Bob's Sermon for Sunday, March 18, 2017


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“Who should baptize whom?”


Mark 1: 9-13


     (Mark 1: 9) “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. (10) Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. (11) And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’


     You probably know that each of the four gospels begins differently. Matthew starts with a genealogy tracing Jesus’ birth 42 generations from Abraham. The Salt Lake City folks would have been deeply disappointed with Mark. Mark’s Gospel lists no family descent; no lineage whatsoever.


     Instead of listing “who begot whom,” Mark opened with Isaiah’s 700 year-old prophecy: “It is written . . . : “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way-- ‘a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ 4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”


     The Messiah would have an advance man, Isaiah predicted. The Lord will send his messenger (John the Baptist) to ready things for Christ’s ministry. Both in Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek, the words messenger and angel are the same.[1]


     On the basis of context, translators decide which it should be. Most Bible versions translate “angelon” as “messenger” here referring to John. People came to hear John, They confessed their sins and John baptized them in the Jordan River. The Greek word “baptidzo” that has been anglicized as baptism, means immerse.[2] The TDNT traces the word back to the time  of Homer in 700 BC; he used a related word “bapto” to describe clothes being dipped in dye or “under” to color them.


     Centuries later Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used baptidzo in the sense of immerse and to describe the sinking of a ship and drowning; Plato used it that way, too. It was “immerse” until churchmen decided that babies were born guilty of Adam’s sin and began sprinkling newly-born infants.[3] As a result, when most people hear of baptism, they imagine a baby christening ceremony.

·         Family, godparents, and friends gather at the front of a church building near a baptismal font.

·         The minister or priest gives a charge to the parents, godparents, and the church folks.

·         Then the clergyperson pours or sprinkles a little water on the innocent baby as everyone adoringly watches.


      No New Testament baptism remotely resembled this. For a christening, you do not need a river or a large amount of water. You could probably sprinkle fifty persons with a 99 cent bottle of water. NT baptisms required sufficient water for immersion.


     Consider this Bible evidence for immersion.

              ·         “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”

The preposition Mark used was not the usual one for “in.” It is more commonly translated “into;”[4]  Jesus was baptized into the Jordan River (as you dip clothes into dye to color them).


              ·         John’s Gospel (3:22, 23) makes this comment about another place where John, the Baptist preached: After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized.”


     Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible makes this comment concerning Aenon:

“(natural) fountains . . . copious springs are still here in a broad open valley called Wady-Farah.[5] Remember, if they were simply sprinkling water on people, a small jug would suffice. Virtually every village had a nearby well that would supply ample water for pouring.


     Recall the Ethiopian treasurer in Acts 8. He had gone to worship in Jerusalem. On his return, he was riding in his chariot southwest of Jerusalem and God sent a preacher named Philip to meet the treasurer. Philip told the money guy the good news about Jesus and they likely discussed what he had to do to follow Christ.


As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?

(38) And he (the eunuch) gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

(39) When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.”


     People have pointed out to me that this was a desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza. But that road passes the Wadi of Elah (oak), which flows from west of Hebron to the Mediterranean Sea north of Ashdod. Wadis resemble Southwestern arroyos; certain times of year, they are filled with water.[6] The water they “came to” could also have been the Mediterranean Sea. 


     Did you notice the scene at Jesus’ baptism? John baptized Jesus into the Jordan River: “Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open . . .” You do not need to wade into water to sprinkle someone.


     Matthew 3 gives us the scene: “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented.’”


     Let’s talk about John, for a moment. He tended to hang out in the wilderness near the Jordan River. In average width and volume, the Jordan resembled the Little Sioux or the Floyd River. John was not a fashionable guy, who bought clothes at Men’s Warehouse or J.C. Penney. He wore camel’s hair, which means, when he needed a new suit, he probably found a dead camel and used some of its hide.


     Have you ever been close to a camel? You probably have inhaled the wonderful aroma of a goat. You could likely trade goat hide for camel, square yard for square yard. And no one would feature John’s diet on any cooking show. Vegans would be horrified. Grasshoppers were John’s primary diet, which   he blended with honeycombs from wild bees. But John was plainspoken and honest. He preached passionately to the crowds:

·         Don’t brag about your ancestors.

·         Change your lives and show you’ve changed by the way you act.

·         Hurry! God will soon judge this generation.

The folks coming to hear John preach were not all favorite sons and daughters; not respectable, genteel people.


     The tax collectors illustrate what I am saying. The Romans farmed out tax collecting to private citizens. Tax collectors were usually wealthy guys who paid the Roman government a fee or bond upfront, then collected taxes from the citizens. They often overcharged. Because they represented the Roman government and many were dishonest, most people despised them. Matthew (Levi), who wrote the first Gospel, was a tax collector.[7]


     No respectable person wanted anything to do with those rich, crooked, unpatriotic tax guys. But some of those “guys” joined the crowds that came to hear John. Soldiers came, also. In those days, no one enlisted 2-4 years. Soldiers signed for 20 years. Roman occupation troops were everywhere. Troops often shook down citizens. Imagine the revulsion most Americans would feel if Russian, Chinese, or Iranian soldiers policed this country, walked the streets, and hung around local restaurants. Most Jews then, highly resented Roman soldiers. Yet some military guys came wanting John to baptize them. They asked how they should change.


     So it’s not like a family gathering at the front of the building to baptize a baby. We are between towns at the banks of the Little Sioux River. People of all kinds congregate. The preacher has not gone to charm school and he probably does not use even cheap cologne. He bluntly insists that all people repent—change their lives, live for God, and act like they have changed.


     No New Testament account ever mentions a child at a baptism, let alone a baby.[8] Only folks who heard the word and believed. Recall the common experience the Colossians shared: “Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God.”   [9] Key words are buried, raised, and faith. Buried and raised signify immersion and faith indicates the person was old enough to believe in Christ and make a decision.


     Jesus came to the river and wanted John to immerse him. But why did Jesus need to be baptized? He had done no wrong—ever. John knew his cousin Jesus and probably wondered, too. Imagine being a minister; the best guy you have ever known asks you to baptize him. That’s what John thought, too. "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" “Jesus, you’ve got this wrong!”


     Here’s how Jesus answered John: "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Did you note that Jesus said: “It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness”?


     Most people think Jesus meant: “This is something I need to do.” But it was: what “we” need to do. The word is not singular, it is plural. Sometimes “we” means “you.” When talking to your child, you might say, “We need to take a bath,” or “let’s take a bath.” You mean the child needs a bath. At times, a wife says to her husband: “We need to take out the trash.” Is she talking about a joint project? At times “we” means you. But in our text, Jesus means: “John, this is something we both need to do. You must fulfill your mission by helping me do this.”


     What about the word “fulfill”?


     It means “to fill” as some have bucket lists. Our bucket lists are wish lists, but Jesus fulfilled everything God planned for him. “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”[10] 

    The idea of fulfill is to complete every detail of your assignment.


              ·         Jesus was baptized as an example for us.

“We do all that God want us to do.” Is that how you approach life? Do you intend to accomplish all that God sent you to do? Do you want to fulfill all righteousness in your life?


Who baptizes us is not nearly as important as what goes on in our minds when we are baptized. Are we dying to ourselves and ready to follow Christ?


     The Bible tells us what God expects us to have on our bucket lists: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness...”


     How well do you know Jesus? How closely and obediently do you follow him?


(5) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;  (6) and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; (7) and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.

(8) For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. . .”


(10) Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, (11) and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”[11]


     Most of us have unfulfilled lists.

·         Things we know we should do. We will not feel right until we do them.

·         What I need to do is not what you need to get done

·         Do we know that only Jesus blood can save us? 


     I pray that all of us are conscientiously working on our own assignments and making every effort to become Christ-like.

[1]In Greek it is ἂγγελον, pronounced  angelon , the singular noun in the accusative or objective case.

[2] Hippocrates 460-370 BC, according to Albrecht Oepke in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. I , pp. 529, 530, 

[3] Possibly 3rd or 4th Cent AD. It is my understanding that some if not all Orthodox (e.g Greek, Coptic, Russian, etc.) churches immerse babies.

From “As the church was in an evangelistic mode in the first three centuries we find clear statements of the fact of adult baptism upon conversion. There was also the concept that baptism washed away all pre-baptismal sins.”

“I include a paragraph from Schaff’s history of the church regarding baptism in the ancient church: “In reviewing the patristic doctrine of baptism which was   sanctioned by the Greek and Roman, and, with some important modifications, also by the Lutheran and Anglican churches, we should remember that during the first three centuries, and even in the age of Constantine, adult baptism was the rule, and that the actual conversion of the candidate was required as a condition before administering the sacrament (as is still the case on missionary grounds).”

From Wikipedia:"The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole 'households' received baptism, infants may also have been baptised".* from Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 2, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1.  

[4] The word is eis (είς), not en (έν)

[5] Wadi is an Arabic term for streambed, which can be dry at times, but filled with water during the rainy season. In Spanish they are called arroyos.     

[6] David fought Goliath in that valley. I suspect the armies were camped there because there was an amp1e water supply (Sam 17: 19). It was not far from Gath, Goliath’s hometown.


[7] Matthew 9:9-13

[8] Some assume that the Philippian jailer’s family included small children, but Acts 16:34 reads that he and his whole family had “come to believe in God.” NIV 

[9] Colossians 2:12 NIV Romans 6 makes the point even more strongly.

[10] Luke 24:44 NIV

[11] 2 Peter 1:3-14 NIV with a few minor corrections by Bob to avoid the inconsistent grammar many modern translations use in their attempts to be politically correct. 



Bob Blair

PO Box176

Cleghorn, IA 51014




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