovering over the created waters to make order out of this new creation.  What we in fact see is the Triune God creating all things: God the Father using His Word to usher in a new creation that is ordered and sanctified by His Spirit.  So, in the original creation we have Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in the midst of water.

And we actually see something similar in the Baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3.

Jesus comes to be baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.  John initially protests saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  John recognized that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one who has come to bring salvation to all people.

Jesus insists saying, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

So, John baptizes Jesus.  And then after Jesus is baptized and he comes up from the water, the heavens are opened, the Spirit of God descends like a dove and rests on Jesus, and the voice of the Father from heaven says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:13-17).

What do we see here?  We see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, along with the water.  It’s like the beginning again.  It’s an act of re-creation; it’s a second beginning.  It’s like Genesis again, the beginning of something new.

Jesus has come to fulfill all righteousness.  We are sinful people, born sinful, born condemned to eternal death due to our inherited sin.  We can not fulfill all righteousness.  That is to say, we can not be perfect as God’s Law demands.  We can not be perfect as our Lord is perfect.  So, Jesus came to do it for us.  He came to fulfill all righteousness for us.  He stood in our place, receiving John’s “baptism of repentance” on our behalf and later he will also hang in our place on the cross, dying on our behalf so that we may be reconciled to our God.

So, let’s put all this into some context.

This original creation that is around us has been marred by the sin of Adam and Eve through their Fall into temptation.  Their sin brought decay, hurt, sickness, death, and all manner of evil into God’s good creation.  Their sin infected it and caused it to Fall, like themselves, into slavery to sin and death.  As their ancestors, we inherit this fallenness.  We are born into a state of  rebellion against God.  By all rights we deserve God’s punishment for our sins as His enemies.

However, God promised Adam and Eve that He would send a Savior who would redeem them and their descendants from this slavery.  And God continued to promise this Savior throughout the Old Testament, making it increasingly clear that this Savior, this anointed one, this Christ, would bring salvation and restoration to all creation.

So, then, we see in Jesus’ baptism the Lord fulfilling His promises. The Lord has come to begin the recreation of all things by restoring all things.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are there at this baptism, just as they were in the beginning, creating all things in the midst of the created waters.  So, we see then that Jesus isn’t just a good man who was adopted by God as His Son at his baptism.  No, Jesus is the Christ, the incarnate Word of God.  He is the Lord Himself, God in the flesh, the Son of the Father, come to bring out the captives from our bondage to sin and death and give light to all people (cf. Isaiah 42:1-9).

So, what we in fact see in Jesus’ Baptism is the Triune God re-creating all things: God the Father using His Word to usher in a new creation that is ordered and sanctified by His Spirit.

So, Jesus Christ, the Word of God in the flesh, came – in effect, as the premier agent of restoration in order to begin the ushering in of a new creation.  His Baptism is part of this “ushering in” as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit begin the restoration of all creation.  They’re there together, creating something new in the midst of something old.  It’s like a mustard seed that will grow up into a great tree, or like yeast which works through all the dough to leaven it.  It’s the kingdom of heaven, the reign of God come into the midst of His fallen creation to restore it.

And our own baptisms are connected with this baptism of Jesus.  Our own baptisms connect us with this death of the old and birth of the new.  As Paul told the saints at Rome: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:1-11).

Jesus Christ himself connected his Baptism with his death and resurrection.  In the Gospel of Luke, referring to his coming death on the cross, he told his disciples, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50).  Likewise, we have died and risen with Christ in our baptisms.  God did this to us and claimed us as His own, reconciling us to Himself on account of Christ, and bringing us into His reign through the power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So, what this means then is that we are not only God’s children and siblings of each other; we are also agents of restoration in this world.  We have received, and been freed to give.  We are something new in the midst of the old.  We are light in the midst of darkness and salt which preserves and seasons.  As we live out our Baptismal lives in this world, we go as restoration agents of Christ.  He has brought restoration to us, and we now bring it to others.

So, in all our vocations we serve as the Lord’s people by benefiting His creation as agents of restoration.    Whether our vocations are as parents, children, teachers, students, employees, employers, we work knowing that we are the Lord’s children and benefitting His creation through our work.  We also bring the firstfruits of the new creation into the midst of a fallen world.  We are living demonstrations that God loves and cares for His creation and is restoring it through Christ.  We are the Church, sent into the world to proclaim Christ and to bring the restoration of Christ with us.

Ultimately, the full restoration of all of God’s creation is coming with Christ’s return.  He began the ushering in of the new creation at his baptism, and is returning to complete it.  Indeed, he is returning to make our baptisms complete, by making us fully restored, along with the rest of his creation.

He will descend with the clouds and raise up all people for the judgement.  And you, as God’s chosen children in Baptism, as those who have been called into Christ’s restoration, will be clothed with the righteousness of Christ, your wedding garment, due to God’s promise given you in Baptism, and you will be brought into God’s presence to live with Him for eternity in the creation that has been fully and completely restored.

Then, things will end, in essence, where they began.  For in the beginning, God created all things good and dwelt in the presence of humanity in the garden of Eden.  He walked with Adam and Eve because there was no sin or death in the world; humanity could dwell with the holy Lord God, because they had not yet sinned.

Now at the end, the holy Lord God will again dwell directly with humanity, because He has covered your sins with the righteousness of Christ given to you in your Baptisms and completed at the resurrection of your bodies.  As the Lord foretold through the Apostle John in the book of Revelation:

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away … Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:3-5).

The former things have passed away, this is the promise of God in Christ.  Sin, death, and the devil and the pain and suffering that they bring will be no more, even as they now have no hold over you and have passed away for you.  You are the Lord’s, and when Christ returns only the holy Lord and you His redeemed children will remain.

The Lord’s will will be done, his plans and promises will be complete.  He will again dwell directly in the presence of humanity, forever, because all things will be fully restored and made completely new as the promises which He made to you in your baptisms are completed and all righteousness is completely fulfilled.

 

(Image by Francesco Trevisani – http://www.1st-art-gallery.com/Francesco-Trevisani/The-Baptism-Of-Christ,-1723.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9583796 )