The Baptism that Jesus was Baptised with
I have just been pondering a bit, dear brethren, the death of Christ. We have had the death of Christ before us on Lord's Day in the Red Sea and the Jordan, and I was thinking of the way the Lord Jesus says, as he approaches the hour of His death, "I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how I am I straitened." The character of that baptism was such that He must go through it alone. He must go into death alone. We sang at the outset, "Thou, Lord, to death's domain didst go alone", and that is the baptism He is speaking of in Mark 10. The Lord says elsewhere, "A sign shall not be given to this generation save the sign of Jonas the prophet." Think of the baptism that He went through — three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The Lord says to the disciples, "Greater love hath no man than this, than that he should lay down his life for his friends." And in Song of Songs, we read, "love is strong is death." As we ponder these expressions in scripture that speak to our hearts of the death of our Lord Jesus, it would draw our hearts to Him, draw out our affections for Him. In one sense, He didn't have to go that way, but He went that way because He loved us. He went that way for your sake and for my sake.
He went into death in order to rescue persons from the clutches and the bondage of Satan, from the bondage of sin. And now He's speaking to His disciples here in Mark, telling them of what is about to happen, and the disciples "were amazed and were afraid as they followed." They weren't sure if they were going to be able for this, and indeed they were not. We should notice how the Lord Jesus, in the first verses of this paragraph, speaks of His death and of His awful pain and suffering, both physically and in being condemned to death and delivered up to the nations. And in spite of the Lord Jesus speaking in this way of His coming sufferings and death and what He would endure, it seems like the disciples were blinded to it. It really didn't have the impact that it should have had on them, because it says, "And there come to him James and John, the sons of Zebedee, saying to him, Teacher, we would that whatsoever we may ask thee, thou wouldst do it for us." You see, while the Lord Jesus was speaking of His coming sufferings and death, they were concerned about their own greatness! What a word to us, dear brethren, that in the scene of the Lord Jesus' feeling and agony as to what was about to come, the disciples were thinking of their own greatness: "Give to us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy glory." The Lord says, "Ye do not know what ye ask." How the Lord Jesus felt this lack of understanding by His disciples!
It was after His resurrection that the disciples understood what the Lord Jesus had been saying about His sufferings and death. They really didn't understand it at this time, and that's all part of the sufferings the Lord Jesus went through as He approached the hour of death, the misunderstanding even of those who were His own — the betrayal by one of His own, His own familiar friend, but the misunderstanding of His own, too; the lack of entering into His deep feelings as to what He was about to accomplish, what He was about to suffer. "The Son of man shall be delivered up to the chief priests and to the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him up to the nations: and they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him." Think of what the Lord was saying to the disciples! He says elsewhere, "The Son of man must go up to Jerusalem, and suffer many things." But the disciples don't understand. He challenges them, "Are ye able to drink the cup which I drink, or be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with?" They said to Him, "We are able." It's almost, you may say, a glib reply to the Lord: "We are able." But the Lord answers them, and indeed in the years after the Lord's death and resurrection, the disciples came to some understanding of the depth and fulness of the death of Christ. He says, "The cup that I drink ye will drink and with the baptism that I am baptised with ye will be baptised." They came to understand the death of Jesus, and what it meant, and what it was to be prepared to die for that name, to die for the testimony, as martyrs, for the name of Jesus.
So I read of these persons in Hebrews who, in principle, were prepared to lay down their lives — who were prepared, in faith, to be baptised with the baptism that the Lord Jesus was baptised with. Not that we enter into it in the same way that Jesus did, because those who die now depart "to be with Christ, which is much better", but in any case, are we prepared to lay down our lives for the testimony? It says that he who loves his life in this world shall lose it, but he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. Such a person is prepared to lay down his life.
We read in this section of men of faith, and not only men, but women too. Think of Rahab and all these persons in the book of Judges, and the prophets. What suffering Jeremiah endured! He was rejected — his word was rejected by his people, by those whom he was serving. And Amos was told, 'Go prophesy somewhere else. We don't want to hear what you're saying'. Indeed, anyone who testifies to the name of the Lord Jesus, to the truth, must be prepared to suffer. Perhaps not suffering in death literally, but prepared to lay down their lives for the brethren, prepared to lay down their lives for the Lord Jesus and His name, His name's sake. We read of martyrs in the Acts, who witnessed faithfully to the name of Jesus and to the truth. One could say, "Ye do always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers, ye also." And they held their ears and rushed upon him. How this exposes the heart of man! Desperately wicked, deceitful above all things!
And so, desperately wicked hearts were exposed when the Lord Jesus was delivered up. Men were afraid they would lose their place, that the Romans would come and take away their place and their nation, and the Pharisees and the Sadducees were upset by the Lord's teaching. He named them as hypocrites, and that upset them. But it was true. He was testifying to the truth.
And when Paul comes to these various places — Ephesus, Corinth, and Athens, he is resisted when he speaks the truth, when he speaks of the glad tidings of Jesus Christ, the glad tidings of the Son of God. The resistance of man's desperately wicked heart becomes evident. And a believer can expect that in this world, whether from the religious world or from morally corrupt men. The believer can expect opposition in this world because of the desperately wicked heart of man.
It says "he that practises the truth comes to the light" (John 3:21), but unless our hearts are really renewed, unless our hearts, our beings, are renewed, we don't like the truth — we don't like the light that God shines upon our lives and our actions.
That's how it works in the testimony. "All who desire to live piously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." The believer can expect that in the pathway of faith. We have all these examples of Old Testament saints in Hebrews 11, all these ones and what they suffered. The Lord Jesus suffered in full measure, in the way He went. He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. But these persons went through suffering as well, and many died for the sake of the testimony, for the sake of doing what was right and standing for what was right in faith.
Well, it says, "All these, having obtained witness through faith, did not receive the promise, God having foreseen some better thing for us, that they should not be made perfect without us." That brings us in! Not only the Old Testament saints, but New Testament believers, as well. We can have part in being baptised with the baptism that Jesus was baptised with, maybe not in a literal sense, but suffering a loss in some way. The Lord Jesus speaks of disciples in the gospels, and the preparedness to give up what is natural — wealth, natural relationships, or whatever it may be, for His sake, and that is what the Lord is looking for from each of us, as persons of faith. He is looking for persons who are ready to sacrifice, and to lay down their lives for the brethren — ready, in faith, to stand for His name.
I understand that when Martin Luther was speaking before the Roman Catholic tribunal of bishops many years ago, he said, "Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen." Now you see, that was a man of faith. He had the truth in his soul of justification by faith, and he stood for it with God's help — it wasn't in his own strength — it was with God's help, and he suffered for the testimony because of it. Indeed, in principle, he was prepared to lay down his life on account of the testimony.
And so, we have this verse in John's epistle: "Hereby we have known love, because he has laid down his life for us; and we ought for the brethren to lay down our lives." The Lord does not arbitrarily command us to lay down our lives; it is an appeal that is based on the fact that He loved us, and He laid down His life for us. That is the basis on which John writes, "and we ought for the brethren to lay down our lives." Because of the Lord Jesus' deep and abiding love for each one of us, He asks us to lay down our lives for the brethren.
I believe that is the way it works out. Standing for a principle is right in and of itself, but the desire, in standing for what is right in any exercise, would be in view of it being for the brethren, in view of the brethren being saved in any exercise that comes up among God's people. "We ought for the brethren to lay down our lives."
The Lord Jesus has suffered on account of the truth, and because of who He was — the Son of God. No other man was ever like Him in this world. He was unique, and He stood for the truth. He said, "My witness is true" when He was before Pontius Pilate. Pilate asked Him, "What is truth?" And He was silent. The Lord Jesus was the perfect expression of the truth! And He laid down His life.
Well, beloved brethren, I just had this impression that we should in some way take character from the Lord Jesus. He may not be asking us to give up our lives literally, but perhaps in standing in faithfulness to Him and His interests here — how precious they are! We don't claim to be the assembly, but we desire to care for His interests, because we have part in His assembly, that precious vessel that is so dear and near to His heart.
May we love Him, may we love His people, His assembly, that vessel that goes through suffering as the pearl of great value that the Lord Jesus goes and sells all that He has in order to secure. May we buy the truth and sell it not, and may we be persons who are prepared to suffer.
May the Lord bless the word. For His name's sake.
S. E. Hesterman
The Baptism That Jesus Was Baptised With