The Baptism of Jesus


H. A. Ironside

The Baptism of Jesus

was not, however, as an example for us, though His word, "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness" (Matt.3:15), certainly should remind us of that obedience which becometh all who profess to know the Father, whom He has revealed. But this, as we have observed, was a "baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Lk.3:3), although He was "the Holy One of God," as demons even confessed (Mk.1:24) and Gabriel also testified (Lk.1:35).

What wonder, then, that John should "forbid Him" (Matt.3:14), knowing Him to be the Son of God (John 1:29-34); though strangely troubled on a later occasion (Matt.11:2) when the looked-for power did not seem to be manifested? All, however, was in perfect
keeping with the time, as "Suffer it to be so now" (Matt.3:15) suggests. He who, as a babe, had been circumcised on the eighth day according to the law, would now, in subjection to the Word given forth by John, put Himself in company with the repentant part of the nation. As the Shepherd of the sheep, He enters the fold* by the door of submission to the rites of the law and the divine testimony of the time. To Him John, as the porter, opened and He entered in, but only to lead out His own sheep, whom He called by name. This could not be, though, until as the Good Shepherd (John 10) He laid down His life for the sheep. Other sheep there were not of the Jewish fold, therefore Gentiles. These He would bring, and He says " There shall be one flock (not fold,** all His sheep are outside of that now) and one Shepherd" (v.16). John's ministry was distinctly separative. The moral condition of the people at his appearing in the wilderness is graphically portrayed in the book of Malachi; notice there God's nine-fold controversy with them (Mal.1:2,6,7,12; 2:13-16,17; 3:7,8,13-15). Yet we see a remnant distinguished from the mass in chapter 3:16-18. Such a company we notice in the early chapters of Luke; Simeon, Anna, no doubt Mary herself, Zacharias and Elizabeth, and all who "looked for redemption in Jerusalem."

(* Judaism as owned of God, and only of the baptized portion of it could that be said; the nation was Lo-Ammi (Hos.1:9), i.e., "Not My people.")

(** It is well known that the word translated "fold" in the latter part of verse 16 is quite distinct from the word in the former part. The one should be "flock," the other "fold.")

Those baptized by John take outwardly this remnant place. By His own baptism the Lord identifies Himself with them, and likewise sets His seal upon the ministry of His forerunner. The repentant part of the nation owned by their baptism that they deserved to die as violators of the divine law. The Lord Jesus took His place with them in baptism as the pledge that He was ready to go down into death for them. As another has beautifully illustrated it, they were like men who had given a note for a debt they could never pay; He in His baptism endorsed their note and offered Himself to pay the uttermost farthing. Sinless, He needed not to repent, but He was to "fulfil all righteousness " by bearing the curse of the law for those who did. Thus it was His joy to take His place with those who sought not to hide, but confessed their guilt and its desert. Of old His Spirit in the psalmist had declared: "O my soul, thou hast said unto Jehovah, Thou art my Lord; my goodness extendeth not to Thee; but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent in whom is all my delight" (Ps.16:2,3). Was not His baptism but the reiteration of this? The "excellent of the earth" were, in His eyes, not the proud, self-righteous Pharisees, but the humbled followers of the Immerser-- common people and publicans; perhaps the majority of them, were; but they justifiedGod and condemned themselves, and waited expectantly for the coming kingdom.

The looked-for King, anointed as such by the descending Spirit (Matt.3:16,17; John 1:32-34), associates Himself with this separated company -- though His baptism in the Jordan is but a shadow of a far more solemn immersion (Lk.12:50) which He must yet undergo, for He is to confess as His own the sins, not only of this remnant company, but of all who will be saved through His mighty sacrifice. His baptism is the pledge of this, as also the intimation that the way to His glory is by the cross. Prophets of old had testified how that Christ must "suffer these things, and to enter into His glory" (Lk.24:26), and Peter tells us they spake of "the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow" (1 Pet.1:11).

It is plain, then, that it is not merely as an example for us that Jesus was baptized. His baptism was altogether of a different nature from that which He instituted after His resurrection, and for quite a different purpose. One has well said: "He was baptized to identify Himself with a rejected remnant. We, by baptism, are identified with a rejected Christ." The testimony of John was but preparatory. After the birth of Christianity we find that persons baptized unto his baptism were re-immersed when the full truth of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus was declared (Acts 19:1-5). We have no record, however, of the re-baptism of those who had submitted to John's ordinance prior to the cross. Their association with Christ had already identified them with Him, and the twelve and others, unbaptized themselves save " unto repentance," began the work of the new dispensation by baptizing three thousand on the day of Pentecost. It is, then the awful,