By Rev. Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr.
Eagle Rock Lutheran Church, Los Angeles, Ca
January 12, 2014
Did you remember your day of baptism? Did you experience faith before your baptism? Or were your parents or godparents believed in Christ, and your baptism was a result of their faith? Or your baptism was just part of the tradition?
The Greek word used in vv.14, 16 is baptizo meaning “to dip or to plunge.” Two of its common uses were to describe the drowning of a person and the sinking of a ship (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels).
BACKGROUND OF BAPTISM
(1) Pagan Washings. The use of water either by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling was common in Greco-Roman Paganism. They used water as ceremonial cleansing before they entered a sacred precinct.
(2) Jewish practices. The law required bathing in water to remove various impurities (Lev.11:24, 32; 14:6-16; 15:5-27; Num 19:17-20).
“and are unclean. Anyone who touches their carcasses becomes unclean until evening.” (Lev 11:24).
“Furthermore, anything on which they fall upon when they’re dead becomes unclean, whether on an article of wood, clothing, skin, or a sack. And any vessel used for any work is to be washed in water, because it has become unclean until evening.” (Lev 11:32).
Baptism was also practiced when a non Jew or gentile joined Judaism. “The Jews were accustomed to say of a heathen proselyte, on his public admission into the Jewish faith BY BAPTISM, that he was a new-born child” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown).
(3) The Practice of John the Baptist. Unlike the Jewish washings which were self-immersions, John administered baptism to others. John’s baptism is baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). The baptism of John was phased out when the disciples practice baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. Actually in the early stage of Christianity, those who were baptized by John must be re-baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 19:2-5).
THE BAPTISM OF JESUS
When John the Baptist was baptizing his followers in the Jordan river, Jesus came to the river, and asked John that He wanted to be baptized. Since John’s baptism is baptism of repentance he told to Jesus that “I need to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?” (Mt. 3:14). However, Jesus replied the following:
“Let it be this way for now, because this is the proper way for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15).
(1) Jesus showed his humility in baptism. Jesus didn’t need to be baptized but He opted to be baptized by His follower, John the Baptist. This shows great humility in the person of Jesus. As Christians we need to be humble, and show to the world that we are followers of Jesus Christ. We can show humility in our daily lives, outside or inside our sanctuary, in our workplaces, in our schools, everywhere.
(2) Jesus showed a paradigm for His followers. He didn’t need to be baptized but he underwent the baptism of John to show His followers then and now that we need to be baptized. Baptism must be done to show our faith and obedience to Jesus. Christian baptism doesn’t cleanse your sins, but it shows publicly that your sins are already forgiven! Baptism is an outside sign of an inward nature. “It is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized; but it is a sign of regeneration or new birth”(UMC Book of Discipline).
Martin Luther explains further our baptism based on Romans 6:3-4:
“It signifies that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned through daily sorrow for sin and repentance, and that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever” (The Lutheran Handbook).
THE APPROVAL OF GOD
In our passage, God’s approval of Jesus’ baptism was shown when the Spirit of God descended to Jesus and the Father spoke: “This is my Son, whom I love. I am pleased with him!” (Mt. 3:17). This is also the affirmation that the Messiah is the Son of God and consequently part of the Holy Trinity.
The baptism of Jesus was also the beginning of his being the High Priest (Heb. 4:14), like the “baptism” of Aaron and his sons.
We are told that, by God’s instruction, “Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them with water” (Lev. 8:6). And afterwards, during that ceremony Moses “poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him” (Leviticus 8:12).
This act “ordained” Aaron’s ministry as High Priest. When Aaron and his sons were washed with water, and anointed with oil, they began their priesthood. They were empowered to make sacrifices, and to manage holy things as God’s representatives.
At that point (their “baptism”) God put His mark of approval on the ministry of Aaron and his sons.
I believe all of us here today experienced baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Thus, we are new creatures of God. Our baptism reveals our faith in Jesus Christ. In Mark 16:16, Jesus says “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
The following story is lifted from Sermoncentral.com:
Jeffrey Dahmer was a convicted murderer and cannibal who cooked and ate his victims. You don’t really get much more heinous than that. He was awarded 16 life sentences. While in prison, Dahmer met with Roy Ratcliff, a minister with the Church of Christ in Madison, Wisconsin, and turned his life over to Jesus Christ.
He was baptized in prison, knowing that he would never leave prison alive. He had nothing to gain in this life, but everything to gain in the next.
We may scoff at jailhouse conversions, but within months of Dahmer’s baptism, people noticed a Christian spirit in him. His father and pen pals noticed the difference, and his father, who had left the church, has since been restored as a faithful member. Dahmer’s younger brother also had a conversion experience of his own.
Dahmer was killed in prison by a fellow inmate a few months after his baptism. At his memorial service, along with his own family and several Christians, two sisters of one of his victims attended, having grown close to Dahmer’s family after their brother’s death.
That may have been Dahmer’s last chance for repentance, and he took it.