The gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are rich in history as well as the teachings and anecdotes from the life of Christ. They are also rich in the wisdom given of Christ through his parables. You will recall the stories of the selection of his apostles. We can follow the development of the apostles and, at times, the frustration of the human Jesus as he tries to get them to understand concepts and realities that were, in the beginning, totally be-yond their comprehension. They were being asked to bury the old law that had permeated every aspect of their lives to accept a new covenant which seemed beyond their understanding. The old law was based on things they could see, touch and feel. But this new covenant was based entirely on matters of faith and concepts such as “love your enemies and do good to them that despitefully use you”, sell your possessions and give to the poor, love your neighbor as yourself, etc., that seemed totally out of touch with the real world. Some things were not understood until after His death.
One of the most misunderstood concepts was the coming of the kingdom. The Pharisees asked when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘here it is,’ or ‘there it is’, because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21) What an idea! No wonder some of the people frequently thought he was possessed of a demon.
Indeed, it was a time of turmoil and not just because of the Romans. The teachings of Jesus turned the Jewish world upside down.
Christ spent some time trying to comfort his disciples because of the unrest these strange teachings caused within them. For instance, Christ talked of going away to a place they could not follow. (John 13;33-36 NIV) Simon Peter asked “Lord, where are you going…why can’t I follow you now?” Later, Thomas also asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” They were afraid to be without the Jesus they had come to know and love and who had become the center of their lives. John 14 records Jesus’ words of comfort.
And they needed comfort. Luke 12:49 records this telling statement by Jesus: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed.” Not understood by his disciples at the time, Jesus was speaking of the baptism by pain he would eventually undergo…his crucifixion. The human side of Jesus dreaded what must first come before his disciples could have hope of resting with Him for eternity. No wonder the plan of salvation included our baptism and the Lord’s Supper was instituted to remind us of His baptism of pain suffered so long ago. His baptism of pain changed the world for through it we have hope of the resurrection.