Baptism of Jesus

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:4-8

John the Baptist baptized people in water for repentance. But where did he get the concept of being baptized with or in the Holy Spirit by Jesus? Because of church history and tradition, we usually reserve that phrase, “baptism in the Spirit”, for charismatic or Pentecostal churches. So where did John get this idea from?

John the Baptist was the final and greatest prophet of the Old Testament/old covenant (Matthew 11:11). So this idea of Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit must have been a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. John was simply proclaiming what was expected of the coming Messiah. And there are a number of prophetic passages that expected the Messiah to have the Holy Spirit upon him and for the Spirit to be poured out in abundance in the new Messianic age. This was in contrast to the Spirit being selectively given to certain kings and prophets as was the case is the Old Testament. Here’s a few of those passages:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners…

Isaiah 61:1

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.

Isaiah 44:3

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
I will show wonders in the heavens
    and on the earth…
    
And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    there will be deliverance

Joel 2:28-32

We know that Peter quoted this Joel 2 passages when the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost in Acts 2. The disciples saw that moment as the beginning of the fulfillment of these prophetic promises. Jesus was baptizing, immersing, flooding them with the Holy Spirit just as others had been baptized by John in water.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:1-4

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is when we are filled and flooded with the Spirit. There is a tipping point of Jesus being invited to take over every part of a person’s life. Like a dam breaking and a flood carving new terrain in the landscape, the will breaks in surrender to the Lord and the Spirit pours out, carving new terrain, new freedom, new gifts, new power, new intimacy in the life of a believer.

The prophets of old had long expected this kind of outpouring of the Spirit. We get the incredible blessing of being a part of this Messianic age where all of this is possible under the new covenant. The Old Testament prophets and king longed to see what we see and experience what we now have access to in the Spirit.

Then he (Jesus) turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Luke 10:23-24

Fire Fall

With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

“Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

1 Kings 18:32-38

We all may know the historical meaning of this passage. This is when Elijah, a prophet of the Lord, confronts the prophets of Baal. They cried out for their gods to bring fire down on the altar and they could not. Elijah soaks his sacrifice in a deluge of water, calls on the true God to bring down fire, and God answers by sending a consuming fire upon the whole sacrificial altar.

Yet, as I read this passage again, the Lord seemed to highlight the prophetic or metaphorical meaning of this passage. Scripture tends to have lots of layers to it. One layer of this passage is how it points to Easter and Pentecost.

Notice the elements involved: a sacrifice, wood, stones, dirt, water and fire. The sacrifice was laid on the wood. Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice, was also laid on wood as He was nailed to the cross. Just as there were stones and a dirt trench, so too Jesus was placed in a tomb with a stone rolled in front. He was buried in His own kind of dirt trench.

Next we see the water poured three times, symbolically representing the Trinity and the cleansing waters of baptism. What was once a trench in the dirt became a kind of baptismal pool. When Jesus rose from the grave, He enabled us to be buried with Him in baptism and raised into new life.

But God wasn’t done. The final element was fire. The Lord sent fire down for Elijah and sent fire down for the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Notice what the fire does for Elijah. It was meant to just light the wood and burn the sacrifice, but the fire of the Lord does so much more. This passage says that the fire fell and, “burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” The fire not only burned up the sacrifice and the wood, but also the stones, the soil and the water.

Metaphorically, the fire of the Holy Spirit enables us to live out the victory of the cross (the sacrifice and wood). The fire of the Holy Spirit also enables us to live out the victory over death and the grave (the stones and soil). Yet, there’s more! The fire of the Holy Spirit is even greater than the cleansing waters of baptism. Baptism in the fire of the Spirit refines us in a way that the waters of baptism never could. It is an all consuming fire!

Lord, turn our hearts back to you!

Lord, may Your fire fall on us once again until we are completely consumed by You!