After my family got a PT Cruiser, I was shocked how many other people bought one. I saw them driving around all over the place where I never saw one before. The same thing happened with the Honda I drove, and the Mustang I thought about driving. I must set the trend in car-buying habits! Or maybe my car-buying glasses were focused to recognize the model wherever I went, which is a little less glamorous.
So while studying Matthew 3 with my group through an Inductive Study lens, two things popped out at me: baptism, and fire. Baptism is mentioned seven times in 17 verses, and the idea of burning four times in three verses. My pastor pointed out that this chapter is a lot about separation. Good wheat is sorted out of burnable chaff, and followers of God are distinguished from those who were interested in a show.
So in a chapter about separation, why is Jesus baptized? He did not have sin to repent. But He still identified with all the people who wanted to follow God – and God spoke out in approval.
Baptism visually cleanses you, and reflects the heart change that God works on the inside. Fire is also a kind of cleansing, but seems to mostly refer here to a kind of judgement… In verse 11, John refers to the Savior’s baptism as “Holy Spirit and fire.” When the Holy Spirit came, visual tongues of fire alighted on the disciples (Acts 2). Maybe the Holy Spirit acts to cleanse the heart, burning out the impurities now and people are not burned later. Maybe it is distinguishing between one group and another. Either way, the groups are very distinct.
We live in a place where people write how-to books on crafting a resume that makes you look special. But not too special, or we would be bragging. You have to fit in with the others to some extent. There are times and places where choosing a side neither makes you look special or be conventional. And that is what this baptism showed – a line was drawn in the sand.
God, the line is still there…please help me to stay on one side! But seriously, thank You for helping me to see the sides, which I have not always. Please help me to begin having truth from Your Word jump out at me, as distinct as a PT Cruiser. Thank You for loving me, God, enough to choose me out. Please help me to live in that reality. To Your glory, Amen.