jesus-baptism

“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭ESV

jesus-baptism-mural

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Thinking about the baptism of Jesus today. We know Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist out at the Jordan River. John the Baptist himself was a very significant figure during this time, despite the fact that he lasted only about a year in his ministry before he got his head chopped off. When I say he was a significant figure, he himself shows up in the historical writings of Josephus. He is not just significant based on who he became in relation to the Christian faith. Actually, it’s probably precisely because he was a significant figure that he wound up meeting that early grave.

johnthebaptistpreaching
Great crowds of people were making their way out to the Jordan to be baptized by John. This was no small thing, it was probably more than a days journey to go see John out in the desert to hear his message and be baptized.
John was not preaching a message to make people feel good about themselves. He was a tough preacher with a tough message. He was preaching a message of baptism for the repentance of sins, to prepare the way for the Lord’s Messiah. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. And he was equally blunt about what repentance would look like. “And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.””

saint_john_the_baptist_preaching_to_the_masses_in_the_wilderness_oil_on_oak_panel_by_pieter_brueghel_the_younger
So large crowds are coming, including the Pharisees and Sadducees. But not all are getting into the water to be baptized. Some are just watching, not participating. It’s not that they don’t believe in baptism and repentance of sin, it’s just that they believe that repentance is something other people have to do. You know, adulterers, prostitutes, thieves, tax collectors, drunkards, they have to repent, and we are going to watch and make sure they do!! But Luke tells us the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. It is part of God’s plan and purpose for us to be baptized and repent of our sins.

john-baptizing
So John is out at the Jordan, baptizing his people for the repentance of sins, when along comes Jesus, the sinless one. This is a scandal to this day. John himself sees it for the scandal that it is – John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
And we still wonder, we still ask the question, WHY did Jesus need to be baptized (a baptism for the repentance of sins) if he was sinless (and yes, Jesus was sinless).
Today, we think of sin as primarily as personal and individual. We almost never think of systemic sin, the great systems of sin that can’t be pinned on any one person, but they are there nonetheless. Not only are they there, but they are the probably the greatest source of injustice and suffering in the world.

sweat-shop
We don’t like to talk about systemic sin. Think about it – if you say that personal greed is a problem and a sin, nobody would disagree. But start talking about societal structures that support and even rewards greed, if I say that greed is in fact the engine that runs the whole system, some start getting uncomfortable. Some of you might even feel your blood pressure rising right now. I’m writing this and it makes me tense up.

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In our systems of greed and power, we are implicated even if we don’t directly participate. Think about getting dressed in the morning. Do we think about the fact that, most likely, the clothes we wear are made using the cheapest labor pool we can find in some third world country? Maybe $2/day cheap labor? No…we don’t think about it. At least I don’t. I just want to buy the cheapest t-shirts, right? I don’t want to pay $50 for a t shirt, I just go to the cheap rack. But that cheap rack is there almost always because of the cheap labor available in what we call third world nations. Because we benefit from that third world nation. We benefit from that cheap labor available in some of the impoverished parts of the world.
Let’s get really personal. As Americans, we all live on stolen land taken through a program of ethnic cleansing. We don’t like to talk about it. But it’s the truth.

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I wasn’t even born yet. But I still benefit from the system, don’t I? The system of stolen land and broken lives. As Americans, we’ve benefitted from the two hundred years of slave labor, which was used and abused in the early settlement of this nation. Again, I wasn’t even born yet. My family, I believe, wasn’t even here. We were still over in Wales, on the Isle of Lewis (look it up!!). But I still benefit from that system of injustice, don’t I??

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Are you uncomfortable yet??
To simply say we weren’t born yet, to say “it’s not my fault”…it sounds a lot like the conversation in the garden between Adam, Eve, God and the serpent doesn’t it?? Granted, I will give you this – it’s not your fault. It’s not MY fault either. But it is OUR fault!! It is all of our fault.
So…what do we do?? What do we do to repent of our societal sins. To be honest, I don’t have the answers to all these questions. But..we can at least pray to God “Most merciful God, we have sinned against you. We have sinned in what we have done, we have sinned in what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.” We can at least pray a prayer of confession for the sins of our people.

the_baptism_of_jesus
Jesus did not have personal sin to repent of through baptism. But what Jesus is doing is joining with us, the human race, confessing that yes Father, WE have sinned against you. Jesus did not exonerate Himself of the sins of His people, the people of Israel. In fact – he bore them all upon Himself, didn’t He??
Jesus was not sanctified by the waters of baptism. Jesus was already sinless. But what Jesus did was to sanctify baptism. The act of being baptized in the water for the forgiveness of sins is sanctified forever by the fact that Jesus Himself was baptized.

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And really, think about this also – Jesus, the sinless lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, participated in a public act of repentance. So how can we, so many years later, who know full well that we are not sinless, not do the same? Why do we refuse to humble ourselves and acknowledge our sins.
As a nation, this may be difficult. But as for those of us in our society, we who claim Christ as savior should be leading the way in the public admission of our societal sins. If Jesus Christ Himself was able to humble Himself in a very public act of repentance, how much more should we?
What happened immediately following Jesus baptism? And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. The Holy Spirit immediately came upon him, and the Father was very well pleased. It pleases the Father when we publicly confess and repent of our sins. The Holy Spirit will be with you when you do this. You know who did not receive the Holy Spirit by the waters of the Jordan?  When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. The Holy Spirit did not descend on those who stood by watching, judging all those who got in the water to repent. The Father is well pleased when we join with Jesus, get down in the water, and admit that, yes Father, WE have a problem here.

“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mrk.1.4
“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:9-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mrk.1.9-11.esv
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭3:7-10, 13-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.3.7-10,13-15.esv
“And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭3:10-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.3.10-14.esv
“(When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭7:29-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.7.29-30.esv

John Lewis

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17 thoughts on “We Have a Problem

  1. I can’t begin to imagine the emotions of John before, during and after the baptism of Jesus. Solid scriptural references! Thank you for sharing your walk of faith! I think it was Alison Krause who does a wonderful rendition of ” Down to the river” ….I think that is the title!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have to look that one up Rick! A young guy named Jordan Felix has a popular Christian radio song by the same title, cheviot it out, you might like it. It’s pretty good really.

      Thanks always for reading and responding Brother!!

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        1. I read this yesterday, I have not watched the video yet. Just not sure I see prophecy in his predictions. The economic collapse of America is a certainty we will not avoid, we don’t need powers of prophecy to predict that. We are $20+ TRILLION in debt as a nation, adding trillions annually, seemingly intentionally in the case of our outgoing president, and certainly no real intention on anyone’s part NOT to continue as is. It does not take a word from God himself to predict our economic collapse, yes, taking down many others with us. Just eyes to see and willingness to speak.

          And as for natural disasters, they will come. The scientific community has been telling us for years that a major catastrophe is going to strike our west at some point. Global warming, man made or not, is another issue. Who knows what we will see in the next 50 or 100 years? Cities could very well be under water, California could be shaken right off our mainland. Would this be confirmation of a prophetic vision…or just a confirmation of what some scientists have been predicting for years now? Of course, it could all be working together…God setting the stage to bring judgement upon the nations???

          I will have to take the hour and watch the video. The third judgment, judgement of liberties, is just very vague. Hopefully he expounds it more in the video. Obviously we HAVE replaced our own judgements and standards for God’s. We’ve set ourselves in the position of our own God. Kind of like most of the books of 1 and 2 king’s….we have no God, we just do as we please. But I don’t see any prophetic prediction here.

          I do like your commentary at the end. We must let our lives be our living epistles. We are to be light and salt. IF we are the light, then we will shine brighter and brighter as the world goes darker.

          Sorry…I’m just skeptical when someone is claiming their own prophetic powers. Maybe the man is a prophet. I will try to watch the video today. We have certainly lost our foundations as a nation. We have lost the constitution on which we were founded…in practice it no longer exists. The law is whatever 9 judges say it is today. So much of our society is governed by “regulations” put in place daily by unelected bureaucrats. The presidency is approaching much more of a kingship…just call everything “an executive order”. Of course, that which is done by executive order can be undone by executive order. Legislation won by bullying and bending the rules to suit our purposes today, can be undone by bullying and the other side bending the same rules for their purposes tomorrow. God and the church are no longer honored, but ridiculed. Even when they do invoke the name of God…it just seems to be forced, fake, just “playing to the masses”. How long before even that is flipped, and playing to the masses means mocking God publicly.

          He is speaking truth. I just don’t see powers of prophecy.

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          1. Thank you for reading the excerpts, John. Even if you have concerns as to whether he is prophesying, is God calling you to pray for the remnant as in boldface within the excerpts? This week is CRITICAL for our country. I am one called to build up the wall and stand in the gap; are you? If you are, please cease with your usual activities and do so. The prayers of the righteous (Christ) ARE powerful and effectual. Thank you for your consideration of this vital matter before the Lord.

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  2. Re: Repenting for society; I really don’t think so. I think he had two reasons: 1) provide a model for us, and 2) set the stage for the Father to announce his identity, and thus be glorified. His repentance and sacrifice for society would come later and was much, much more severe and profound.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was a baptism for the repentance of sins, specifically delineated in multiple places by multiple authors. Yet he was sinless. It is where he joined with us, got in the water with us, not watching from the riverbank like the Sadducees and Pharisees. He humbled himself, led the way for his people, saying, yes, we have a problem here, WE need to repent and return to God. This is part of his humanity, his being fully human. Even though he was the only sinless one, he did not separate himself from all of us sinners. He joined with humanity in a public act of repentance, that is exactly what this was and is. This is not the sacrifice, but it is an act of repentance which Jesus is participating in. And, as noted in Mark, Matthew and Luke the spirit immediately descended on Him, and the father let everyone know that He was well pleased with what the son had done. And yes, all glory to God, the Father, son and Holy Spirit.

      And a side note…it’s interesting, but is this the only place where all three appear together? Maybe with Abraham by the oaks of Mamri…

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    1. I hear ya Barbara. Our churches have lots of doctrine and lots of beliefs, but seemingly very little action. When you get down to it…our actions show what we really believe much more than our words. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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  3. I guess we can just disagree on this. I agree with you re: his humanity and identity with and compassion for us. We see this as he weeps over the people in Jerusalem who would reject him.
    But I don’t find Christ otherwise doing anything simply symbolic, without effect. Every word, every action had purpose. What he did was teach, which I believe this action is an example of, just as was the Lord’s Prayer, washing the apostles’ feet, the Last Supper, and virtually every word he spoke.
    I would be more open to your point if there was any teaching that could be interpreted to infer that repentance was (or is) anything other than a *personal* rejection of one’s old life. I just don’t find any examples of, say, David or Moses repenting *on behalf* of Israel. Maybe the situation that comes closest is when, after the flood (Gen 8:21), God implicitly *repents” (nâcham) of ever destroying mankind again.
    Thanks for your great work and expressing your heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I say he’s not repenting “on behalf” of us, he’s repenting with us. He’s being baptized for the repentance of sins. This is not simply a symbolic act, or even a teaching moment. He’s joining with his people, specifically Israel. He can do this only n the context of “forgive us father, for WE have sinned”, not excluding himself from the sins of his people, and by extension the sins of all of us.

      But your point is fair enough, and I would simply say just to keep it somewhere in the back of your mind, know that there is a strain of thought that sees this.

      We certainly don’t have to agree on every word. I’m sure we both agree that He did bear all those sins upon Himself, absorbing the anger, hostility, the enmity, and did it offering Forgiveness for all those sins and more. And, if course, came back from a now empty tomb, not with words of vengeance and retaliation, but instead saying “Peace be with you.”

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