A wealthy businessman’s spoiled, over-indulged only son came home from college to begin working in his father’s large manufacturing company. The employees wondered if the father would create an executive position for his son who was sure to one day own the company. They were all amazed when, on the son’s first day at work, he came in the uniform of the clean-up crew.
The father took the son to the foreman of the cleanup crew and told him, “I want you to give my son the dirtiest, hardest jobs you have. When he runs the company, I want him to know from experience about every department, starting with yours.”
The foreman and his crew were impressed.
“I want him to sweat. I want him to come home exhausted,” said the father firmly. “I want him to know exactly what the cleanup crew does, and what it experiences. So see to it that this happens for the three days he is on your crew.”
So much for identifying with the laboring clean-up crew!
Jesus came to earth to identify with the plight of sinful people, as well as to save them from their sins. He was no three-day wonder at this – He came to immerse Himself in identifying with the sinful so later, He could be their completely sympathetic and victorious Savior.
As we consider Jesus’ baptism, we can see three principles that help us understand this business of identifying.
I. As Jesus’ baptism is an act of obedience, so is ours to be.
It was God’s plan for Jesus to start his Messianic ministry by being baptized. Jesus knows that it is time for him to initiate his earthly ministry in this way and he obediently leaves the familiarity of home to travels south where John is baptizing. He enters physical, emotional and spiritual unknown territory.
Jesus asks John to be baptized. John is shocked. Why would Jesus be baptized for the forgiveness of sin? We can only speculate about what John knows of Jesus, but he certainly knows enough to know that Jesus does not need the forgiveness of sin, and therefore needs no sign of repentance. But Jesus insists.
The great New Testament commentator R.C.H. Lenski says, “ He, the sinless one, the very Son of God, chooses to put himself alongside all of the sinful ones for whom John’s baptism was ordained.” (Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel)
An incredible act of humility! The King becomes the obedient servant to identify with His people. He who knows no sin obediently takes on the sinful plight of all people.
What a role reversal our obedience in baptism becomes! Our humility in acknowledging our need for Christ’s redemption, and following Him in baptism, leads us not to identify with one far below us, but One far greater than we!
It is by Christ’s obedience that our obedience becomes a note of eternal victory.
II. As Jesus’ baptism is the beginning of a new life for Him, so is ours to be.
Until now, Jesus’ life has been one of preparation. God worked in wonderful ways to prepare Him for his messianic ministry. We can only yearn to know how God brought this about in Jesus’ life, but there is no doubt of its success.
While Jesus’ early life is basically unknown, apparently, to those who wrote His inspired biographies, He now steps forward at this appointed time to begin His public ministry.
Initiating a new kind of obedient life with baptism was a rather common practice among the Jews at this time. John calls upon his listeners to be baptized as an initiation into a new, ongoing life of repentance and obedience.
When we become followers of Jesus, the Bible says clearly that the initiation into this wonderful life is baptism. It is not an option. It is a command. We identify with Jesus Christ by the symbolism of baptism. In His Great Commission, Jesus commands His disciples to make baptism part of their work.
III. As Jesus’ baptism pleased The Father, so does ours.
What a wonderful act of affirmation that upon the completion of Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit of God descends upon Him like a dove, and a voice from heaven says, “Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased.” Obedience pleases the father. Jesus obediently accepts God’s purpose for His life, and pledges Himself to its fulfillment.
Our baptism pleases the Father. For the faithful disciple, there can be no greater source of joy.
Sermon brief provided by: Lynn Clayton, Pastor of New Life Baptist Church, DeRidder, Louisiana