Summary: Matthew 3:13-17 The Baptism of the One who didn't need it
The Baptism of Jesus
Baptism. Today we are going to talk about baptism. Actually, we started talking about baptism last week when we looked at Matt 3:1-12. Yes I know I talked about repentance last week and showing fruit of that repentance. But remember it was in the context of baptism. It was in the context of what John the Baptist was saying about repentance and showing the fruit of repentance in our lives. And so today’s sermon is really a continuation of what we talked about last week as we look at the rest of Matthew 3. So Matthew 3 is about John the Baptist, and the reason John the Baptist is called John the Bapist is not because he went to a baptist church, but because he did a lot of baptising. And in chapter 3, we see him baptising. Last week we looked at him baptising the crowds who came to him. We saw in Matt 3.6 that as people were being baptised, that they were confessing their sins. We also saw that John wouldn’t baptise just anyone. Some Pharisees and Sadducees – religious people – came to John, and John wouldnt baptise them. And indeed it seems the Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t want to be baptised anyway because they didn’t think they needed it - they thought they were already okay with God. And John wasn’t exactly welcoming of them, and in verse 7 he called them a “brood of vipers” - that is - children of snakes! Why? Because they thought they were already okay with God, because they were born into the right race, the right family. They thought they had no need to repent and they did not show fruits of repentance in their lives. They did not show in their lives that they truly lived for God.
And so last week we finished with John the Baptist’s speech, and John finishes his speech by telling of the coming of Jesus. Jesus - the one who would baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire, and who would separate everyone in the world into one of two camps. One camp – who would live with Him forever. And the other - to be cast into never-ending fire – hell. And the basis of those two destinies is not being born into a Jewish family and doing all the right rituals. In our case, the basis of our destiny, is not being born into a Christian family and then doing all the rituals such as just going to church. But the basis of each of our destinies is on our repentance and belief in Christ. True repentance followed by a changed life, a life that puts God first. And it is obvious to everyone that you put God first. God comes before TV, sport, fishing, the beach, X-box, holidays. God comes first before anything else, and it will be obvious in the way we live.
So John has just finished his speech, and now in verse 13 we have a new visitor to John’s baptisms. It is none other than Jesus! In Matthew 3.13 we read that Jesus has come from Galilee – in the north of the country, down to the Jordan River. Why? We read in verse 13 His reason: to be baptised by John. Now before we go any further. We probably should look at what baptism is, what it means, and what it meant on that day that Jesus came to John to be baptised.
What does “baptism” mean? Go outside this church, to the secular world and ask people what baptism means… Well I’d be interested to hear what people who don’t go to church might think it meant. Some might think it the christening of infants. Some might think it refers to some trial, as in “so and so underwent a baptism of fire,” which you here on tele, for example, when a young sportsman plays his first match in an intertational or something like that. And even in the church, amongst those of us who call ourselves Christians, there’s many different ideas as to what baptism is. Some say we should baptise babies. Some say all babies should be baptised. Others say only those of believing parents. While others say we shouldn’t bapise babies, but should only baptise adults, or at any rate, people old enough to say themselves that they believe in Christ and want to be baptised. Some say baptising is by sprinkling, others say it is by immersion.
So, what does baptism mean? The reason we often don’t know what baptism means, is that baptism is not an English word. It’s not an English word. It’s a Greek word, put into English letters. Let me explain. Our Bibles are in English: that’s what most of us use here. But the Bible wasn’t originally written in English. Originally the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. And the New Testament (and Matthew is part of the New Testament) was written in Greek. And what we have with our Bibles is a translation of the original Greek. So for example, the first word in Matthew 3.13 in the Greek original is τοτε. Now when I want to put that word into English, I have two options. I can translate it, or I can transliterate it. Translate means to give the meaning of the word in English. Transliterate means to just change the letter to English letters. Greek has a different alphabet to us, so transliterate means to just use English letters but to leave the word the same. So if we only transliterate τοτε, it becomes “tote”. Does that help you understand it at all? No, you need it to be translated. “tote” is meaningless in English. Now τοτε. means “then.” So in our English Bibles it says “then” not “tote”. The second word in verse 13 is παραγινεται. Now if I only transliterate παραγινεται, it comes out as paraginetai - that is – same word, just using English letters instead of Greek ones. Sure, now you can read it because you know the English letters but you don’t know Greek letters. You can say, “paraginetai”. But it’s not very useful to be able to read something, that is, pronounce something, if you still don’t know what it means. To know what it means, you need it to be translated, not just transliterated. Translated, παραγινεται means, “he is coming.” That is, “Then Jesus is coming” – and we find out as we read further that He is coming from Galilee.