In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11 ESV)
We are eager to witness another baptism in our church this Sunday. This precious ritual was instituted by our Lord Jesus and has been administered throughout church history for over 2,000 years. Many of us have been encouraged to witness our brothers and sisters get baptized.
When we think about what baptism symbolizes, we’re reminded of our own salvation. We who have come to repentance and faith are now dead to sin and alive to God. As Christ was buried, so our old selves are buried with him. As Christ was raised, we are raised to walk in the newness of life.
But these things only seem to make sense when they are applied to sinners like you and me. However, Jesus – who was not a sinner – was baptized by John in the Jordan river. If Jesus had no sin to be repented of, no corrupt nature to mortify, then what does his baptism mean?
Simply put, in baptism, Jesus identifies with us. He comes on the scene as the fulfillment of redemptive history, the Lamb of God sent into the world to bear the weight of our sins. He sets the tone. He sets the example. The One who knew no sin received baptism to manifest his condescension to sinners. His baptism is a stark reminder that the Son of God didn’t attempt to rescue the world from afar; rather, he came into the world, assumed a fully human nature, and dwelt among us. His immersion into the waters of repentance is a vivid illustration that he immersed himself with our sins and sorrows.
If Christ identifies with us, then baptism is a reminder that we identify with him. In a world of manifold confused identities, a society in which people find their identity in all sorts of trivialities, where men create new identities for themselves based on how many followers they can amass on social media or on the opinions of others, Christians are given a better way: your identity is found in Christ alone. This means that our old self died with him, our sins have been buried with him, and we have been raised to new life in him. One day, we will reign with him.
Because our new identity is in Christ, let us witness this baptism with the joy of the truth in our hearts that God’s opinion of us is all that matters. What is his opinion of those who identify with Christ?
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”