Summary: Jesus identified himself with sinful humanity through his baptism. We must learn to identify with our culture if we are going to represent Christ to them.
Introduction: Have you ever tried to identify with someone that you just had nothing in common with? I find that it’s sometimes hard to identify with people you do know have commonalities with, but it’s especially hard to identify with someone who is radically different.
Cultural barriers have caused more than one embarrassing mistake. And often those barriers make it difficult for us to relate. But if we are going to take the truth of Christ to our world then we must learn to identify with the culture that God has placed us in as his ambassadors to the world.
We’re continuing our series of studies called “A Compelling Portrait.” Through this series we are walking through the Bible and revealing a compelling portrait of Christ, one that we can hold up as a model for our own lives. We can look at this compelling portrait of Christ and then compare it to our lives to see where we are hitting the mark and where we are missing the mark.
A part of what makes the portrait of Christ so compelling is his ability and desire to relate with those who were so far from him and the ideal that his father had for them. His willingness to relate to and identify with sinful man is a piece of the portrait that we must understand and model if we are going to truly be Christ-like.
Jesus, more than anyone else, was able to identify with those who radically different from him. He knew the culture of heaven. He knew the glory of his father, but he chose to come to earth and identify with us. He chose to become one of us. Paul describes Christ’s identification with us beautifully in Philippians chapter 2
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT)
He gave up his divine privileges so that he could identify himself with fallen humanity. It’s this ability to identify with us that we’re going to explore today as we examine what took place with His Baptism.
Baptism is not a new concept originating with Christianity. Rather it’s and ancient and essential element in the Jewish faith as well. Immersion in water for ritual purification was established for restoration to a condition of "ritual purity" in specific circumstances. For example, Jews who (according to the Law of Moses) became ritually "defiled" by contact with a corpse had to use the mikvah before being allowed to participate in the Holy Temple. Immersion is required for converts to Judaism as part of their conversion. Through practices such as these, immersion in the mikvah represents purification and restoration, and qualification for full religious participation in the life of the community.
In ancient Jewish culture, even before Christ comes on the scene, baptism is very important. The Jews were set apart by God. They were God’s holy people. When a gentile…someone who wasn’t a Jew…wished to convert to Judaism and become one with the Jewish people he/she was baptized to signify a transition had taken place. They were no longer what they used to be, but they were a new person…they were now identified with the Jews.