Father in Heaven,
This morning, the words of Jesus are arresting. In Luke 12:50, he says: "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished." Lord God, at this point in the gospel story, he's already submitted to water baptism - reminding us that he lived to be our righteousness (Matthew 3:13-17; Philippians 3:9). We ought to mark it well, Lord Christ, that at your water baptism you didn't say to John: "For thus it is fitting because I'm a sinner who needs to be baptized." In fact, your words to him run in the exact opposite direction: "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." (Matthew 3:15) When you, the sinless Son of God, perform an act of righteousness - you are not banking any credit of which you stand in need. Every religious teacher in the history of the human race is in the good advice business - pointing the way to God. Offering guidance, counsel, and direction. Not you, Jesus. You are in a category to yourself. You are not offering us good advice. You're offering us good news. The righteousness that God demands of us was fulfilled by you in your life on our behalf. O that we may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of our own that comes through the white-knuckling of exhausting and vain attempts at legalistic obedience - but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. (Philippians 3:8-9) Your baptism into water was only one facet of your obedience on our behalf. Every holy thought. Every godly affection. Each and every act of obedience to your Father was for us that we might have a righteousness to call our own. We praise you for what your water baptism means for us. You lived to be our righteousness.
But that's not what Luke 12:50 is addressing. You've already been baptized into water, and yet you're still speaking of a baptism ahead. "...a baptism to be baptized with." - (Luke 12:50). In the New Testament, the word you use for baptism most commonly meant to be plunged or immersed into something or some reality. In Mark 10 :38, you asked James and John: "...Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism which which I am baptized?" This is a future immersion - a future plunging into something yet ahead. When the images of "the cup" are examined throughout Holy Scripture, this baptism can only mean one thing (Psalm 75:8; Jeremiah 25:27; Revelation 14:10; 16:9) - this is a plunging into suffering and death. This is your baptism into the wrath of God. No wonder you say what you do in Luke 12:50 - "how great is my distress until it is accomplished". Just as your baptism into water, you didn't do this because you had to - you did it because you wanted to. You didn't do it for yourself, you did it for us. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). You drank the cup of the fury of God's wrath toward our sin. You were plunged into a sea of suffering in our place so that we ourselves would never have to drown.
Lord Jesus Christ, what can we of Mound Evangelical Free Church say? What possible response would be worthy of this gospel? We worship you this day. Behold the Lamb of God - who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36)! We may baptize with water, but among us stands one the strap of whose sandal we are not worthy to untie (John 1:26-27). You rank before us (John 1:30). May we (as John the Baptist) stand and hear your voice this day, rejoicing greatly. May our joy be full and complete today as you increase and we decrease. We're doing better than we deserve. Far, far better than we deserve. Grant that we would bear the glad tidings of this good news to all those within our sphere of influence today. Baptized into water, you lived to be our righteousness. Baptized at the cross, you died to pay our debt. All praise to you, our great God.
In Jesus' Name,
"...what sets Christian teaching apart from every other major religion is that its head acts as both example and Redeemer. Christ came not only to preach but also to be a ransom for his people (Mark 10:45)...when the church gathers, it gathers not simply as an instructed or edified people but as a ransomed and saved people."
-Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible. B&H Publishing Group: Nashville, TN. 2012. p.26.