Exploring Matthew - Baptism?
Now in those days John the Baptist was, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!’” Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. Matthew 3:1-6
Baptism? You won't find it in the Old Testament, at least not in an obvious way. You won't find any confirmable or credible examples of baptism in the four centuries between the end of the Old Testament texts and the time of John. Baptism seems to be something John began himself, which is what landed him the name/title: John the Baptist. The question is why?
How deep do you want to go?
Here are the most significant examples of water playing a part in healing and/transformation and/or deliverance in the Old Testament that I could think of:
1. The flood
2. Moses in the "ark" on the Nile as a baby
3. Crossing the Red Sea
4. The laver in the temple courtyard
5. Crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land
6. Naaman dipping seven times in the Jordan
7. Jonah being tossed into the sea
There are probably more.
Water is life. Water is cleansing. Water can be deadly.
In baptism, water is all three.
John saw that even though his ancestors entered the Promised Land, they missed the Story. They were positioned to receive the Promised One, but they were unprepared for His arrival. John went back in time as much as possible. His dress, diet, and lifestyle mimicked that of their ancestors. He lived by the river they crossed when they moved from the decades of wandering into the land of promise. He did all that because he accurately believed that his people needed a restart. They needed to go into the water their ancestors crossed and come back out again. They needed to die to the false narrative that had been created since that historic crossing their ancestors made. They needed to be cleansed of the wrong. They needed new life and a fresh start that lined up with the Story Abraham learned and the Story their long-awaited Messiah was coming to live out in front of them.
Death, cleansing, new life. These are the symbolic stories that baptism tells.
Baptism is common in Christianity today but is it possible we need to die to the story we inherited from our ancestors, be cleansed from the mess of error and confusion, and find new life in the authentic Jesus found in God's Word?
See you tomorrow...