The Baptism of Pagans
In contemporary Judaic religious tradition of the day, those pagans (non-Jewish people), who wished to convert to Judaism would have had to go through a very specific ritual of Baptism. Moreover, this was the very form of baptism that John was using to baptize Jewish people—which is one of the things that made him a Prophet.
In order to understand what John was doing you need a little more background.
The Direction of Judgment
First, the place judgment was considered to be in the direction of East. For example, when Israel was carried away captive to Babylon they went in the direction of East. When Adam & Eve sinned against God and were cast out of the Garden, it was in the direction of East. Going east into captivity is not considered a good thing, while coming Westward and entering into the Land of Promise is considered a verygood thing!
The Baptism that John practiced was and is still known as the Baptism of Repentance. However, most Christians think of it as the repentance from sin, but it is more than that—It is repentance from Pagan anti-God practices! Here is how this form of baptism worked:
1. If a non-Jewish person wanted to follow God, they had to prove their repentance from their pagan ways by going to the East side River Jordan. They would stand on the East side of the river, which represented the Pagan Side of the River, the side without God.
2. When they were ready, they moved to the center of the river where a priest waited for them. Once in the middle of the river the priest asked them to proclaim all of the pagan things they were renouncing, which included their lifestyle, family, friends and their very name.
3. Once they completed, the previously the non-Jewish person went through a death and dying experience by being “buried.” The priest would cause them to lie down back-first into the water as a sign of dying to their old life. When they rose up out of the water again they were no longer considered a pagan! They were considered “born” into a new life—one as a member of the Commonwealth of Israel.
4. Now, risen from the dead, this person with their new life was proclaimed a first generation descendent of Abraham and given a new name, “So-and-so, the Son of Abraham” or “So-and-so, Daughter of Abraham.”
Don’t let go of this last point, it is important for what comes next…
Why is this significant?
Jesus did not need to go through this ritual of conversion from paganism to the religion of Israel, but he did so anyway. When his cousin John protested, Jesus explained, that it had to happen this way:
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17 (NIV)
As in Genesis 22, God speaks audibly so that those gathered can here and understand the words.
Here are some other important points to consider:
1. Jesus was sinless. He did not need to go through this Baptism at all, but by humbling himself to doso anyway as a sinless man, it authorized him to take on the role and responsibility of the First Born Son. The Son of Righteousness, who did what was right even to his own hurt (Proverbs 11:19; 2 Peter 1:19).
2. When Jesus “died” in the River Jordan, he died the death of a Martyr, someone who did not need to die for his own sins and pagan ways, but someone who was righteous dying for the pagan ways of others. Thus spiritually, he was “reborn” into the anointing that would allow him to physically take on the sins of all humanity so that he could physically die and be risen from the dead at a later time. This later death would take place on Mount Moriah (aka: The Temple Mount), where Isaac the son of Abraham was nearly sacrificed.
3. When Jesus rose up out of the water he was given a new name. We do not know what that name is, only he knows it (Revelation 19:12). What we do know is that he was immediately, according to the tradition given a new name, “So-and-so, The Firstborn Son of Abraham.”
Only this time, Jesus the sinless man in fact became the replacement for Isaac as the first-born son Abraham! By going through the ritual of pagan baptism…
Jesus was literally anointed to die as a righteous man in Isaac’s place. This is why the Spirit of God descended in bodily form and God the Father’s own voice was heard for the first time in the History of the planet. It was a momentous occasion, the Father was, “…well pleased.”
In this baptism, Jesus took on Abraham’s Calling (Hebrews 11:8), and was given Abraham’s inheritance as his first-born son. Specifically: all of those from every nation on earth who believe on Jesus in faith. It might also be of note that Jesus acted with greater faith than Abraham and Isaac in that Jesus allowed himself to die, believing in faith that His Father would raise him up again from the dead! (James 2:23) Thus again, proving himself the righteous first-born heir of God’s Promise to Abraham (Hebrews 6:13, 11:17; Genesis 15).
Here’s a fun word study to go alone with this:
KAPHAR – כָּפַר COVER, KIPPUR, RECONCILE, MERCY SEAT
KAR – כַּר RAM A FATTED MALE LAMB –
“fat of LAMBS כַּר and RAMS” (Deut. 32:14)
KARA – כָּרָא PIERCE, DIG:
In searching the Hebrew meanings, when Abraham said, “God will provide Himself a LAMB” it was the model for Messiah’s coming sacrifice in His incarnate form, as He says in Hebrews, “a BODY hast Thou prepared Me”, but in the Masoretic text:
“Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire;
My ears hast Thou OPENED” (KARA – כָּרָא DIGGED)” (Ps.40:6)
This is the same word used in Psalm 22:16 where Messiah speaks through David and says, “They PIERCED כָּרָא My hands & My feet.”
Thus, this word “pierced” is also translated “digged” and speaks of Messiah’s rejection in Jeremiah, “They have digged a pit for My soul” (Jer. 18:20) and again, “They have digged a pit to take Me, and hid snares for My feet.” (Jer. 18:22)
This is also the same Hebrew word in Numbers, “The princes digged the well the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the Lawgiver, with their staves.” (Num. 21:18) and also in Job, “ye dig a pit for your Friend.” (Job 6:27)
If the KAR (Ram) THROUGH HIS KARA (piercing and rejection, by His enemies digging pits to try and snare or entrap Him) provided us with KAPHAR (Reconciliation), then these three words appear to be intertwined.
The KAR was KARA to provide mankind with KAPHAR.
Next Time, The Baptism of John Fully Exposed…