Solidarity with Sinners

The GOD TV website ran an article advertising one of its latest shows. Entitled ‘Shocking Truths Hidden In The Gospel Of Mark Explained’, it naturally grabbed my attention. It is evidently part of a series called Go Deeper, led by such august-sounding characters as Dr Chris Green, ‘a professor of Public Theology’. The article gushed: “His first revelation is about the baptism of Jesus Christ and how it reflects the Old Testament.” A ‘revelation’. A ‘shocking truth’. Things ‘hidden’ in the gospel. What could this good doctor of theology have discovered that passed by we simpletons?

“In Israel’s exodus, both when they leave Egypt and when they leave the wilderness to go into the promised land, the waters part and they go through the dry ground. But when Jesus comes to the waters [of baptism], the waters do not part. He goes down into them and Bob Ekblad has talked about what that signal is that Jesus is going down with Pharaoh and his armies.”

“Dr. Chris then continued to explain that it symbolizes that Jesus came to save everyone.”

The Pharaonic army perished for its rebellion against the true God’s revealed will; Christ identifies with sinners, so it might just work as an interpretation. If the waters had parted, however, it would have proved impossible to be baptised. Secondly, there is little in the text that links Jesus’ baptism with the Red Sea washing away the Egyptians. Yet he goes on:

“He is showing solidarity with all of those people who were lost in the flood. And all those people who are destroyed in the crashing of the red sea… Jesus is saving not only Israel but Egypt. He’s claiming Jew and Gentile which is the heart of the Gospel. All of us are claimed.”

Showing solidarity? Those drowned Egyptians were hardened sinners, seeking to thwart the will of a sovereign God, by attempting to re-enslave His recently freed people. Those washed away in Noah’s flood ignored that righteous man’s preaching and disdained his saving ark. Christ shows no solidarity with them, even proclaiming His victory over their kind in hades between His death and resurrection. He came that He might seek and save the lost; He identifies with sinful humanity, for He ‘became sin for us’ on the cross. But to those unrepentant, die-hard workers of iniquity, He shows no solidarity. He is their Judge, the One before whom they must give account.  

Whereas I applaud any analysis of the biblical text, carefully seeking to link it to themes and patterns found elsewhere in the scriptures, there is a danger we impose meanings which the original authors, and ultimately the Holy Spirit, never intended. One Sunday evening, I preached from 1 Corinthians 9. In that chapter, Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 25, regarding the prohibition of muzzling the ox while it treads the grain. He makes it plain that the verse is not just about animal welfare, but supporting Christian workers. Therefore a text may well have more meaning and application beyond than that which meets the eye. At the same time, we must be careful not to project our own theologies onto it. Wishing to have Jesus ‘show solidarity’ with unrepentant, salvation-denying reprobates is not one of the obvious meanings of His water baptism. Rather, He is identifying with the sinner, preparing to take his place, bear his wrath. When His ministry began at the baptism, and when it reached its zenith at Calvary, Christ was paying for old Adam and while being our new Adam. These truths are not hidden in the text, requiring an academic to prize them out that we too might behold them; they are perfectly clear throughout.

Image by yann-1 from Pixabay