Lamb Instead of Lion
Luke 3.15-17, 21-22
I don’t know about you, but for the longest time the story of Jesus’ baptism caught me off guard. I grew up understanding that baptism was something that was needed by us mere mortals. We’re the ones who keep messing up, keep hurting others and keep hurting ourselves. We need to be saved from our sins. Baptism washes away our sins. And we want to live forever with God and baptism is what makes that happen. When we go under the water, we die to our mortal life and when we rise up, we embrace the immortal life offered to us by God through Jesus.
My understanding of Jesus was that he wasn’t a mere mortal and he didn’t sin. So why did he need to get baptized? It’s an odd moment if you were taught the bible the way I was.
But over the last few years I’ve discovered that there is a drastically different way to read Jesus’ baptism that harmonizes powerfully with the most important stories of scripture and tells us something profound about who Jesus was and what his mission would be. If you look at the elements of the Baptism Story you will see amazing similarities to the Creation Poetry in Genesis 1, the Flood Epic in Genesis 6-8, the Exodus Journey of, well, Exodus, and (though it’s not listed in the table below) the Entrance into the Promised Land in Joshua.
|Event||Chaos/Wild/Water||Spirit/Dove/Wind||Sky/Light/Fire||God Speaks||God Honors/Promises|
|Creation/Earth||Genesis 1.2||Genesis 1.2||Genesis 1.3, 8||Genesis 1.3ff||Genesis 1.4ff|
|Flood/Noah||Genesis 7.11-24||Genesis 8.1, 8-12||Genesis 9.8-17||Genesis 9.8-17||Genesis 6.9; 9.8-17|
|Exodus/Moses||Exodus 13.18||Exodus 14.21||Exodus 13.21||Exodus 14.1-4ff||Exodus 6.2-8|
|Baptism/Jesus||Mark 1.9-10||Luke 3.22||Luke 3.21||Luke 3.22||Luke 3.22|
In Jesus’ baptism,
- He enters into the rushing waters of the Jordan like
- God went into the waters at Creation
- Noah enters the water during the flood
- Moses enters the Red Sea with the Israelites
- The Spirit moves on him like
- The Spirit hovering over the waters of Creation
- The wind blowing the floodwaters away and the dove flight confirming the earth was dry
- The wind blowing open a pathway through the Red Sea for Israelites
- Something new or unusual happens in the sky after Jesus is baptized like
- The creation of light and sky at Creation
- The appearance of a rainbow after the flood
- The pillar of cloud and fire that led the Israelites out of Egypt
- We hear God speak to Jesus like
- When he spoke the elements of Creation into existence
- When he talks to Noah after the flood
- When he gives direction to Moses to lead his people through the Red Sea
- We hear God’s honoring and comforting words to Jesus like
- His expression of pleasure with his Creation
- His promise to Noah to never send a worldwide flood upon the earth again
- His compassionate words promising deliverance to Moses and the Israelites
When we see Jesus symbolically living out the mighty acts of God through his baptism, we recognize that what is happening as Jesus begins his ministry among us is just as mighty of an act, if not greater, than God’s act of Creation, God’s act of new Creation after the Flood and God’s act of Deliverance at the Exodus.
- Jesus is the new Creator, bringing order to his creation out the the swirling chaos of the world
- Jesus is the new Noah, bringing his people safely to a new earth without the threat of further destruction
- Jesus is the new Moses, lead his people out of captivity and into freedom
- Jesus is the new Joshua (Jesus is actually the Greek parallel name to Joshua) leading his people into the promised kingdom of God
But what we find as well is that Jesus is coming not as a lion to visit his empirical violence upon a sinful world, but rather as a person who brings gentleness and peace to a tumultuous world. He comes as a lamb. John the Baptizer refers to Jesus this way. He says, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Amazing that God’s next mighty act comes not with shock and awe but with humility, gentleness and peace. But not so amazing if you look back at the way God works. He comes close, he suffers with his creation and people, he brings calm and order after the storm of evil and wickedness. Jesus as God’s instrument of peace is exactly like how God was in the most amazing stories of scripture.
May you recognize that you are part of the mighty acts of God every time you reflect on your baptism or consider being baptized. May you recognize the glory of the Lamb every time you reflect on his humble, sacrificial deliverance. And may you know the peace of God that passes all understanding and that will guard your hearts until the day of Christ Jesus.