Throughout the gospels, there is record of many questions being posed to Jesus – some by Pharisees or scribes, some by common men and women, some by His disciples, and even some by demons. Jesus answers many questions, though not always in the way anticipated. He also asks a fair few questions of His own. I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the questions posed to Jesus, and the way in which He answered them. His answers show us what God really cares about, and how He demonstrates this to us.
Two times, the gospels record how a disciple of the Lord was surprised by a seeming paradox –
- Why did the Son of God, who would baptise with the Holy Spirit, come to be baptised by water?
- Why did the Lord and Master of all kneel to do the servant’s job – to wash the feet of His disciples?
First Filled with the Spirit
“Then Jesus came to Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptised by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptised by You, and are You coming to me” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” The he allowed Him. When He had been baptised, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened on Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” [Matthew 3:13-17]
John the Baptist was a forerunner. He had been preparing people to recognise Jesus, the Messiah when He came. He was “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; Make his paths straight.” This prophecy is found in Isaiah 40:3, and the following verses speak of what it means to prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight:
“Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed! John worked to prepare people, and prepare the atmosphere for the coming of the Messiah. Yet, God also makes our paths straight.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”
When we surrender all to God, when we look to Him – we allow Him to direct our paths. He will make our paths straight so every obstacle can be overcome, and so that we can see our destination clearly. The valleys will be raised up, the mountains brought low, the rough places smoothed, and His glory revealed as we walk in relationship with Him. John understood His need to be baptised by Jesus. Baptism with water was symbolic of repentance – being washed and made clean, but John anticipated the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire – something He knew Jesus would do. He says, in Matthew 3:11:
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
This was a new thing. In the past, the Spirit of God had rested on people, but now Jesus was going to give the Spirit to dwell within man. It would be with man forever, not to be taken away, but to be a seal and promise and director into eternity with God. When Jesus conquered death, He gave the indwelling Holy Spirit by which man could once again speak directly with God, and know His thoughts. In Jesus was the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. All they had spoken of and advised for cleansing of sins was fulfilled in Christ. Jesus became the Great High Priest, having an unchangeable priesthood in that He made one sacrifice to atone for all sins. Before Him, the priests had to make atonement many times, both for themselves and for the people [Hebrews 8:20-28].
So, why did Jesus want to be baptised by John in water? What is His answer to John’s question? Why should the Son of God, who would baptise with the Holy Spirit, be baptised in water?
Jesus Himself gives the answer:
- [Matthew 3:15] – “… Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
- [Matthew 5:17]- “Do not think that I come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”
When Jesus was baptised in water, He was obedient to God, and acted in accordance with the law. The heavens opened, the Holy Spirit rested upon Him and God confirmed His deity and glorified Him. Hebrews 5:8-9 says:
“Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him…”
The Son of God was perfected in humanity to become the author of eternal salvation – appointed by God as High Priest forever. He fulfilled the law, and made a lasting way for us to have relationship with God – to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He fulfilled the law because He alone was holy and blameless, worthy to do so. He was first filled with the Holy Spirit, and this is the Spirit He gives to us, so that we also can draw near to God. Jesus became righteousness for us, and He is Salvation. The Master made the way for us to draw near to Him.
First to Serve
“After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, are You washing my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.’ Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’ Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ – [John 13:5-11]
I wonder how the disciples would have reacted when Jesus, after supper, got up, laid his garments aside and put a towel around himself instead. We have clear documentation of Peter’s reaction. Peter is taken aback by the suggestion that Jesus, His Master, should wash His feet. Again, like John the Baptist, Peter knows who Jesus is. When Peter said, “You shall never wash my feet!” he showed his struggle to understand Jesus who was both servant and king. Jesus explains that unless He washes Peter, Peter will have no part in him, and Peter, longing to be with His Lord proclaims that he wants not only his feet, but his hands and head to be washed. He wants to be fully one with Jesus. Yet, Jesus, explains what He is doing by washing His disciples’ feet. His disciples knew Him and they had been cleansed from their sins. In washing their feet, Jesus allowed them to experience how God serves them, how He wants to welcome them into His home, the kingdom of heaven, and what it means to serve one another.
In those days, people travelled by road and the road was dusty. So, visitors to a home would be welcomed by a servant who washed their dusty feet clean. Another story that comes to mind is that of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair and anoints them with perfume. In doing this, she welcomes Him into her heart and Jesus enters, cleansing her of her sins [Luke 7:36-50]. Jesus demonstrates something important when he washes his disciples’ feet. John 13:3 explains that Jesus knew “that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God.” As such, Jesus decided it was time to bring this lesson home. He had already spoken about being a servant in the kingdom of God, telling his disciples:
- “…If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” [Mark 9:35]
- “…You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” [Mark 10:42-45]
Multiple times, Jesus found His disciples quarrelling about who might be greater. Multiple times, Jesus affirms that the desire to be great is not bad, but that the means to greatness in the kingdom of God is genuine servanthood and humility before one another. Finally, He himself demonstrates this when His disciples still have not grasped its meaning. In washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus shows them the following things:
- To be a servant, we need to take off our own garments, and put on a “towel” in that we, in humility of mind, might have an attitude that considers the interests of others [Philippians 2:3-4]
- To be a servant to others, we must have the water of life to pour out to others. In other words, we must first know God and be filled with Him, so that we are able to minister to others.
- God desires that we have hearts that seek to serve, seek to sanctify, and seek His kingdom first. If Jesus demonstrated this kind of attitude in living, how much more should we seek to emulate servanthood as we follow after Him.
The Master is First
In both passages that we have looked at today, God demonstrates something with the instruction or anticipation that we, as His people, would also receive or do these things. Jesus was first filled with the Holy Spirit, which He gave to us so we could be one with Him and the Father. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, showing them that the true meaning of greatness in the eyes of the Father, was found in loving servanthood. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, raised to life so that we can have life. He loved us first, so we could learn the depth of His love and grow to love Him, and to love one another.
“And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” – [Colossians 1:17-18]