Water, Spirit, Dealth, Fire

Rev. Dr. Rocky Ellison
Luke  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  19:10
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Luke 3:15-22 Baptism of the Lord Sunday

WATER, SPIRIT, DEATH, FIRE Luke 3:15-22 January 10, 2021 If you could do miracles like Jesus, what would you do? If you could recreate any of Jesus' miracles, which ones would you do? Would you heal the sick? Might be nice if someone could go through the hospitals every day and completely heal anyone who has Covid. You have Covid? Boom! Now you have the lungs of a 15-year-old. That would be pretty cool, right? Would you make sure one loaf of bread was enough to feed your family forever? We don't need to go to the grocery store. Our pantry never runs out. Think how much money you would save if you never had to buy food again. In one story Jesus reaches into the mouth of a fish and gets a coin to pay taxes. How much would you love never worrying about having enough money? Money? Who cares? I'll just go out in my yard, dig up a dandelion, and use the $100 bill wrapped around the bottom. Piece of cake. Jesus once cursed a fig tree. Killed it down to the roots with a single shake of his fist. Would you use your power to mess with people who mess with you? You don't like your next-door neighbor, so giant letters spelling out - jerk - keep showing up burned into his front lawn. No matter how much he fertilizes, and replants - jerk. On several occasions, Jesus raised the dead back to life. Would you dare to do that? Would it unnerve you to mess with life and death? Even if you only had good intentions; the couple who loses their 1month old baby and it's destroying their marriage. The 90-year-old man who loses his wife of 65 years and just can't go on without her. The mother of 6 children under the age of 10, who doesn't know how her family will survive without her deceased husband's income. Would you dare to mess with the forces of life and death? With great power comes great responsibility. We probably need the vision and assistance of someone who comprehends life and death better than we do. Someone like - oh I don't know - the Holy Spirit. If we're going to have unlimited power, we need the constant guidance of the third partner of the Triune God. And, thank God, the Holy Spirit just happens to be completely available to each of us 24/7. Why are we talking about this? Last week Jesus was 40 days old. Today, he is 30 years old. Big jump. And, one of the concepts both Luke, and the Apostle Paul, want us to understand - is that Jesus is fully human. The Apostle Paul writes, "Philippians 2:7 (NLT) He gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being." Jesus is God. But, for the purpose of our salvation, he put his divinity up on a shelf, and said - I won't touch that. I will live like you live. If I don't have food, I will be hungry. If you cut me I will bleed. If you beat me for hours on end, then crucify me - I will die. No short cuts just because I am God. Remember, Luke wants Gentiles to choose Jesus as their God. And, one of the problems he's up against is Docetism.1 Docetism says Jesus only 'looked' human. Actually, he was 100% God, and not human at all. So, it only 'looked' like he was crucified. Actually, he was doing just fine up there on the cross. Because he is God, he only made it 'look' like it was painful. It only 'looked' like he died. Then, he just hung around inside the tomb until the third day, and then walked out under his own power. Because he's God. Here's the problem with that. If Jesus didn't die for our sins - then we are still guilty of our sin. When we die we will go to Hell. It is the fair and correct punishment. The only way we go to Heaven, is if Jesus actually died, then rose again. And, the only way that happens is if Jesus was completely human. There, problem solved. But, if Jesus was completely human, how did he turn water into wine, heal lepers, and raise the dead? Jesus, and Luke, give us the answer. Jesus says all of the power he has in this world, he received from the Holy Spirit at his baptism.2 He went into the water a typical human being. He came out, a typical human being powered by the Holy Spirit. Now, as I look around this room, I'm pretty sure every person I see has been baptized. And, I'm pretty sure every person I see has been promised the indwelling Holy Spirit. Do you understand what that means? It means, in theory, you and I have access to the same power as Jesus. And, that makes baptism kind of a big deal. Did you know, over the course of your life, you are promised 4 baptisms? Water, Spirit, Death, and Fire? And, interestingly, all 4 of those baptisms are referenced in today's text. Let's talk about them. When John the Baptist is 30 years old he emerges from the monastery at Qumran, where he has been living as an Essene.3 The Essenes were consumed with purity; mental and physical purity. To be mentally pure, read the Bible every day. To be physically pure, immerse yourself in water twice each day. At the monastery was something like a swimming pool, with steps leading down one side and out the other. Twice each day every monk stripped naked, walked down the steps until they were completely under water, then out the steps on the other side. This was a physical, and a spiritual, cleansing. This was doing with your body, what you embraced with your mind. I will be clean and righteous before my God. When John leaves the monastery and goes public, he transitions this daily cleansing into baptism. It's no longer twice a day. It is now once for your entire life. You wash your body as a symbol of your dedication to wash your mind. Your mind will be 100% devoted to God. In that respect, Jesus - who is perfect, and has never sinned - is right to be baptized. Human Jesus is dedicating his entire life to God. He is promising to use all his mind for the glory of the Father. John comes to Israel preaching baptism. If you want to be right with God, come on down to the Jordan River and let me baptize you. You will promise your heart, mind, and soul to God. But, he warns everyone, someone else is coming. Someone who is so fantastic I am not even worthy to untie his dirty shoes. And, he is bringing you two more baptisms. He is bringing baptism of the Holy Spirit, and a baptism of fire. Luke only uses two verses to tell us about Jesus being baptized. For Luke, the important part is that as Jesus is baptized, the Holy Spirit comes down to him. It fills him up. And, God the Father, is pleased that Jesus will commit himself to doing everything necessary to save the human race. God the Father is so pleased he speaks from Heaven for all to hear. So, Jesus is baptized with water. And, he is baptized with the Holy Spirit. Just like John promised. Throughout the rest of the Gospel Jesus reminds us over, and over, the Holy Spirit is his connection to the Father. The Holy Spirit is why Jesus can always do the right thing. It's why he lives a perfect life. Being plugged directly into God powers his amazing ministry. After the Resurrection, before he ascends to Heaven, Jesus promises that same Holy Spirit to every believer. Jesus guarantees you and me, we can plug in to God just like he did. Baptism one is water. We dedicate ourselves to God. Baptism two is the Holy Spirit, God gives us the power we need, to keep our promise. A few years later, the brothers James and John (sons of Zebedee) will come to Jesus and ask if they can be the most powerful Apostles when Jesus becomes king. They say, we know Peter is very important. Can we pass Peter and be number one and two when you are in charge of Israel? Instead of saying yes or no, Jesus answers with a question. Are you able to drink from the bitter cup I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized like I am about to be baptized? Jesus is talking about his death. He knows he is supposed to be crucified. He knows he needs to go to Hell for three days, and pay for everyone's sin. If he were just God, that probably wouldn't be so scary. God is God, even in Hell. But, Jesus put his divinity up on a shelf. And, he promised not to use it until after the Resurrection. He was completely human. He has to trust God the Father to bring him back. Do you think the idea of death frightened him? I do. I think it is completely, totally human, to be intimidated and a little frightened of death. I once heard a pastor say that every Christian should refuse medical attention of any kind. If you completely trust God, then get sick and die. It's no big deal. And, in his mind, if you took medicine, or exercised, or had surgery - you weren't really saved; because you don't trust God to raise you from the dead. I completely disagree with that. It is OK to be frightened of death. It is scary. We don't know exactly how it works. Trusting God to raise us up, and being fearless about death, are completely different issues. In the Garden, Jesus begs God to find another way to save the world. Don't make me do this. The man who was completely connected to the Holy Spirit, wanted God to find a better way than dying. This is a baptism I don't want. But, his faith compelled him to go forward in spite of his fear. Each of us, you and I, will face the baptism of death. The moment where our belief is either validated, or we are proven fools. It is OK, to be frightened of our baptism in death. John the Baptist faces that same baptism himself. In fact, in the Gospel of Luke, John is taken away to prison before Jesus is baptized with water.4 The Gospel of Mark has John right there with Jesus during his baptism. The other three Gospels have John somewhere else when Jesus is immersed.5 Luke is very specific about John being gone to jail. Remember, Luke is writing to Gentiles, to convince them to give up hundreds of gods and just worship Jesus. And, he knows this. Many Gentiles will say, if Jesus started out all human, then I don't need to worship Jesus. I need to worship the guy who baptized Jesus and made him a god. Maybe if John baptizes me, I can be a god. In the Gospel of Luke, John goes to jail and dies from beheading. Jesus seems to baptize himself, like the Essenes did - in and out of the swimming pool. Do I believe that's what happened? No. I believe John was there just like the Gospel of Mark says. But, Luke is making John the Baptist less important than Jesus. And, he is preparing us for the last baptism. The baptism of fire.6 Which is a dramatic way of saying judgment. John the Baptist uses baptism of fire to mean judgment. The Apostle Paul writes, "Hebrews 9:27 (NIV) Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment." After we die, every human being ever born will stand before Jesus and be judged. If you did not accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you will try to come up with a lot of excuses for the way you lived. It won't work. Your baptism of fire will be unpleasant. If you did accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, all you have to say is thank you. Thank you for choosing to live as a human. Thank you for accepting your purpose, and living hand in glove with the Holy Spirit. Thank your for going to the cross, enduring the baptism of death, and then rising victoriously from the grave. Thank you for bearing my sin for me. Thank you. You see, the whole quote from Paul actually goes, "Hebrews 9:27-28 (NIV) Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." That is the Christian's baptism of fire. You will endure four baptisms in your life. Baptism by water - where you dedicate your life to the service of God. Baptism by the Holy Spirit - when God connects you to the third part of the Trinity, and gives you the power necessary to keep your vow. Baptism by death - when we must trust God completely. We must step into the complete unknown, with only our faith to carry us. And, baptism by fire - when we stand before the Great White Throne of Jesus Christ and face judgment. You can do this. You can do it all. You will be OK. Remember your baptisms and be thankful. 1 Donald J. Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1981), 220-223. 2 Keith Johnson, "The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Ministry of Jesus Christ: A Trinitarian Perspective," Trinity Journal, 38 no. 2 (Fall 2017), 147-167. 3 Eugene H. Merrill, "The Qumran Baptism and John the Baptist's Baptism," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 25 no. 2 (June 1982), 241-242. 4 Richard J. Erickson, "The Jailing of John and the Baptism of Jesus: Luke 3:19-21," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 36 no. 4 (December 1993), 455-466. 5 Ithamar Gruenwald, "The Baptism of Jesus in Light of Jewish Ritual Practice," Neotestamentica, 50 no. 2 (2016), 301-325. 6 R. C. Sproul, general editor. New Geneva Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 1609. --------------- ------------------------------------------------------------ --------------- ------------------------------------------------------------ 2
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