Jesus’ Other Baptism

Luke 12:50 “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!”

Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist long ago when he spoke these words. He was not referring to his baptism with water. Rather, Jesus sometimes uses the term baptism as a picture of intense suffering. Whippings, beatings, insults, and spit are going to be poured out on him. Enemies will surround him. His own blood will flow over him. Finally, death will cover him. Jesus’ words contemplate the suffering and death by which he freed us from sin and gave us the ultimate demonstration of God’s love.

Jesus’ own peace was disturbed by that contemplation: “…how distressed I am until it is completed!” Have you ever dreaded a painful experience you had to undergo– maybe a dental or medical procedure? Maybe you have contemplated the pain of hell, fire and torture that never ends, and the thought filled you with a shudder.

Of course, for you the pain of hell is just a hypothetical thing. Hell itself is real enough, but you are never going to experience it so long as you cling to Jesus. For him it was inevitable. If the torture of the cross wasn’t bad enough, he knew that he would suffer the full anguish of hell there for our sins. Every day brought him closer to this “baptism.” The anticipation was painful to think about.

But Jesus did not use his certainty of this future to avoid this baptism. He did not turn and run. He does not even wish it would never happen. He simply wishes that it were already done. Perhaps we could compare his anticipation to an expectant mother who dreads the pain of labor and delivery. Still, she so wants the child she will hold in her arms on the other side. She wishes it were already over.

You and I are the children Jesus longed to hold in his arms on the other side of his crucifixion and death. Having you makes it all worthwhile for him.

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