Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:13-17
The baptism of Jesus—the start of something beautiful; something incredible; something the world had never seen. Jesus’ ministry on Earth had begun. Shortly after Jesus’ baptism, Mark records this (Mark 1:14-15): Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God and saying “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Soon after, Jesus began selecting his first disciples. Despite the doubts from those around them, they knew that they wanted to follow this man, though they had to wonder why Jesus picked them—a seemingly random assortment of folks that would never have banded together if it weren’t for Jesus putting them together. And what a journey they were on. They see amazing things that could hardly be described. They see love and mercy and grace poured out on so many, along with so many miraculous signs. What could possibly keep anyone and everyone from latching on to him and following him? What’s more, how could anyone dislike or hate this guy?
At some point during His ministry, Jesus asks His disciples who people say that he is. Luke 9:18-20 reads:Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
What faith of Peter and the disciples! Matthew records Peter as saying “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16).
They are confessing Him as their Messiah. Their Lord. Their Savior. All their eggs are going in this basket. In a world where Rome rules, any allegiance to another king besides Cesar likely ends very badly. A bold stance indeed. To Jesus’ disciples, He was the only King they needed.
Maybe it came as a bit of surprise when Jesus responded like this (recorded in Luke 9:21-22): “And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
You’re the King of Kings. Why suffer? Why would anyone even want to kill the Son of God? How could anyone kill the Son of God? How can people who should recognize you be so blind? And wait, “be raised”? What does that mean? Like it often is with us as we examine the Scriptures, it would take the disciples some time to be able to digest much of this.
Continuing in Luke 9:23-26– “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
That’s what it takes to follow Jesus. The desire to surrender your life now for eternal life in Him. We can see how Jesus’ words about taking up the cross tie into what would eventually be his own fate. Not knowing what lies ahead, what would the disciples have thought at that moment? “Deny myself and carry a cross—a known torture device? What have I gotten myself into?”
No, they kept trusting and they kept following. It would mean struggle, persecution, pain… but it also meant joy, peace, love, a spring of living water, access to the bread of life… Despite questions, they were in. Just follow. He’ll fill in the details along the way.
So, they did just that. Others joined along the way, some joined and left, some ignored, some violently opposed him. And eventually those words that Jesus spoke about being rejected and killed became all too real…
The same thing was prophesied hundreds of years earlier.
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” –Isaiah 53:3-7
He was betrayed by one of his own disciples—even just after he, the King of kings and Lord of lords, washed that traitor’s feet. He was bound and arrested, the rest of his disciples helpless. Filled with fear, Peter, the first disciple to profess that Jesus was the Son of God, actually denies that he even knows who Jesus is… 3 different times…
His accusers, the very ones Jesus had told his disciples it would be, would use whatever excuse they could to have Rome get rid of their “problem.”
Pilate still found no guilt. He offered to release Him as was the custom once a year—they requested a violent criminal in place of Jesus. The Son of God put up no fight and offered no excuse. An innocent lamb.
In an attempt to satisfy the mob, Pilate had Jesus viciously flogged. Skin and muscle violently torn from his back. Mockingly, the soldiers even twisted together a crown of thorns that sank deep into Jesus’ head. They placed a purple robe around him and said “Hail, King of the Jews!” If they’d only known…
The mob wasn’t satisfied. They cried “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Even Pilate could see how heinous this was. He gave the crowd once last chance “Shall I crucify you King?” Their reply should send shivers down our spine: “We have no king but Cesar…”
They led Jesus out to a hill called “The Place of the Skull”, forcing him to carry his own cross—crushing Jesus’ already torn body, pressing the thorns ever deeper into his scalp, ripping more and more flesh from his back. The people spit at him, the guards continued to mock him, all the while Jesus kept walking to his own execution—for you, for me, and even for them.
They drove nails into both of his wrists and through his feet. They hoisted that cross into the air. A sign had been placed on the cross saying “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. Each breath brings agonizing pain. The mocking continued. A few disciples were there, still helpless. Spectators like wolves just watching an innocent lamb be slaughtered.
After hours and hours of torture, Jesus cries “It is finished.” He is taken from the cross and buried in a nearby tomb. His disciples are crushed. He was their King. He was their Lord. All their eggs were in that basket. Now what? How could they follow Him? Who were they now?
In that time of intense grief, you can see how they might forget Jesus’ very words that now bring us such hope and joy. Yes, Jesus would die, but death could not conquer him. He would be raised on the third day, just like he said! That resurrection was promised for Himself just as it was promised for all of those who follow Him. Praise God!
Praise God that as Romans 5:6-8says: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Praise God for a perfect Savior, a perfect once-and-for-all sacrifice that cleanses us from our unrighteousness.
Recently, my church, my family, were blessed to witness God moving. We witnessed four people be buried with Christ—signifying death to this fleshly body and the sin that it carries—and join with him in a glorious resurrection into new life! Being raised into new life isn’t something we can do for ourselves. This is the powerful working of God (Colossians 2:12), by his grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), as we surrender to Him for our salvation.
Whoever loses their life for Jesus’s sake will find it. As new creations filled with new life, the Holy Spirit molds and transforms and guides us as we follow our one and only King and proclaim His Kingdom. A precious new identity that we will have forever and forever!
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” –Romans 6:1-5
Just like the day we just experienced with our brothers and sisters here, there’s another particularly awesome day recorded in Acts chapter 2. Jesus’ disciples were soon filled with the Holy Spirit in a very powerful way after his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, and they started spreading the good news of their Savior. They delivered the truth to the very people who were part of the mob that killed Jesus. Here’s part of what Peter said:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it…This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing…Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”” – Acts 2:22-24,32-33,36
If they’d only realized what they were doing at the time… What could they ever do now? How could they repay such a betrayal of their God? They plead with Peter and the disciples, as it’s recorded in the next verse:
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” – Acts 2:37
Jesus died for them even as they hung him on the cross. Jesus died for us even as our sins have all taken turns driving in the nails. Thankfully, no one is without hope.
Peter tells them: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:38
Deny yourself, turn from those ways, and follow Him.
Later it says that “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). 3000 people that realized they were worshipping the wrong King. 3000 people with a brand-new life.
Galatians 3:27 says “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” What more could any of us want than to be clothed in Christ? Covered by our precious Savior, Redeemer, and King.
Whoever loses their life for Jesus’s sake will find it. Are you looking for life? There’s only one source. Will you follow Him?
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” –John 14:6