In the dust of the Rabbi- Day 21

Title: The approval of the King at His baptism

Scriptures to Read: Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-23a


Here we find three events that confirmed that Jesus was approved by God: His baptism, His temptation, and the testimony of His herald, John. Today we will look at His baptism.

The baptism of Jesus marks the start of His public life

The baptism of Jesus marks the last act of his private live and the first act of his public life.

Jewish baptism and its meaning

Here we need to discuss what baptism was among the Jewish people, because the church has picked up baptism, and as we will see, in subsequent centuries the church lost its vision of what baptism was about. The Key Words to understand:
1. Mikvah– the place of immersion
2. Tvilah– immersion. This is the Hebrew word for baptism.
In Jewish circles immersion was the only practice, and today it is the only practice. When a Gentile converted to Judaism he underwent a process of immersion. Only immersion is practiced in Jewish circles.
3. Bapto– to dip, to dye.
Used of a piece of cloth dipped into a dye. When you pull it out it has changed its colour, it has changed its identification.
4. Baptidzo– to immerse (the more intensive form).
This is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew Tvilah. The English word, baptize, is derived from a transliteration of the Greek word. The first translators of the Bible into English were reluctant to translate the word because the church already practiced sprinkling. So they transliterated the Greek word instead.

The meaning of the word in both Hebrew and Greek is immersion. The meaning of the act or ritual is identification. Therefore, when a person underwent immersion he identified himself with a person and/or a message or a group. A new identification always meant a break with the old identification. So for example, when a Gentile converted to Judaism he was breaking away from his former pagan idolatry, and now identifying himself with the God of Israel and the Jewish people.

John’s baptism

And when John came with his baptism,
a. those who were baptised by him were identified with John’s message and
b. they were making a commitment: whoever John points out to be the Messiah, upon Him they will believe.

This is the identification of John’s baptism. You can see this reflected in Acts 19:4: Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”

Believer’s baptism and its meaning

For believers’ baptism we identify ourselves with the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah (Romans 6:3-4). The meaning of baptism in the New Testament is also identification and immersion. Furthermore, in the New Testament you only find baptism of those who already have believed. There is not one case of infant baptism anywhere in the New Testament.

Purpose for the baptism of Jesus

Now, when Jesus comes to be baptized, Matthew’s account in verse 14 says that John would have hindered him because he recognizes this One has no need for repentance, but Jesus insists on undergoing the ritual. So the question is: why did Jesus submit himself to baptism? Let me give you 6 reasons, four of which come out of the context and two of which come from other passages.
1. To fulfill all righteousness.
To be identified with righteousness, specifically the righteousness of the Law of Moses because He will fulfil all the required demands of the Mosaic Law.
2. To be identified with John’s message: the preaching of the Kingdom.
John’s message was about the kingdom of heaven, and therefore Jesus’ baptism by John would identify him with John’s kingdom message.
3. To identify himself with the believing remnant being prepared by John.
Within the larger Israel there was always a smaller Israel, which the prophets called the remnant of Israel. These were the Jews who actually believed what God had revealed through Moses and the Prophets.
4. To be made publicly known to Israel.
I’ll come back to that in a moment. These first four come from the context of the baptism.
5. To be identified with sinners.
2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”.
6. To receive His anointing by the Holy Spirit.
Acts 10:38: “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him”.

The triune God at Jesus’ baptism

In the context of the baptism the whole triune God makes His appearance.
1. The Son
The Son is the person of the Messiah Jesus who is in the water undergoing the immersion.
2. The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit comes in visible form in the form of a dove. Notice what the second half of verse 16 says: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him. And to make sure we do not think it is a ghostly form that had the mere appearance of a dove, Luke is a bit more specific. Luke says in verse 22: The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove. Now the question is: why did the Spirit take on the form of a bird, and why the specific bird of a dove? There is a Jewish background here.

The Holy Spirit is like a dove according to Midrashim teaching

The first time the Spirit is mentioned is in Genesis 1:2, where it says: “The Spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters”. And the Hebrew word used is merechefet. The Hebrew word, merechefet, is used of a mother bird hovering over her eggs just before they hatch. Moses presents the Spirit hovering over the waters just before the “hatching” of the dry land. And so, as far as the Genesis account is concerned the Spirit is pictured as doing the work of a bird. But in the Midrashim, a collection of rabbinic writings, it was the rabbis who defined what kind of bird it was. It was a dove. So in the Jewish mindset of that day the Spirit would be connected with a dove. And so for that reason He comes in bodily form as a dove and descends upon the Son.
3. The Father
Now while the Son and the Spirit are visible in some form, God the Father is only present by His voice. In Matthew verse 17: and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” This is the way the Father chose to make himself known, identifying his son with the messianic son of Psalm 2.

Jesus’ age

Luke points out that he was about 30 years of age. And people often skip the word “about”. He was not exactly 30. He was about 30. He was closer to 32 or 33 already.


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