Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17
Where’s Wally is a series of children’s books where the readers are challenged to identify a character named Wally hidden in a group of people. But what exactly does Wally have to do with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist? Like the children’s book series, this teaching based on Matthew 3:13-17 is all about identification.
The Forerunner Identifies the Messiah
John the Baptist knew he was the forerunner. He knew that the One mightier than he would come after, but he did not know Him (John 1:27,31). Yet, he somehow ‘knew’ Jesus was the One and he identified Jesus and testified that Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:29-30, 34). By submitting to John’s baptism, Jesus affirmed John’s ministry (John 21:23-27). It also marked the transition of John’s ministry to Jesus’ ministry (John 3:30).
The Messiah Identifies with His Mission
The baptism of Jesus by John is about the Messiah identifying Himself with His Mission, that He is the high priest, the sin offering and the scapegoat.
In coming to John to be baptised, Jesus is fulfilling the Old Testament requirement for consecration and dedication of priests (1 Chronicles 23, Exodus 29:4,7, Leviticus 8:6,10). Jesus as the High priest of the order of Melchizedek marks the end of the Aaronic priesthood (Psalms 110.4). He is also accepting another part of His mission: to be the sin offering for all sinners and the scapegoat for the atonement of sins (Leviticus 16:5-10).
The Messiah Identifies with Sinners
Jesus is sinless and has nothing to repent of. He became one of us so that He could become a substitute for us, dying in place of sinners. He is identifying with everyone who sins and is willing to stand in place for them (Hebrews 4:15, 1 John 3:5). Jesus’ water baptism foreshadowed His baptism of suffering for us on the cross (Luke 12:50). He fulfilled all righteousness through His sacrificial death on Calvary (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The Father Identifies His Son
When Jesus came up from the water after he had been baptised, God, the Father, identified Him as ‘My beloved Son’. The Father spoke to His Son from heaven on three occasions: When Jesus entered His ministry (Matthew 3:17), on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5) and in Jerusalem as Jesus approached the cross (John 12:28). The fullness of the God (Trinity) is at Jesus’ baptism just before the start of His ministry. Likewise, together with Christ we are in the Father, secure in this identity of sonship as we go about on our kingdom assignment.
Believers’ Baptism: Sinners are identified with the Christ
In the believers’ baptism, we are identified with Christ. We are crucified with Christ, dead to sin and raised with Christ Jesus, alive to God (Romans 6:1-14). We are no longer slaves to sin but to righteousness and we live a life of obedience and fruitfulness (Romans 6:15-23). We now serve with the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter (Romans 7:6). We are commissioned and dedicated under a new royal priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. We have kingly roles and priestly assignments as we represent the kingdom of God (1 Peter 2:9-10).
To follow Christ is to be like Wally from the children’s books. The ‘Wallies’ of God are His people in society. They are part of society yet different, set apart and called out. They are Spirit-filled and Spirit-led and affirmed of the Father. Once identified, their assignments begin to take on increasing influence because Jesus is increasingly revealed in and through what they do or say.
Where’s Wally? Where’s Archippus? Who or what defines you? Do you know your identity in Christ? Is Jesus increasingly revealed in you?
Are you secure in your relationship with your Heavenly Father? Do you identify yourself as a child of God?
Do others have trouble identifying you as a follower of Christ? Can the leading and work of the Spirit be identified in your life? Do you identify with your kingly and priestly assignment?
Do you identify yourself as an Archippus? Almost anonymous but known by name. Aware but not apathetic. Assignment not activity. Anything but aimless.
Archippus, Would You Be God’s Wally? (Ezekiel 22:29-30)