Summary: Jesus’ baptism was a transition from the tranquil world of his father’s carpenter shop into his Father’s world of kingdom building.
My parents owned a small neighborhood grocery. Our house was located directly behind the store. As a child my world revolved around that store. People who bought their groceries there weren’t just customers, they were friends. The man who operated a road grader always stopped to drink a coke and occasionally to let me ride with him for a block. And I wanted to grow up and drive a road grader. When the county sheriff came to the store with his wife, he would let me hold his pistol. I wanted to grow up and be the county sheriff. It was the place where I learned how it felt to be tired from a full day’s hard work. But more than anything it was the place where I could always find my parents. They were always there. Most of their parenting insights were offered while sacking up groceries or cutting up a side of beef. It was the place I headed after school every day for 12 years.
I do not remember the last time I went into Ross Food Store. I do remember the mixed emotions when dad told me he had sold the business. I was happy my folks could get some much-needed rest but I grieved that "my store" was to be gone forever. Never again could I walk in the back door, grab a comic book, a coke and a fried pie, climb up on top of the milk case and enjoy my leisure until my dad would order me to get down and begin stocking shelves. If I had known when would be the last time I would stand in the old store, I would have stayed longer, reminisced deeper. But eventually, I would have wiped the tears and left. It’s one of life’s passages through which we all must go on our journey toward our destiny.
When ministry is heavy I long to go back there again. Back to the security of a world where typical problems were a carton of soured milk or a bunch of over-ripe bananas. Back to a world where the problems weren’t related to people’s eternal destiny.
I believe Jesus went through similar passages in his life. Visualize him as he, knowing it is time to begin working full time for his Heavenly Father, stands in his stepfather’s woodworking shop for the last time. Can you see him sweeping up the wood shavings on the floor for the last time? Can you see him standing the broom by the doorway and looking back? Can you smell the cedar and sawdust?
What memories must have flooded his mind? Memories of Joseph wrapping his huge hands around the tiny hands of a small boy, anxious to learn how to use a saw, pound a hammer, plane a piece of wood. Memories of conversations with Joseph as they shared their sack lunches. Memories of laughter and good times. Memories of a father saying, "Good job on that table top, Jesus."
Now it’s time for a passage. Time to begin a 42-month journey that will end in death on a cross. I wonder if the hammer and large nails caught his eye? Max Lucado asks, "I wonder if he rolled a nail between his thumb and fingers, anticipating the pain."
So many memories. Such a tranquil life. A world where typical problems were getting a board squared up or keeping a saw sharpened. A world where problems weren’t so eternal in their consequences. A world where at the end of the day you had closure - a completed cabinet, a repaired door. A world where you can go to bed at night feeling successful because "It is finished."
But now his hour has come. It’s time to enter a world where problems are eternally serious. A world where there is little closure. A world where people will be gradually changed by walking in his footsteps.
Jesus’ first journey out of the carpenter’s shop will be a 15-mile journey to the rim of the Jordan Valley. There standing waist deep in the water is a man who, if he bent over to drink, would look like a small camel. He is an intense man, busy with preaching and baptizing. He is busy preparing the road for the king by admonishing men to repent of their self-centeredness and their religious misdirection that has led them to believe they can be saved by law keeping.
When this bold, uncompromising preacher, John the Baptist, sees Jesus, he acquiesces, suggesting Jesus baptize him. But Jesus has come to model what God wants from men. And the beginning point of a man’s healthy relationship with God is in humbly submitting to God’s command that he be baptized. For everyone except Jesus, baptism is only effective if one has repented. Jesus had nothing to repent of, but he still modeled something for us by being baptized. Baptism for Jesus was the beginning of his humiliation for our sakes. A sinless king is baptized. A sinless king will bear our sins on the cross. Isaiah said he would be numbered with the transgressors. His baptism says he is a king who totally identifies with his people. It was the beginning of Jesus’ bearing our iniquities. It would all consummate in what he called the "baptism I have to undergo", the complete immersion into the penalty for sin, death on the cross. God affirms the sacrificial nature of Jesus’ life when he has the classic poor man’s sacrifice, a dove, light on Jesus immediately following his baptism.