I interview Rudy Ross on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel today. Rudy explains how the Jewish rite of circumcision is complimented by the act of baptism.
Rudy’s insights will help you understand the importance of circumcision and baptism, and how they are related. Please take a few minutes to learn from Rudy.
One of the most memorable characters I have met in my life was an African American preacher named, Reverend Broomfield, who I met in Louisiana.
The first time we met he introduced himself saying, “Broomfield’s the name. I sweep ’em in and sweep ’em out!”
It was Reverend Broomfield who gave me a piece of advice that I have used for forty years. He counseled me about conflict and said, “You do the right thing and let the sin be on them.”
Mr. Porter coached one of the teen basketball teams our church sponsored. Mr. Porter was the most popular high school teacher among the players on our team. He was also an African American pastor.
One day, we were talking about Reverend Broomfield. He was surprised that I knew him and he exclaimed with a fair amount of happiness, “He’s my mentor!”
John the Baptist would have been in good company with Reverend Broomfield and Mr. Porter. He swept some into God’s kingdom and swept others out of false religion.
The Powerful and the Prophet
John’s ministry is introduced by naming the powerful people of his day.
— The emperor of the Roman Empire, Tiberius, grew insane toward the end of his rule. He was known for a period of pure terror.
— Pilate was governor of Judea and Jerusalem. He was considered inflexible, power-hungry, and relentless. He was known for bribes, insults, robberies, outrages, wanton injuries, frequent execution without trial, and endless savage behavior.
— Herod – This Herod was the son of Herod the Great, who ruled Israel at the time of John’s birth.
This Herod, also called Antipas, ruled the region of Galilee where Jesus conducted a large portion of his ministry.
He constructed a new city, Tiberius, on a graveyard and placed Roman images in public places.
He imprisoned John and later had him executed. He also had a role in the execution of Jesus.
— Philip – He was the half-brother of Herod Antipas and ruled the northeast part of Israel.
— Lysanias – Little is known of this man. He may have been included in the list of powerful people because he ruled largely Gentile territories.
— Caiaphas and Annas controlled the Temple. They had unrivaled power and privilege among the Jewish people.
John the Baptist and his followers were a dramatic contrast to the powerful political and religious leaders of his day.
His message consisted of a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3.3). It was unusual for a couple of reasons.
(1) Baptism was traditionally reserved for Gentiles who desired to become followers of the Jewish faith.
It was unheard of to call Jewish people to the rite of baptism.
People traveled the distance to the Jordan and were baptized to signify the end of their old attachments and the beginning of a new life aligned with God’s purposes.
(2) John’s repentance-baptism was for the forgiveness of sins.
The religious authorities in Jerusalem believed that the only place where forgiveness could be found was in the Temple that was under their control.
They opposed John, because he preached a baptism that swept people into God’s activity, and swept out the power structure of the priests.
Promise + Fulfillment + Response
As we have noted in earlier articles there is a Promise + Fulfillment + Response pattern to Luke’s presentation.
John’s actions by the Jordan River were seen as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise.
It is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (Luke 3.4-6)
The repentance-baptism of John acted as the construction of a superhighway for the coming of the world’s Savior.
When I try to explain repentance, I pretend to be God, which takes a lot of imagination and grace. I ask someone, usually a child, to walk away from me.
Sin is walking away from God.
When the child stops, turns around, and comes back to me, I tell the group, “This is what repentance is all about.”
To finish the illustration, I take the child by the hand and we walk together for a few steps.
This picture is what God desires to happen to everyone. He wants us to stop, turn to him, and begin walking in a friendship relationship with him.
John’s ministry swept people into the beginnings of a new life with God, which Jesus would further fulfill.
John fulfilled his part of Isaiah’s prophecy. Tomorrow’s article will explore the reaction of the crowd by the Jordan.
The fulfillment of God’s promises always requires a response. Please spend some time responding in prayer about this passage.
Dear God, thank you for loving the world so much that you set in motion a means for us to have a life with you. We turn from our willful rebellion and desire to walk every day with you.