In Christianity, baptism has long symbolized our sharing in His death, burial and resurrection, but I had never thought that it was just as symbolic for Jesus. As He came to the water’s edge in front of thousands of people, He knew the icy cold muddy floodwaters symbolized the waters of our death. In becoming like us in every way so that we could become like Him in every way, He would have to be willing not only to share in our life, our flesh and blood, but also share in our sin and death.
Jesus illustrates His absolute resolve to be fully associated and identified with us as He got into the water and presented Himself to John the Baptist to be baptized. He had never sinned, yet He made no attempt to make that known to any of the onlookers.
Jesus knew going into the river risked His reputation. Everyone was getting into the water for one reason: to repent and have their sins washed away. Getting in Himself, He risked the crowd thinking that He too was a “sinner,” but Jesus was never worried about His reputation, or what everyone thought about Him. He came for one thing alone: to do the will of the One who sent Him, His Father.
He got into the icy waters of the Jordan because of His great love for you and me, as well as His great love for His Father, unashamedly throwing His reputation away.
It was precisely because Jesus had come to identify with us as sinners and take all our sin, guilt, shame and even the punishment we deserve, that He was willing to get into our waters of death. John tried to stop Him, saying Jesus should be baptizing him (John was right about that), yet Jesus says John must baptize Him to fulfill all righteousness. This was necessary so righteousness could come to all.
Jesus had a dramatic foretaste of the suffering He would go through three and a half years later as His head and body were plunged into the Jordan. I don’t imagine for a moment that John lowered Jesus gently into the River Jordan. John the Baptist has always struck me as being a real tough guy with his clothing of camel’s hair and leather belt.
I don’t know if you have ever had the experience of being plunged into an ice pool, or icy river. It is an experience I shall never forget, and I don’t wish to experience it ever again!
It was awful.
My entire body exploded with searing pain. Every nerve ending screamed to my central nervous system, “Get out now!” The strangest thing is that even though it’s freezing, it feels like fire on your skin, as though you are being burned alive
I remember our girls jumping out of our hot tub in their bathing suits and rolling around in three feet of snow when they were young and we lived in Toronto, Canada. Jessie, our eldest daughter would always be the first to jump in the snow. She would roll for a few seconds and then jump back into the tub screaming that she was on fire. Then her two sisters, Abby and Nathania, would pluck up the courage to follow suit. Once or twice I also tried it. I was shocked to find that sure enough, it felt like my entire body was burning on fire, even though it was bitterly cold.
One of the most notable memories for me of being plunged into an ice pool was that it literally felt like nails or sharp thorns were being driven into my scalp all over my head. Jesus would have felt a taste of the crown of thorns in that very moment as He was plunged into the Jordan.
As John the Baptist plunged Jesus under the water, searing pain would have burned along Jesus’ body as His skin crawled with the fiery sensation of ice-cold water covering Him. It was His first foretaste of death, burial and resurrection.
Jesus the guiltless, immersed in our sin and therefore our death, so we could be forever immersed in His righteousness and His life, one with burning Love Himself.
He was so secure as the Eternal Righteousness of God Himself that he didn’t hesitate for a moment to get into the muddy waters of our sinful humanity. He knew His righteousness was so much more powerful than our sin.
We have taught the Body of Christ about sharing in Christ’s death, but we don’t often preach much on sharing in Christ’s burial. Burial is so significant; it is the moment when we finally realize they are gone from this life into the next. When Kate’s mother, Ann, died, it wasn’t until her ashes were interred in the ground that we all realized she had truly gone. Until that moment there was always the hope of her resurrection, but once she was in the ground that was it. We knew it was over in this life. Of course, Ann is now more alive than she ever was on Earth
We need to understand that not only have we died with Christ, we have been buried with Him. This means we are really, really dead! We no longer live. In the tomb, nothing of this world matters any longer, there is only one thing that really matters: “I must live again!”
What car you drive in this world, or what house or subdivision you live in is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how much money you made, or what college your kids went to. Nothing matters except one thing, “I must live again!”
Jesus experienced this burial after the Cross. He died and was buried in the tomb. He had to trust that His Father, by the power of His Spirit, would raise Him from the dead on the third day, just like He had promised. He had to trust His Father knew none of that sin was His own.
At His baptism, as He was thrust under the water, knocked off His feet and left at the total mercy of John to raise Him up, Jesus had a foretaste of His burial.
I have often wondered what went through Jesus’ mind in that moment under the Jordan River. The battle of faith would have been enormous, perhaps with the question rampaging through His mind: Now that He was one with us, in our sin and death, would the Father be able to raise Him from the dead?
As Jesus is lifted up out of the watery grave, something so amazing and powerful happens. The Heavens are ripped open and the Spirit descends upon Him like a dove and remains upon Him. The voice speaks from the Heavens saying, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
In that perfect moment, when the Son of God comes out of the watery grave, figuratively “covered” in humanity, the Father speaks in the most dramatic way. He honors the Son and assures Him that He will raise Him from the dead. He does this not just by His words, but with a dramatic affirmation through the descent of the Spirit upon Him.
The very same Spirit of God that would fill His dead body on the Third Day three and a half years later, raising Him forever from the dead, descended upon the Son as He came up out of the water. Jesus knew that He knew, in that day, when He was one with humanity, the Father would still raise Him from the dead.
The extraordinary thing about this watery grave is that the Father opened the Heavens, the Spirit descended like a dove upon Jesus and the voice spoke when Jesus came up out of the water, not when He first got in. This moment was not just for Jesus’ sake, but for ours. The Father’s voice spoke over us too.
Jesus had to go through extreme suffering so we could live under an open Heaven and have the Spirit descend and remain upon us.
He suffered so we can hear those words spoken over us for all eternity,
“You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Yes! God is so proud of you. He is well pleased and this statement belongs to you.
Be baptised in His acceptance.
And enjoy this reality in Christ today.
*Read more in Consumed By Love / How Oneness With Christ Changes Absolutely Everything by Duncan Smith.