Summary: This message was preached after "Diving into Baptism" and takes a deeper look at what Baptism means.
Deeper into Baptism
Last week we dove in to the discussion of baptism by looking at the Baptism of Jesus, and from that story we discovered that Jesus’ Baptism was Intentional, that it wasn’t without opposition, that it was a baptism of obedience, that it happened in the water and that Jesus’ Baptism testified to the trinity.
But the story of Jesus’ baptism isn’t the only account in the New Testament of water baptism, so this week we are going a little deeper into the topic, so to speak.
Sometimes we get the impression that baptism was invented by John the Baptist. And that isn’t the case at all. By that time in Jewish history baptism was a part of the process when a gentile, that is a person who wasn’t Jewish wanted to convert to Judaism. It wasn’t a biblical commandment instead it was something instituted under the laws of the Rabbis.
What we do have in the Old Testament are regulations in Leviticus and Exodus, for various times that ceremonial washing was to take place. Before the priest could go into the temple, if you touched a dead body, after child birth and after numerous other events.
This eventually evolved into full immersion. And from that concept came all kinds of rules and regulations on the where the when and the how. It was from these extra biblical rules that the Mikveh came to be in the Jewish religion, which was very much like what we think of as a baptistery. Here is a picture of an ancient Mikveh and here is a modern Mikveh.
And there was even a prescribed blessing that was said before someone immersed themselves in the water of the Mikveh, Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us regarding the immersion. The exception to when the blessing was said was in the case of someone who was converting to Judaism. Because they weren’t under the commandments of God until after they had immersed themselves signifying their new life. So instead of saying the blessing right before they were immersed they would say it as soon as they surfaced.
And then you get scriptures like we find in Ezekiel 36:25-27 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”
Water to the Jew signified birth, and so when they were immersed in the Mikveh and came out it was as if they were as clean as a newborn. But it was a never ending process, they just kept adding to the list of when you needed to enter the Mikveh. For the priests it was necessary before they entered the temple, for those who had a skin infection it was necessary before they were declared clean, for anyone who came in contact with a dead body it was required. Women needed to go to the Mikveh after they give birth, and every month from puberty until menopause.
And that is just kind of background bringing us to the baptism that John was offering, which was very different from the baptism that most of those who heard him were familiar with.
And so while Christian Baptism may have had shared some similarities with the ceremonial cleansing of the Old Testament it changed direction with John and then again with Jesus and the movement that he established.
So let’s dive right in and see what we can discover. Let’s start with The Why
The question that people will often ask when I first talk about baptism is “Why?” And last week we talked a little bit about the example that was set by Jesus when he asked John on the shore of the Jordan river to be baptized. And so to a certain degree we can tell people that we need to be baptized because of the example set by Jesus. But it has to go deeper than that.
We aren’t just baptized because Jesus modeled it, we are baptized because Jesus commanded it. Mark 16:15-16 And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.” And so Jesus himself commanded folks, to not just believe but to believe and to be baptized. The baptism shows the belief in action. It’s like Jesus is saying, “Ok, you’ve said you are going to follow me, let’s try this out. . . follow me into the water.”