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  • Writer's pictureJan Weihl

Baptism of Jesus (Luke 3)

Jesus' baptism is a pivotal point in His life. It's actually the kick off point from which Jesus would officially begin His ministry. But it's even more than that. Why did Jesus need to be baptized? What is the example for us and what does it mean?

When people think of baptism, they often associate it with the "remission of sins." But if that's the purpose of baptism, why did Jesus need to be baptized? And if we can just have our sins cancelled through baptism, why did Jesus need to die on the cross?

Baptism cannot save us. If it did we would have something to boast about:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, [9] not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

We can only be saved by confessing our sins and trusting in Jesus' sacrifice in our place:

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 10:9-10 if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; [10] for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

So then if baptism does not save us from our sins, why get baptized? We are to get baptized when we repent of ours and decide to follow Jesus because He commanded all new disciples to be baptized. It is the example He gave us.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Who did Jesus say to baptize? Disciples.

What's a disciple? A disciple is literally, "a learner," a "Christ-follower."

So as soon as someone decides to repent of their sins and follow Jesus, Jesus says the first thing they are to do is to be baptized (baptizo).

The word baptize in Greek is "baptizo" which means "submerge." The new Christ-follower is completely immersed under the water.

Paul tells us the reason for this total immersion is to identify with Jesus' death when we are submerged under the water and to identify with Jesus' resurrection when we are raised up out of the water:

Romans 6:3-4 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? [4] Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

So then you might wonder why some churches practice sprinkling or pouring water over a new follower of Jesus rather than Biblical immersion.

For the first 300 years of the church, all baptisms were done by immersion, following the Jewish mikvah ritual that goes back to the days of Moses. It wasn't until after the church had been established for 300 years that sprinkling and pouring were introduced because of droughts in some areas.

People were trying to obey Jesus' command for all new disciples to be baptized, even when they lacked enough water due to drought.

Unfortunately as time went on, these emergency drought forms of baptism became more popular because they were easier to do than getting totally immersed under the water. Along with the easier form, some are now baptizing those who have not yet made a decision to be a Christ-follower. Ironically with less water, the meaning behind baptism became watered down.

But what else are we to get from Jesus' example of baptism?

Right after He was baptized, Jesus was tempted by Satan. If Satan tempted Jesus after He was baptized, he will tempt us after we are baptized.

He will also tempt us any time we experience a spiritual high in our faith journey and are not expecting temptation to come.

We should always expect temptation and seek to protect ourselves against it by strapping on our armor every morning of every new day:

Ephesians 6:13-17 [13] Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. [14] Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, [15] and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. [16] In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. [17] Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

After the temptation, Jesus lived each day sharing the gospel message of salvation with all who are willing to hear:

Luke 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted"

As His followers, this is our mission. We are to share the message of the gospel with a broken world.

Matthew 28:20 "teach them to obey everything I have commanded you."

Christmas is a time of celebration of Jesus' birth. It's a time of gathering as families and stopping for a moment from the hustle, bustle, and busyness of life. But for many, Christmas is a time of sadness. For many it's a time of loneliness for those who have experienced a loss or don't have family to celebrate with.

Yet the story of Christmas penetrates even that sense of loss and loneliness to say, "you are not alone." Jesus is right in front of you with His arms wide open, calling you, "beloved" and inviting you to join Him and become a part of His family in which you will never be alone.

Jesus needed to be baptized to give us an example to follow in starting our own ministry. Just as the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus at His baptism and God the Father said "You are my Son," Jesus says to each of us, "You are my beloved, come follow Me."

Dear Lord, Thank you for calling me to the waters of baptism when I was 16 years old, repented of my sin, and made the decision to become your follower. Lord, it has taken years for me to understand what it means to follow You. It's taken years for me to understand that following You means loving others enough to share your Gospel message with them. It's taken me years to humble myself and not care what others think and to just keep sharing with every opportunity You put before Me. Lord as we approach this new year, show me each day who needs to hear Your message of love and salvation. In Jesus' name, amen.

Jan Weihl

Living Word Ministries

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