Word of God

The Shadow of the Cross

So Jesus replied to him, “Let it happen now, for it is right for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John yielded to him.

[Matt 3:15 NET]

One meaning of Christ’s words here is that, as man in the place of sinful men, He must take upon Him all the conditions of humanity. He had no sins of His own to confess, and yet He came to John as other men came. He did this because He was in the place of sinners. A little later John pointed to Him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” So we see Jesus coming to be baptized, because “all we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” This baptism with water, however, was but the merest shadow of what the bearing of our sins cost Him.

In Holman Hunt’s picture, “The Shadow of the Cross,” Jesus is represented at thirteen, standing in the carpenter’s shop at the close of the day. He stretches out His arms and the setting sun casts His shadow in the form of a cross on the opposite wall. The artist’s thought is that across the soul of the gentle youth thus early fell indeed the shadow of the cross. No doubt the thought is true. Especially here, however, as Jesus entered His public ministry, did not this shadow fall upon Him.

This baptism by John was but the emblem of the other baptism. This was only with water, and was but symbolical. He had another baptism to be baptized with the baptism of sorrow, of death, and of curse, when He “redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us.” Here we see Him entering the edge of His sore baptism from which He finally comes on the morning of His resurrection. We ought never to forget, as we enjoy the blessings of redemption, what it cost our Lord to procure them for us. He endured His nameless baptism of sorrow, pain and death, that we might receive the blessings of peace and joy. He tasted death for us that we might have deathless life.

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