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Why Was Jesus Baptized? Redux (Part 2)
© 01.23.21 By D. Eric Williams

This article appeared in the January 28 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle

In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens split open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love. I am pleased with you!" (or, "you bring me great joy") (Mark 1:9-11).

(Continued from last week) The tearing of heaven and the temple curtain also reminds us of the process God used during the six days a creation. When you read the Genesis account, you will note God brought matter into being at the beginning of the week and then spent the rest of the time tearing it apart, separating it moving it around, gathering it together and improving upon it. Hence, an act of violence upon matter (we might say) is often creational. That is what is happening here. As the third century church Father, Hippolytus, said, "so it happened not only that the Lord was baptized, he was also making new the old creation. He was bringing the alienated under the scepter of adoption. For straightaway, 'the heavens are open to him.' A reconciliation took place between the visible and the invisible." Indeed, the Holy Spirit's appearance as a dove is also pointing to a new creation; for it was a dove that verified the "new creation" of the world after the flood.

In addition, the heavenly Father publicly acknowledged Jesus as his Eternal Son at his baptism. This has great significance for us as the children of God. The words of the Father expressed the love, the community and the fellowship of the Trinity; in Jesus, we participate in that fellowship. Our kinship to God is in Jesus Christ alone. We must identify with the one who is the true son of God if we hope to be reckoned as children of God.

While Jesus intrinsically delights the Father, the joy the Son gives the Father in this context considers the work Jesus had come to do. In other words, Jesus' ministry of reconciliation is part of the reason for the Father's joy. The ministry of reconciliation is creational as well. A new world comes into being in Jesus Christ and God is overjoyed that through Jesus all things are made new.

Accordingly, Jesus' baptism was not intended as an example; we are not baptized because we are following Jesus' example but because he commanded it. Nor was Jesus baptized because he was trying to identify with humanity. In fact, that is exactly backwards. Jesus' baptism marked him as the last Adam; we identify with him as members of the new race of mankind. In his baptism, Jesus proclaimed he is true humanity; true Adam, true Israel, true son of Abraham, true son of David - and coinciding with that the true son of God. Our only hope is to leave the old creation and identify with the new race of mankind in Jesus the Christ.

Jesus Christ's baptism signaled the purpose of his coming. He participated in baptism as the new covenant head of humanity. The Last Adam inaugurated the new creation on the day of his baptism. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

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