The Messiah is Immersed with Israel

God sent John the Baptizer to prepare Israel to receive their Messiah. John called Israel to repent and invited them into the water of repentance. They came to the water confessing their sins, penitent, and submitting to a baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  

Jesus, Israel’s Messiah, was also baptized by John.

This is rather startling. Jesus submitted to a ritual designed for sinners. But, perhaps, it is not so startling. Jesus ultimately died a death designed for sinners. Jesus was numbered with the transgressors, both in his death and baptism. Through baptism, Jesus joined sinners in the water just as he would later share a cross with them.

More specifically, Jesus identified with Israel. He submitted to God’s command as part of faithful Israel. Jesus joined other obedient believers in submitting to God’s command as preparation for the coming kingdom. In fact, in his baptism, Jesus actually represented Israel, just as he did on the cross.

But there is more.

Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit. God tore open the heavens and the Spirit descended upon Jesus as a dove. In this way, God came to Israel once again. God poured the Spirit upon Jesus, and this was the beginning of God’s kingdom presence in the world. When Jesus received the Spirit, this anticipated the future moment when God would pour the Spirit on all flesh at Pentecost. The Spirit empowered the Messiah for his ministry. Just as Israel crossed the Red Sea and enjoyed the descent of God into the tabernacle, so Jesus came up out of the water and God descended upon him and anointed him as Israel’s Messiah.

But there is more.

God affirmed Jesus at his baptism. God said, “You are my Son, whom I love, and I am delighted with you.” Coming up out of the water, the Father loves on the Son, pours the Spirit on him, and speaks over him. And God uses this same language to describe Israel in the Psalms and in Isaiah. The Messiah is Israel’s faithful remnant and the representative of Israel. The baptism of Jesus is a new beginning for Israel. It is a new crossing of the Red Sea. And just as this language belongs to Israel, so it also belongs to those who believe in Jesus. 

We enter this same story through our baptism.

Just as Jesus is immersed in water, the Spirit is poured on him, and the Father affirms Jesus, that is our baptism, too! When we are baptized, the Father pours the Spirit on us and we, too, are anointed. When we are baptized, God says over us, “This is my child.”  When we are baptized, God delights in us and rejoices over us. In our baptism, just as in Jesus’s baptism, the Trinity is at work: the Father loves us in the Son and anoints us with the Spirit.

The baptism of Jesus is our model. Jesus invites us to follow him, and if we would be disciples of Jesus, we will follow him into the water and experience God’s gracious delight and gifts. It is an act of obedient discipleship, but it is also a moment when God acts–God delights in us, God declares us the children of God, God anoints with the Spirit, and God forgives our sins.

One Response to “The Messiah is Immersed with Israel”

  1.   Dwight Says:

    John was baptizing for repentance to God, but just imagine God in the flesh coming to you and asking to be baptized. And yet this was Jesus going through the cleansing ritual and literally placing himself before God, which is what I think baptism does for us as well. It places us within God’s context in faith and obedience. Once there God can forgive us of our sins. We have returned.

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