Why Did Christ Receive Baptism?
January 9, 2011
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
The One Who Executes Righteous Judgment Is Coming
1. The text said, "The public was expecting the messiah." The people were expecting a savior. At root "messiah" has the meaning of "the anointed one." Long ago back then, when a king was ordained, he was anointed with oil. Therefore, when one speaks of "the anointed one," it is primarily "a king." Above all else, the people were expecting a powerful king as [their] savior and also a king who would execute righteous judgments.
2. They were hoping for a powerful king because they were under the control of a worldly power. For, as seen by the Jews, they were under the rule of the pagan empire of Rome. Because of this, they were hoping for the messiah to crush the government of the Roman empire and to set them free from pagan rule. They were hoping for the messiah to restore the lost throne of David and to rebuild the kingdom of Israel.
3. In addition, they were hoping for [this] king who would execute righteous judgment because they had been placed under unrighteous judgments in their daily world. For, justice was not being put into practice. For, [society] was getting away with acts that contradicted the law of God; and [the Jews] were shedding tears [because] they were being oppressed by unjust powers and suffering [under them]. For, no one would judge the people who were causing them to suffer. Therefore, they were hoping the messiah would appear and that he would execute righteous judgment and restore justice. In this way then, they were hoping for a powerful king to execute righteous judgment [among them].
4. The public in this condition thought about John the Baptizer as he appeared in the wilderness and preached there, that "Perhaps he is the messiah, isn't he?" [They thought that way about John] because John spoke on righteousness and because he spoke powerfully on the judgment of God. John's message had power. [His words were so powerful] that when the Roman soldiers heard his words, even they asked, "What are we to do!?" Therefore, I do not think it is unreasonable that the crowd thought that John did not just declare righteousness, but he had also most certainly put righteousness into practice [in society among its members].
5. However, John repudiated the expectations of the public and said the following. "I confer upon you baptism with water, but One greater than me is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the laces of [His] footwear. He will confer upon you baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire," (verse sixteen). "The messiah who is to come is not me," he said. One much greater is coming. "He will confer upon you baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
6. What does that mean? Perhaps what John originally meant is that "That One will righteously execute judgment." -- Because the phrase "with the Holy Spirit" also can have the meaning "in a holy manner, by means of a holy wind, by a holy power." "He will confer upon you baptism by means of holy wind and fire." Thus, after that is found the story of the threshing place. "The winnow" is something that young people these days have probably never seen. Since pictures can always be found when you do a search on the internet, please check it out. Farmers shift grain with a winnow in a place where the wind is blowing. Whereupon, as the chaff or the wasted part is blown away by the wind, the grains are left inside the winnowing basket. In a manner like this, the messiah will execute righteous judgment and separate the righteous and the unrighteous. It is saying that as the holy wind blows, it separates the wheat and the chaff. And then the wheat is brought into the storehouse. That is, it is brought into salvation. The chaff is burned up with unquenchable flames. That is, it will receive eternal punishment. Such a messiah is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the laces of that One's footwear, John declared.
7. But the main point here is not necessarily limited to the messiah's threshing of just the grain of the Romans. He will not just thresh the pagan grain. He will thresh everyone because it says, "He will clean every nook and corner of the threshing place." Be it Gentile or Jew, believer or unbeliever, he will thresh them all. Put in other words, it is that every human being will be held accountable in the sight of God. Therefore, whether speaking to the Jews, or to anyone hoping for salvation, he said, "Repent!" He said, "Don't say, 'Our father is Abraham.'"
8. "Repentance" means we are to change direction. We are to turn back to our original self [the way God intended us to be] and we are to turn back to God. It is explaining the obvious but when it comes to a change of direction we cannot and do not [want to] admit that we made a mistake in our direction. Whenever people, who have had a painful life forced upon them, just bemoan and curse the wretchedness of their lives and the suffering reality [imposed upon them], they will never change the direction of their lives. [When] a person thinks that he or she is bearing such suffering upon his or her shoulders because every person except him or her is evil, he or she will refuse to make a change in direction. That's how [people can be] and not just the people back in that time. No matter the time period, but when a person only sees evil everywhere except in himself or herself and claims the world is evil, society is evil, the times are evil, the conditions are evil, close friends are evil, husbands are evil, wives are evil, [such] a person will never change direction. No matter how much time passes the direction in which he or she is living will not change.
9. But that's not how the people there [with John] were. Upon hearing the message from John, the people who used to look at the evil everywhere else, had come to realize the evil that was within themselves. There were people there who had come to realize, "To begin with, isn't the problem my own way of living and not somebody else's [way of living]? To begin with, isn't it that my relationship with God isn't right?" There were people there who had come to realize, "To begin with, isn't the direction of my life strange? Am I not a sinner in need of forgiveness?" And so these people cast off their pride and obligatory boundaries and came to John and were immersed into the water. Please forgive me! Please bury the me I've been to this moment! I want to live new. They went down under the water with sincere petitions like this. That was "the baptism of repentance" that John was preaching, (3:3).
Christ Received Baptism
10. Well, today's gospel reading is telling us that Christ had also received this same "baptism of repentance." Furthermore, quite fittingly, it stands Christ's baptism side by side with the public's baptism. The text says, "After everyone in the crowd had received baptism and after Christ had also received baptism, when he was praying ... ," (verse twenty-one). This is weird. Why did Christ receive baptism? And for what purpose does the gospel tell us that Christ had received baptism? This wound up becoming today's sermon title, "Why Did Christ Receive Baptism?"
11. If [the text] was wanting to tell us that this man Jesus had become aware of sin within himself, of his being in the same condition as the others in the crowd, then what comes next would be excessive. At that moment [of the baptism of Jesus], the gospel record goes on to tell us, "The heavens opened, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in a form that looked like a dove. Whereupon, a voice saying, 'You are my beloved son, you are the one who suits my will,' was heard from heaven." The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus quietly like a dove, accompanied by a message from God, and not with the air of a judge, not in the manner of a judge. And then he spoke these words, "You are my beloved son, you are the one who suits my will." This is not merely a trinitarian message about "God the Father," "God the Son." A message that resembles this one is found in Psalm two. In brief, these are words that stand for a royal enthronement made by divine ordination. It is declaring that this One is the expected king, he is the messiah. That is, this is the very One who is righteous according to the will of God, this is the very One who has the authority to execute righteous judgments.
12. According to the words of John the Baptizer, the messiah is supposed to be the kind of being who "with the winnow in his hand he will clean every nook and corner of the threshing place, upon gathering the wheat he will bring it into the storehouse, he will burn the chaff with unquenchable flames." [John expected] the messiah to incarnate the judgment of God. So [he thought]. The messiah had certainly come. But he did not have a winnowing basket on him. In fact, he did not initiate the threshing. That's what today's scripture passage is telling us. It says the opposite, what!, how could this be?, that the One who has the authority to judge sin, he gets in the same line with sinners who are repenting and seeking God's forgiveness, and he is immersed into the same waters with them!
13. That was actually [just] the beginning. When we go further in our reading of this gospel, we soon come to see this One at the table of sinners. The righteous murmur as they look at this situation. "This man welcomes sinners, and he even eats in the same place with them," (15:2). Then, we hear Jesus being whispered about by these people: "That man went to the the place of a sinful man and took lodging with him," (19:7). But the story doesn't end there. Ultimately, where do we end up seeing Christ? He is hauled off to Golgotha's hill along with two criminals. "Besides this, two criminals were hauled off, in order to be executed along with Jesus. When they came to the place called, 'The Skull,' there the men put Jesus on a cross. They put the criminals on crosses, one on [his] right, the other on [his] left," (23:32-33).
14. The Lord was lined up with sinners and had stood in the same water with sinners, and then that day [on the cross] the Lord was still in the same place with sinners. The One who had the authority to judge sin was carrying forgiveness of sin in his arms and thus he continued to be with them. And indeed, he is still with us as the same kind of Christ right now. The Church [as] the Body of Christ exists in this world, and when it preaches the gospel, when it still performs baptisms, when it still gathers around the table of the Lord, when holy communion is performed, it [shows] how Christ is still with us. Therefore, repenting sinners are saved. They will surely be saved. Since this kind of Christ is with us, [he] will save [them] without exception. This narrative of Christ receiving baptism points to this truth even now.
15. According to John's message, "That One will confer upon you baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire." Where [the message] says, the One who went down into the same water with sinners "will confer upon you baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire," it doesn't mean any more, as John used to think, that he will blow away and burn away the chaff. Instead of [meaning] that, [it means] after people receive forgiveness of sin and they begin to walk anew, Christ will fill them with the power of the Holy Spirit and send them into this world, (Acts 1:8). As the body of the Christ who saves sinners, as persons who carry in their arms the gospel of Christ.