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Luke 12:50

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Luke 12:50, ‘I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!’

The ‘baptism’ in view here is the crucifixion.

Much could be said about this passage, but all I wanted to consider in today’s post (and picture) is that Jesus knew what was set before Him and lived out His life—at least His entire public ministry—under the crushing weight of that knowledge.

And remember what that baptism—the crucifixion—was: it was Jesus bearing in Himself the full burden of sin and its effects for His people….Yes, the full punishment for sin…but also the suffering and sorrow and affliction that befalls us in a sin-scarred world (Is.53:4-6). In other words, every trial or hardship or sorrow or suffering or grief or sickness or pain or loss the people of Christ will ever—or can ever—face in this life was, in the mystery of His passion, borne in Him on the cross. This, in turn, means that the distress He experienced as He anticipated His ‘baptism’ was a joining with us in the distress of our own anticipation of our own hardships.

He bore not only the experience of the hardship itself, but also the agony of the expectation, the crippling weight of the anticipation…that too, He bore for and as us. And He bore it not as a fearful, anxious, love-crippling burden, but as a weight endured in hope and in peace through the continual casting of Himself upon His Father. How do I know this? Because I know that Jesus practiced what He preached. Here’s what I mean:

Just a few verses earlier, Jesus called on His disciples not to be anxious, but instead to observe their Father’s provision for the world and to cast their own anxieties about tomorrow upon Him, knowing that He will provide all that is needful (Lk 12:22-34, c.f., Matt 6:25-34). When He said that, I believe He was drawing upon His own strategy of peace in the face of the overwhelming threat of the cross that hung as a banner over His entire life.

Jesus’ war of faith to trust in and lean upon His Father in the face of the looming baptism of Calvary was a war on our behalf because the distress on account of which He waged that war was our distress—my distress—borne by Him in love.

No matter what lies before us, it has already been not only endured, but also approached and anticipated, in perfect faith in and a child-like peace before our Father by Jesus Christ….And through our union to Him in faith by the Spirit, we enter into Christ’s own approach, Christ’s own anticipation, and Christ’s own endurance of our every hardship….and so also into the peace with which He received them, AND into the resurrection by which He rose up in invincible joy beyond them.

So, in this picture, the baptism of the crucifixion descends as a deluge from the top of the scene. Water is a powerful and multivalent symbol in Scripture, here it represents the chaos and un-making resulting from our sin (including all the sorrows and sufferings of sin’s effects) and the judgment due to that sin. Beneath this, Christ stands as the sole representative of all His people (who are pictured as literally inside of Him), anticipating AS them and FOR them every affliction they will ever face. Finally, the halo around Christ is the green pastures and blue skies in which His soul rests as He depends wholly upon His Father. He faces the coming affliction not in fear or anxiety, but in the stillness of a soul that casts itself wholly upon the Shepherding care of His Father…And, because He has faced all our afflictions from this place of rest, we too—in Him—may face whatever life brings, not from a posture of fear, but of Christ’s own peace.