Jesus tells John that his baptism is necessary to fulfill all righteousness. But what does Jesus mean by all righteousness? In the Bible, righteousness is all about setting things right—that is, fixing something that is broken. But what does Jesus’ baptism fix?
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He made trees, chickens, and human beings. But God also made seeds, eggs, and babies. Life on earth is always in motion. An egg becomes a chick, and a chick becomes a hen. Movement is natural. When God says that human beings are “good,” God does not mean that human beings are complete.
Like seeds and eggs, human beings are constantly in motion. That motion is not only physical but also spiritual. At every moment, we are either advancing toward or regressing away from God. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. They walked with God and they talked with God. But God did not live inside of them, and so they were not complete.
Why would a loving God create incomplete human beings? If human beings had been created complete, they would not have turned away from him! But a loving God does not force his presence into his creation. Because he is a good God, he waits to be invited into created beings. Human beings only become complete when they invite God to dwell within them.
Adam and Eve had the opportunity to become complete in the Garden of Eden. There was a tree in the garden called the Tree of Life. This tree was Christ. If human beings ate the fruit from this tree, God would live inside of them. But Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil instead. Because they ate from this tree, they set themselves permanently in motion away from God. The word for “moving away from God” in the Bible is ‘sin’.
We sin when we contemplate and partake of creation without simultaneously contemplating and partaking of the God who created it. Creation is not evil. When God looked over creation, he said it was good. This is why Christians teach that God’s character may be seen in the creation. But creation was designed as a place for communion with God, not as a substitute or replacement for that communion. Because human beings regard creation as a substitute or replacement for God, this is why Romans 8:22 says that all of creation is groaning. The place designed for communion with God has become a place of seclusion from God.
When our focus marginalizes or excludes God, we begin to rot. Acts 17:28 says that we live, move, and exist in God. We cannot live, move, or exist outside of God. When we move away from God, our lives lose purpose and no meaning. We begin to decay and disappear.
We are saved from nothingness by Jesus’ baptism.
Through his baptism, Jesus made it possible for human beings to invite God to dwell inside of them. How is this possible? Human beings have one nature: human nature. However, Jesus has two distinct, unmixed natures: he has a human nature and a divine nature.
Because Jesus is God, he is always in the presence of the Father and the Holy Spirit. But readers of the Bible are often confused when they read that the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus after his baptism and the Father’s voice says, “This is my beloved son in whom I am most pleased.” If Jesus is always in the presence of the Father and the Holy Spirit, how can this scene make sense?
Because Jesus is one of the three persons in the Trinity, he is never separate from the Father and the Holy Spirit. But when Jesus became a human being, he also takes on a human nature. This is important because all of human flesh can only be fixed if Jesus has a human nature that is not mixed with his divine nature.
John tells Jesus, “You do not need to be baptized,” because as God Jesus does not need to be baptized. Jesus’ nature as God is already complete.
But Jesus also has a human nature, and this human nature is just like ours except without sin. Jesus takes that human nature to the Cross, laying it down unto death as a sacrifice for our sins. This is what is revealed in his baptism, as he goes down into the waters of death and is raised up to new life, where human beings can become indwelled by the Holy Spirit. In other words, Jesus is not being baptized for himself. He is being baptized so that every human being can become fixed.
Through baptism, the Holy Spirit rests on Jesus’ human nature, which becomes our nature, too, when we are baptized into his death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit can then rest on us also. We human beings who through sin became to focus only on the visible creation have now had our focus lifted up again to the heavens. Our creation as human beings is completed through our indwelling fellowship with God the Trinity.
When we are baptized, we are imitating Christ who not only showed us the way but who is himself the way. Baptism is a change in spiritual motion: instead of moving away from God, we return to him. Through Baptism, our human nature is rescued and restored from the decay of sin. When we ascend from the waters of baptism, we do not abandon our body. We do not become spirits. Instead, God lives within us. His presence begins to change even our physical body.
Never forget the glorious victory Christ has won through your baptism. And never think of it only in terms of the past or the future. Christ lives and reigns in your body now. The Holy Spirit rests upon your body now. The Father’s voice speaks to your body now. Forevermore, God lives within your body.
And it is very good.
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