Luk_12:50. I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
ANY one who understands the true nature of Christianity would suppose that the religion of Jesus must of necessity approve itself to the heart and judgment of every person to whom it is proclaimed; and, above all, that the Founder of it, in whom every species and degree of excellence were combined, must, so far as his character is made known, be an object of universal approbation. But the very reverse of this has proved to be the fact, even as our blessed Lord himself declared it would be. In the verse before my text, he says, “I am come to send fire on the earth.” And in the verse after my text, he puts the question to us; “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division;” and such a division, too, as shall separate from each other the nearest and dearest relatives [Note: ver. 49, 51–53.]. As to himself, he states, that he had nothing but the bitterest persecution to expect, so long as he should continue upon earth: and that, in fact, he longed for the period when the storm should burst upon him: “I have a baptism to be baptized with: and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!”
In discoursing on these words, it will be proper for me to shew,
What a fearful “baptism” awaited him—
In baptism, the whole body was frequently immersed under water: and, in reference to this, our blessed Lord calls his own sufferings “a baptism;” because he was about to be wholly immersed in sorrow, and to become, to an extent that no other person ever did or could become, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief [Note: Isa_53:3.].”
Inconceivably great were the agonies of his body—
[We forbear to notice his privations during the course of his ministry: when he, on many occasions, “had not where to lay his head.” We will notice only his sufferings during the short period of one single day. Follow him, after his seizure by those who were sent to apprehend him, and see how he was treated at the tribunals of his judges: see him arrayed in mock majesty, insulted in every possible way, spit upon, smitten in the face, and the crown of thorns driven into his temples: see him scourged, so that “long and deep furrows were made upon his back:” see him fastened to the cross by nails driven through his hands and feet; and the cross, with him suspended on it, descending with such violence into the hole prepared for its reception, that almost all “his bones were dislocated” by the shock [Note: Psa_22:14.]: see him left thus in the midst of all imaginable indignities, till he should be relieved by death: surely “his visage was marred more than any man’s, and his form more than the sons of men [Note: Isa_52:14.]:” so that it may well be asked, “Was ever sorrow like unto his sorrow [Note: Lam_1:12.]?” — — —]
But it was in his soul chiefly that his pains so much exceeded those of all other men—
[Who can conceive the agonies he endured in the garden, before his body had been subjected to any suffering from man? Then it was that the cup of affliction was put into his hands by God himself; and he was constrained to drink it even to the very dregs, till, through the agonies of his mind, the blood issued from every pore of his body, and he was, literally as it were, baptized in blood. Nor can we by any means conceive what his pure and holy mind must have endured, whilst he encountered such “contradiction of sinners against himself [Note: Heb_12:3.]”,” both in the courts of justice and on the cross — — — Hear him, under the hidings of his Father’s face, crying, “My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” Can any finite imagination conceive of the agonies he then sustained, when the sins of the whole world were laid upon him, and the debt of the whole human race was exacted at his hands? — — —]
But if this baptism was so terrible, what reason can be assigned,
Why he so earnestly longed for its accomplishment—
Were it only as a woman longs for the pains which shall soon terminate in the birth of her child, he might well desire their speedy arrival, in order to their speedier termination [Note: Joh_16:21.]. But he had far higher reasons for the desire which he expressed. He longed for this baptism,
Because by it the Father would be glorified—
[This, in particular, operated upon his mind, at the time that he deprecated the bitter cup: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again [Note: Joh_12:27-28.].” It was by this event that all the perfections of the Godhead were to be displayed — — — and therefore our adorable Saviour longed for the time when this most desirable object should be consummated — — —]
Because by it his own work, so far as it was to be carried on in this world, was to be completed—
[Christ had undertaken to “make his soul an offering for sin [Note: Isa_53:10.],” and, by death, to expiate the sins of our fallen race. Without this, all his previous labours and sufferings would be in vain. For this, therefore, he longed, that he might be able to say, “It is finished [Note: Joh_19:30.]” — — —]
Because by it salvation would be wrought for a ruined world—
[This was the great work which Jesus had come to effect: and so intent was he upon it, that, when Peter would have persuaded him to spare himself, he reproved his infatuated Disciple in the most indignant terms: “Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me [Note: Mat_16:21-23.].” This was, in fact, “the joy that had been set before him;” in the prospect of which he not only “endured the cross, and despised the shame [Note: Heb_12:2.],” but desired both the one and the other; fully “satisfied, if only he might see at last of the travail of his soul” in the happiness and salvation of his redeemed people [Note: Isa_53:11.] — — —]
Think now, Brethren,
What obligations we owe to the Lord Jesus Christ!
[How amazing is it, that ever He should undertake such a work for us; and that he should persevere in it, till it was altogether accomplished! He knew from the beginning all that should come upon him: yet, so far from drawing back, “he went before his timid Disciples, and, to their utter amazement, led the way” to the place that was to be the scene of all his sorrows [Note: Mar_10:32-34.]. He shewed, throughout, that the whole of his sufferings were voluntary. When, by his word, he struck to the ground the whole band that came to apprehend him, he shewed, that he could as easily have struck them all dead upon the spot [Note: Joh_18:4-6.]?: and, in liberating his Disciples, he shewed that he could with equal ease, if it had pleased him, have liberated himself also [Note: Joh_18:7-9.]. He himself tells us, that, if it had pleased him, he might have had “more than twelve legions of angels” to deliver him [Note: Mat_26:53-54.]. But “having loved his own, he loved them to the end;” and drew not back, till, by his own obedience unto death, he had “made an end of sin, and brought in an everlasting righteousness [Note: Dan_9:24.].” How “passing the knowledge, whether of men or angels, was this unutterable, incomprehensible love!” Seek, my dear Brethren, so far as your feeble capacities will enable you, to comprehend it; that so, being transported with the view of it, “ye may be filled with all the fulness of God [Note: Eph_3:18-19.].”]
How willingly, if occasion require, we should suffer to any extent for him!
[We, his followers, must expect to be conformed to him [Note: Mat_10:24-25.]; “drinking of the cup which he drank of, and being baptized with the baptism that he was baptized with [Note: Mar_10:38-39.].” But shall we account this a hard matter? Has he endured so much for us, and shall we be averse to suffer for him? Shall we not rather “rejoice that we are counted worthy” of such an honour [Note: Act_5:41.], and bless our God for conferring it upon us [Note: 1Pe_4:12-14.]? Be prepared then, every one of you, for that “fire” and that “sword” which he has taught you to expect [Note: Mat_10:34-39.]: and, to whatever extremities ye may be reduced, be ever ready to “follow him without the camp, bearing his reproach [Note: Heb_13:12-13.].”]