As we move towards the end of chapter 3, we finish with Matthew’s account of the baptism of Christ. As we have noted, the baptism of Christ is a self-baptism (as Jewish baptism were), where Christ was making a public statement that He is fulfilling all righteousness. In other words, He was declaring to the world that He was going to walk the path of God righteously: in character, attitude, teachings, behavior and actions. Yet, the baptism of Christ is far more connected to the story than just the surface listing of events. His baptism is a remez to numerous themes in the Old Testament. We’ll look at these themes, but I also want to highlight the fact that the wilderness is where this is happening as that will be important for when we cover His temptation in chapter 4. Let’s familiarize ourselves with the text again,
Matthew 3:13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 3:14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Throughout the Bible, we have a consistent pattern of God bringing order out of chaos that involves water, the Spirit, order and testing. In the sequence of tables below, I try to outline this theme and I’ll give a brief synopsis of each theme.
Chaos to Order: Creation
When God created the earth, it was as the Hebrew expression is “tohu vavohu” or “wild and waste.” It was a chaotic nothingness but the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters and brought forth light into the darkness and dry land. God spoke creation into existence from the chaos. In many of the pagan creation accounts, their gods used chaos to bring creation about (usually through some battle with other gods or something cataclysmic), yet the Lord most High did not create His good world through chaotic means, but rather spoke to silence the chaos and bring in peace. We might think of Genesis 1:3 as the first time God uttered, “Peace, be still.” Once God creates the world, He expresses His divine order expectations – that Adam would dress and keep the garden and have dominion over the works of God’s hands. Adam was also to eat of any of the trees of the garden except the tree of the symbolized his own wisdom over God’s. This was the place that would provide the testing for humanity – would Adam trust God and God’s wisdom? As we know, Adam failed – humanity failed.
Chaos to Order: The Flood
All of the earth became filled with violence before the Lord and in the midst of this chaos, He again brings the Creation narratives to pass. The earth becomes wild and waste again with the waters of the flood. To bring peace out of the chaos, God uses a strong wind to blow back the waters from the earth. Interestingly enough, the word for ‘wind’, ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’ in Hebrew is the same – ruakh. Just as the Ruakh of God turned back the initial chaotic waters of Genesis 1:2, likewise we see ruakh doing the same after the flood. God speaks to Noah with expectations of order in Genesis 9, but immediately Noah’s family is tested with the sin of Ham. Ham wanted to usurp dominance over his father and “uncovered his father’s nakedness”, which is an expression that means to expose his father’s wife. Leviticus 20:11 And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. Ham’s son by impregnating his mom (Canaan) is cursed by Noah. Noah’s family is now the representatives of humanity, being the only ones to survive the flood and humanity fails again.
Chaos to Order: The Exodus
Israel is in the midst of chaos with their slavery in Egypt and upon their exodus, they are cornered against the approaching Egyptian army and water – the Red Sea. God is going to bring salvation by parting the waters with a strong eastern ruakh all night. The Hebrews cross the sea on dry land – God had parted the chaos and made a way of peace for them. After they reach the other side, God speaks to Moses to raise his staff over the sea and allow the chaos collapse on the Egyptian Army, destroying them. Israel is now free from slavery and free to enjoy the provisions of God – this is the expected order for them, but immediately they are tested with food and water. In Deuteronomy 8:2, God reminds that this testing was to prove Israel and what was in their heart. (This will be important when we get to the temptation of Christ). Israel is tested and Israel fails as they murmur and complain, not trusting their God to provide for them. Israel saw their identity in their next meal, not in the One who was Providing the meal. (This will also be important with the temptation of Christ).
Chaos to Order: The Crossing of Jordan
Israel has been wandering in the wilderness, a chaos they brought upon themselves by their failure at Kadesh-barnea by refusing to go into the land God had given them. However, now on the verge of entering into Canaan, they are yet again faced with water. When the priests bearing the ark of the covenant step into the water, the Ruakh of God rests over the waters and Israel crosses on dry land into Canaan. There is an expectation of order for Israel in their new land but this order isn’t without a test. After the battle of Ai, Israel is told not to take any spoils of war, yet, Achan sins and brings them back and invariably infects the camp with sin. The family of Israel has failed their testing. Could they trust God more than the temptation to loot the spoils of war? Holistically speaking, the answer is no.
Although it plays out in various forms, hopefully you can see a consistent theme of how God brings order out of chaos and how many responds to the order expectations of God. But, it doesn’t stop here.
Chaos to Order: The Baptism of Christ
Israel is in state of chaos by the Roman oppression. Mary, who’s name means, their rebellion, brings forth Jesus Christ. Jesus approaches the Jordan River and is baptized and upon His baptism, the Ruakh of God descends over Jesus as a dove. The same Spirit that hovered over the chaotic waters of creation now is hovering over Jesus Christ. God speaks – this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Christ is fulfilling all righteousness by walking in the order God expected. As our theme goes, the next thing Christ should face is a testing and that’s exactly what we see in Matthew 4.
Jesus Christ is the Order that answers Chaos. Notice in His baptism that the waters of Jordan didn’t part to expose a dry way to cross. Why? Because the way of crossing from chaos to peace and order was standing in the Jordan – the Way, the Truth and the Life Himself. As we’ll see in chapter 4, this time, the Last Adam passes the tests before Him, yet the one difference is that the first Adam was given the peace to maintain, whereas the Last Adam IS the peace – He is the order that dissolves the chaos that Israel (and by extension, you and I) need.
For the sake of space, we’ll hold the wilderness discussion to the next post as it will be a very fitting introduction to the temptation of Christ.
Our story continues…