Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Baptism of Jesus

Last night at house group we were looking at the baptism of Jesus; a subject I have struggled with for years.  You see as a Baptist I view baptism as a sacrament that symbolises the believers new life in Christ; they symbolically die to their sin as they are immersed in the water and rise into their new Christian life.  That is fine for the here and now but why did the sinless Jesus have to be baptised?


I suspect the answer is that we view faith as an individual issue but in first century Palestine the community (corporate?) was important as well.  As far as we can know from the Gospels Jesus lived a very ordinary life between the ages of 12 and 30 in a society which, like all the rest of its members, would have been sinful.  As Jesus sets out on His ministry he leaves the life of a carpenter behind and separates Himself from the sinful society in which He had lived.  His baptism is therefore symbolic of Him moving out from His former life in society to take on fully His role as the perfect Son of God.

Any other ideas?

6 comments:

serena said...

Hmmm, I'm not sure. I'm pretty much in the camp of Jesus being fully human but without sin. I think Jesus' baptism for me has always been more to do with identification with the rest of us. Jewish baptism, IIRC, was a repeated thing, particularly before big rituals and events. So I would agree that this marks a significant point in Jesus' life, where he "begins his ministry", but I don't think it has anything much to do with washing away sin for him, perhaps it is the beginning of a new form of baptism - as a symbol of a life dedicated to God?

Still Breathing said...

Serena, I'm far from saying that Jesus had sin just that this marked his moving out of the sinful society to begin his mission. I suspect we are saying the same thing in different ways.

rmilanese said...

Jesus' baptism is different from that of anyone else. The prophet John acknowledges this in different ways in the gospel records. Some of the important differences: (1) there was no voice from heaven saying "This is my beloved son" for anyone else but Jesus; (2) there is no indication of Jesus confessing his sins before being baptized, but rather, that he is the lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world; (3) in relation to the prophet John's basic message: John is announcing that the kingdom of God is at hand; one part of his message of repentance applies to the nation of Israel as a whole, so that they may prepare their hearts to receive their king; the second part of his message is that Jesus is king; this accounts for the special nature of Jesus' baptism -- and the miraculous events that accompany that baptism; all these things support John's message that Jesus is the king whom Israel needs to receive, the one who has power to baptize the truly repentant with the Holy Spirit, and the rest with fire.

Still Breathing said...

rmilanese, I think you are still looking at Jesus' baptism in terms of Him as an individual. John was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins which would have excluded Jesus from baptism. What I am saying is that it marked the moment when he, although perfect, moved out from living a normal life in a sinful society to starting His ministry. He isn't repenting of His own sins but the sins of the society in which He lived. In the West we have emphasised individual salvation and faith so much that we have lost sight of the collective element.

Daniel Trevino said...

I think the point is more of a foreshadowing of Jesus' death and resurrection. J. the Baptist himself acknowledges he needs to be baptized by Jesus, but the reality is that if Jesus does not die and resurrects, J. the Baptist cannot be baptized in the Spirit, so that to fulfill all righteousness, Jesus must die and resurrect. That is why I think the gospels record J. the Baptist's question, and leave you wondering, so that when Jesus' true baptism happens, his death and resurrection, you will understand why he was baptized to begin with.
Does that make sense?

Still Breathing said...

Daniel, That makes sense to me. Too often we look for one meaning in a passage of scripture when there can be many.