The Drowning of Jesus, or: Two Judgements, Two Baptisms (Luke 12:49-13:9)

So, in the morning, at the beginning of Chapter 11, Jesus’ disciples saw him praying and they said, “Hey, teach us to pray like you!”

And Jesus did: he taught them what we now call the Lord’s Prayer. But the most important part of that teaching was the fact that God is the disciples’ good Father. The prayer, by itself, actually means nothing. It is not a magical incantation for good luck or anything like that. No: the Lord’s Prayer becomes a real prayer when the person doing the praying realizes that God is their Father, that he loves them, that he will care for them and give them their inheritance.

Then, later in the day, Jesus cast out a demon. And the crowd was impressed, but…not impressed enough. They wanted a greater sign; they wanted Jesus to prove that he really is the Messiah before they would take the risk of joining him.

And — if we recall — the first person in the book of Luke to ask Jesus to prove himself by doing a miracle was Satan. So the crowd, by demanding a sign like this, was proving that they were Satan’s followers.

So Jesus gave them a sign: he said that on Judgement Day pagans will stand up as witnesses against them. Those pagans will say, “We listened to the preachers God sent to us; we didn’t demand signs before we believed them. Therefore, ‘this wicked generation’ has no excuse for rejecting the greatest preacher who ever lived!”

Then a Pharisee invited Jesus over for dinner, thinking that Jesus was a “good” Jew and was clean enough to eat with. But then he was shocked to see that Jesus did not wash his hands properly!

So, Jesus cursed the Pharisees. He had already warned them several chapters before that they were too obsessed with religion, and not obsessed enough with compassion. Obviously they had ignored his warning! So: Jesus fired them from their position as the shepherds of God’s people. He cursed them for not doing their job. They were supposed to be feeding the crowds with God’s Word, teaching the crowds how to be compassionate: ready for the Messiah’s coming! Instead, the Pharisees and other leaders used God’s gifts to feed themselves. So Jesus removed them, and warned them that if they did not repent they would perish along with that “wicked generation”.

And the Pharisees were so upset by this, that when Jesus left the house at the beginning of Chapter 12, they chased him out into the street. The argument attracted that same large crowd back into town, so Jesus took the opportunity to warn everyone to watch out for the Pharisees.

He basically said, “You listen to them, or you listen to me! There is no middle ground! If you listen to them, and believe that God is a harsh, demanding Judge who is out to get you unless you play by their rules — well, in the end you are going to meet that Judge!

“But, if you listen to me, and believe me when I tell you that God is your compassionate Father, then he will take care of you in this life, and on Judgement Day you will receive my whole Kingdom as your inheritance!”

Then Jesus went on to warn everyone that if we listen to the Pharisees, we will become like them: taking God’s good gifts and using them to feed only ourselves. But if we listen to Jesus, we will become like him: taking God’s good gifts and using them to feed others. We will live compassionate and generous lives! Some will have a lot to share; some will have only a little; but one day each one of us will have the privilege of telling our Father what we did for him. And each one of us will receive a reward: some greater, some smaller…but we will all receive an equal measure of love.

One day. One day. And that is the bit that surprised disciples a little last time. They thought the war was almost over; they thought Judgement Day — Inheritance Day — would happen in a few weeks, when they got to Jerusalem. But then Jesus told them, “Mmmmm, no, I’m afraid I have to go away for a while. When I come back then I will bring Judgement Day. That’s why I’m training you to be good compassionate managers while I’m gone. And when I come back, then we’ll see how.”

And now it is getting to be quite late at night. The Pharisees are still there, still angry. The crowds are still there, still hoping Jesus will “prove” that he is the Messiah by doing some amazing miraculous sign.

And it seems that Jesus’ human nature is getting a little tired. It has been a long day. So at this point Jesus bursts out: [49] “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

“My job is to bring Judgement Day, and how I wish I could bring it now!

“Do you think I can’t see what is going on? — how everyone is using and victimizing everyone else? How I wish I could bring it all to an end today!”

— so it turns out the Father’s plan is not uncomfortable just for the disciples: they wish Judgement Day could come soon; and so does Jesus.

[50] “But,” he says, “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!

And this is where we say, “A baptism to undergo? Hasn’t he already been baptised?”

Yes, he has. But in the Old Testament there were actually two kinds of baptism. The more common kind was an anointing baptism, a symbolic baptism, where a human priest would pour water or oil on someone’s head to either cleanse them from sin, or to seal them for service to God. Jesus has already received that kind of baptism.

But the second kind of Old Testament baptism is the more ancient one, and it was real, not just symbolic. It was a kind that can only be performed by God because it was the baptism of judgement and death.

The first time we see this kind of baptism is in the story of Noah: Noah and his family were baptized in the floodwaters of God’s Judgement. And they only survived because Noah was obedient to God, and built a boat. Actually, the whole world was baptized in God’s judgement, but only those who believed Noah entered the boat and passed through God’s Judgement safely.

The second time we see this kind of baptism is in the story of Moses: Moses and the Israelites were baptized in the Red Sea on their way out of Egypt. And they only survived because Moses was obedient to God and parted the waters. Everyone who entered that Sea that night was baptized in God’s judgement, but only those who believed Moses passed through safely; when Pharoah and his army tried to pass through…they were baptized into death and never came back.

So this is what Jesus means when he says, “I have a baptism to undergo.” He does not mean he will be anointed again, sprinkled with a little water. He means that the full weight of the floodwaters of his Father’s Judgement is going to be poured out upon him. And he will only pass through safely if he is perfectly obedient.

And this is where we say, “But why? Why would God’s own Son, God’s anointed King, have pass through judgement? Does he have to prove himself or something?

Yes, he does. Jesus has just said that he has come to bring Judgement on the earth — but before he is allowed to bring judgement, he has to prove that he is righteous by being tested himself. If he is not proven righteous first, then how would any of us really be able to trust that his judgements will be righteous?

Basically, Jesus has to prove that he has the qualities of a good judge.

And this idea should not actually be so strange to us, because Jesus has already had to prove himself once. Remember how, way back at the beginning, right after John baptized Jesus, the war against Satan started? Jesus, the prince, had to prove that he has the qualities of a good King. He went through a “Trial by Combat” from Chapter 4 to Chapter 9. Then, in Chapter 9, God the Father met his Son on a mountaintop and basically said, “Good job, Son! You have proven that you are worthy to be King!” That is when Jesus began his march toward Jerusalem. And soon after that is when Satan’s army broke and began to retreat.

Well, now we are finding out that Jesus has another, greater, test ahead of him. His first trial — against Satan — was actually the easy one! His next one is going to be much, much more difficult — because this time Jesus must face his own Father’s judgement.

Jesus is talking about a severe test, far greater and heavier than his trial against Satan.

And he can’t wait to get this baptism started! — not because he is looking forward to the pain, but because he is looking forward to the result. Remember that Noah, through his test of obedience, saved everyone who believed in him. Moses, through his test of obedience, saved everyone who believed in him. Now Jesus, through his test of obedience, knows that he will be saving everyone who believes in him.

That is why he can’t wait to get started.

So Jesus is saying two things here with his outburst:

First, “I am here to bring Judgement Day, and I wish I could bring it now!”

And second, “I can’t wait to save my people by passing through God’s Judgement myself!”

And at this point, some intellectual people object. They say, “Hang on: that is a contradiction! Jesus wants to bring Judgement, and he wants to save people from Judgement by going through a very painful baptism? There is an easy solution here! He can avoid the painful baptism and save everyone from Judgement simply by refusing to bring Judgement!

“Wouldn’t that be the more compassionate thing to do?”

Well, that is a reasonable objection. If you are thinking this way, you are quite correct: if Jesus refused to bring God’s Judgement, everyone would be saved from God’s Judgement.

But here’s the question I would ask in return: if Jesus refused to bring God’s Judgement, who would save innocent people from the unrighteous judgement of tyrants and abusers?

See, Jesus’ upcoming baptism is designed to save his people from God’s Judgement; but it is also designed to save his people from the world’s judgement, from the world’s tyranny and abuse.

That is what the ancient baptisms of the Old Testament did! Noah’s obedience saved his family from the flood — but the flood also saved Noah’s family from the world of that time, which was “full of violence”. Moses’ obedience saved his people from the Red Sea — but the Red Sea saved Moses’ people from Pharaoh’s army.

In the same way, Jesus’ obedience will save his people from God’s Judgement; and God’s Judgement will also save his people from the tyrants of this world.

So there is no contradiction here: Jesus is eager to bring God’s Judgement in order to save his people from evil men. But first, he is even more eager to save his people from God’s Judgement by passing through God’s Judgement himself.

And, no, refusing to bring judgement would not be the more compassionate thing to do. If Jesus does not some day “bring fire on the earth”, if he accepts everyone into his Kingdom — even unrepentant tyrants — what will be the result? If wicked, selfish, abusive men did not change their ways in this life, why should we expect them to change their ways in the next? They will just continue to do there what they’ve been doing here! — except that there they will have all eternity to abuse and enslave the weak! That would be like putting sheep and wolves together, forever, in the same pen!

And pardon me for saying so, but I think that would be Hell, not Paradise!

So, clearly, Jesus is right to look forward to Judgement Day. On Judgement Day, the sheep will be separated from the wolves, finally and forever. That day will be a wonderful day!…for the sheep.

And Jesus is starting that process of judgment, that process of separation, right here in verse 51: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. [52] From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. [53] They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

On the night Jesus was born angels appeared and sang, “Peace on earth!” — but peace can only come after the war has been won. Jesus is fighting to separate his helpless sheep from the wolves of the world. He has to bring division before he can bring unity.

And interestingly enough, Jesus is not just making up these words. He is actually quoting from an Old Testament prophet named Micah. If you were to turn to the book of Micah, Chapter 7, you would see these words: “Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with her who lies in your embrace be careful of your words. For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.”

And here is the really interesting part: the Prophet Micah wrote this down as a warning sign to God’s people. If you read all of Micah Chapter 7, this is what you will hear the prophet saying: “When you see this kind of division starting to happen among Jewish families, pay attention! This means that the Messiah is about to enter his trial. And after the Messiah is vindicated, he is going to bring God’s Judgement soon afterwards!”

Wow, right?

And that is why Jesus turns to the crowd in verse 54, and says, “When you see a cloud rising in the west — over the Mediterranean Sea — immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. [55] And when the south wind blows — a wind from over the arabian desert — you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. [56] Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

Remember, this is same crowd that, only that morning, demanded Jesus prove himself with a miraculous sign. Here, late at night on the same day, Jesus is speaking to the same people. He is warning them, “You already have your sign. This growing division in Israel is your sign! You wicked generation! You know how to read weather patterns; why don’t you know how to read God’s own Prophet Micah, who told you what to look for?”

Jesus has just quoted from the Prophet Micah in order to say, “Watch out! After I have been baptized in the floodwaters of God’s Judgement, it will be your turn!

So he goes on to say, [57] “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? [58] As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. [59] I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Jesus is saying, “It is almost time for you to pay back your debt to God. I am here to collect. If you do not come to some agreement with be before the due date, you are going to have to pay back the principle and the interest, and the fees, and the points — you are going to have to pay for all eternity.”

And here I think I need to pause, because…this is a little bit confusing: last week we heard Jesus say that Judgement Day won’t come for a while, and when it does come it will be a surprise. But now we just heard Jesus say — based on Micah, Chapter 7 — that Judgement Day is happening soon, and not as a surprise!

So…how can ah?

Well, Jesus told his disciples that their Judgement Day won’t come for a while, and it will come as a surprise.

But he is telling the crowds that their Judgement Day is happening soon, and the warning signs are all around them.

Remember, in Chapter 11, when these crowds demanded a sign from him, he cursed them with a special judgement. He warned them that “this wicked generation” will be judged more heavily than pagans because they failed to listen to the greatest preacher who ever lived. It is “this wicked generation” that is busy rejecting the Son of God himself — and if they do not soon come to some agreement with Jesus, God’s Judgement will fall upon them during their lifetimes.

(Don’t worry: Jesus will talk about all this in more detail when we get to Chapter 17.)

So Jesus is actually talking about two Judgement Days: the first one will fall upon “this wicked generation” during their lifetime. It will be a judgement on the Jewish nation for rejecting their rightful King. The second Judgement Day will fall upon the whole earth, we don’t know when. It will be a judgement on every nation, every person, who has rejected Jesus as the rightful King.

Is that clear?

Okay, back to the story:

So at this point, because Jesus’ warning was just a little bit heavy, some of the people speak up. They say, “Hey! Did you hear about those Galileans who went to Jerusalem for Passover this year, and then got caught up in some kind of Bersih rally, and got killed by Pilate, the Roman governor?”

And we might think, “Huh? Are they trying to change the subject or something?”

But no. These people are taking Jesus’ warning to heart; they are trying to come to some agreement with him. Basically, they’re saying, “Oh, we believe you Jesus! We see the signs: Judgement Day is almost here! But we know that we don’t need to worry because Judgement only happens to bad people! — bad people like those Galileans who were killed by the Romans.”

But then we wonder, “Why are they assuming those Galileans were bad people? Do they know something we don’t?”

No. This is how people thought in those days: if something bad happens to you, it’s because did something bad and God is angry with you. And if God lets you get killed while you are trying to enter the temple to worship him, then he must have been very, very angry with you! You must have been very, very bad!

But [2] Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?

And the crowd would be like, “Uh, trick question? Yeah!”

But Jesus says, [3] I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

“You are just as bad as those Galileans. You need to repent and join me, or else — !”

And then Jesus brings up another recent disaster: [4] “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?

And the crowd would be like, “Uh, yeah?”

Well, [5] “I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

“See,” Jesus is saying, “the difference between good people and bad people is not how religious they are. It’s not their ethnicity. It’s not whether they are rich or poor, fortunate or unfortunate. There are only two categories: people who repent; people who do not repent. People who get on the ark and live; people who do not get on the ark and die. People who follow Moses and live; people who follow Pharaoh and die. People who listen to me and inherit eternal life; people who listen to the Pharisees and inherit eternal death.

“It is as simple as that.”

[6] Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. [7] So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ [8] “’Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. [9] If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’“

And this is Jesus’ final warning of the night. The man who owns the vineyard is God the Father. The fig tree is that “wicked generation”. The gardener is Jesus. The Father says, “Son, we’re not going to get anything out of these people! Get rid of them! They’re just taking up space.” But the Son says, “Just a little while longer. Let me make a special effort with this generation for just a little while longer. If they repent, if they accept me, if they begin to live compassionate lives — then great! But if they don’t…then we’ll let the axe fall.”

The storm clouds are gathering. The war against Satan, that we thought was almost over, is just getting started. Over the next few chapters of Luke we are going to see increasing division, increasing resistance as Jesus marches on Jerusalem. And it could begin to feel quite discouraging! — except for God’s promise that all this is part of the plan. Jesus must be baptized in the floodwaters of his own Father’s Judgement, and that sounds horrible! but we are beginning to see that this terrible baptism is the only way for Jesus to rescue his sheep while also destroying the wolves.

So: what does this mean for us, two thousand years later?

Well, today’s application is going to be a little different. Today we are going to act out the application of this passage.

This is how it works: just like Noah, just like Moses, Jesus entered into the floodwaters of judgement. He descended into death. And just like Noah, just like Moses, Jesus trusted his Father to carry him through to safety.

And now, just as Noah did for his family, just as Moses did for his people, Jesus carries us through the floodwaters of God’s Judgement. But we do not descend into the depths! We are not swallowed by the sea! Jesus did that for us, instead of us. Jesus drowned so that we would not have to. Jesus took the all the weight of the waters of judgement upon himself in his baptism…so that we can just get sprinkled in ours.

So this is our application: today two of our dear sisters are going to be anointed with the waters of God’s Judgement. But because they believe in Jesus’ baptism, these waters of judgement have been transformed into the waters of joy, the Waters of Life. Their baptism is the seal of God’s promise — the chop of God’s promise — that they are his daughters now, washed clean of all their sins, set free forever from the fear of judgement.

So this is what we’re going to do: if you would all rise, and gather here, you will all stand as witnesses as Sue and Lois receive the sign and seal of their salvation in Christ. Phil is going to lead them through the vows that are printed here on the last page of our worship guide. He will baptise them into God’s family.

After that, Rachel will come and stand with Sue and Lois up here (she has already been baptized), and I will lead us all through our church’s membership covenant. First Rachel, Sue and Lois will promise to be faithful sisters to us for as long as our Father has called them to remain. And then we are all going to promise to be faithful brothers and sisters to them!

And then we going eat together as one family at our Father’s dinner table. Because that is what we are: one family, united and saved by Jesus’ baptism.

That is what we are celebrating here today.

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