The Baptism of Jesus: the loving Exodus

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
— Mark 1:9-11

This last Sunday, we were sharing in our church gathering that the book of Exodus is a genuine love story. It is all about God as the glorious groom rescuing his bride from bondage and marrying her. So, when we arrive in Mark 1, we are witnessing the love story continue and broaden. The exodus picture foreshadows a greater saving of humanity that would come in Jesus, and the baptism of Jesus recapitulates the Exodus story so that we can make the historical and salvific connection. Therefore, the baptism of Jesus stands in the middle as a fulfilling reenactment of the Hebrew story and a prophetic picture of the fulfilling enactment of his loving act of redemption to come.

The Picture

The picture should not be difficult to see, and it is immensely beautiful to ponder. The people of Israel were at a moment of darkness and despair, between mountains they could not climb, with enemies pressing on their back, and an unbridgeable sea between them and their promised relationship with God. This was the equal spiritual condition of the people at the beginning of the New Testament with Mark. Except, this new Moses-Messiah will be saving from bigger enemies than the Egyptians and rescuing people from far broader than the Jewish population. 

Here below is a brief list of connections between the Red Sea exodus and the death of Christ as the new exodus. Again, as the baptism of Jesus stands in the middle, on one hand it fulfills the old exodus and on the other hand forecasts the new one.

Exodus Israel

  • God opens the sea, the unique way of salvation
  • "Moses" means to rescue, save
  • Moses enters the sea at the risk of his life
  • Israel walks through on dry ground
  • Israel is "resurrected" on their way to Canaan
  • Moses lifts his staff to open the sea
  • I AM revealed as warrior
  • I AM fights for Israel
  • Reed Sea baptism as marriage preparation to God at Sinai

New Exodus Israel

  • God "opens" the Son, the only means of salvation
  • "Yeshua" is the God who saves.
  • Messiah enters the sea at the cost of his life
  • New Israel is submerged into death's mud.
  • New Israel resurrects to begin his reign
  • Jesus is lifted upon the cross to the Father
  • I AM revealed as Lamb
  • I AM dies for Israel and all mankind
  • baptism into Christ as marriage preparation to God in the new Jerusalem.

image from J. Parson's article on the Song of the Sea (Perashat Beshelach) at hebrew for Christians

Good News for Us

— Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down! —

The baptism of Jesus is God’s answer to Isaiah’s prayer.
— Isaiah 64:1

This is good news for us because Mark is signaling a "breaking-in" of God's reign which in-turn, "breaks us out" of the satanic reign we are born into. Like Israel, we need a caring warrior who will fight for us, but we also need a sacrificial Lamb who will atone for us. Jesus is both. 

Friends, these biblical accounts are not only about getting us out of our terrible situation, but even more importantly, they are about how God goes so deep to get us into a loving relationship with himself. The ministry of Jesus shows us how God pursued us and married us just like he did when he brought the Israelites through the Red Sea and walked them straight to Sinai for the wedding.

We often look at the fact of the Exodus and the fact of Jesus' baptism while tending to overlook the motive. It is a motive of transformational love. When someone passes through the watery grave of our lives for us, we just can't help but love them in return. In other words, we drown ourselves in our busy-ness, our cynicism, pride, anger, and most of all our creative forms of God-evasion. But God, who is rich in mercy, saves us (Eph. 2:4) and makes a loving people because he is so loved. The Father cried over his baptism, "This is my most precious and loved Son who brings me total satisfaction..." (Mark 1:11). It is that cascading love of the Father with which the Groom rescues us.

So, what should be our response?  works-righteousness? prayers to saints? joyless, church activity? busy, indifferent lives?  No, rather, our response should be a "like-for-like" love infusing our time and relationships. We can only love him because he first loved us in Jesus Christ (1 John 4:7-10). How lovely it is that Jesus is our Exodus declared to us when he was dripping wet.