FYI – This post is kind of “heavy duty” so it will be challenging to read and multitask.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.John 3:5
Born of Water
Born of water. Nothing Jesus says is “simple.” The immediate imperative of His statement is that we must first be born from our mothers. I have five kids, but I was only able to be in the room when my daughter was born. She came with plenty of water. All of Adam’s progeny are truly “born of water,” for we all came through the water of God’s judgment – Noah’s flood. Although Noah is a type of Christ’s burial and resurrection, he is not who Jesus used for His prophecy of His judgement. death, burial, and resurrection. No, He used Jonah.
When the Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus, His answer stunned them.
But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.Matthew 12:39-41
The immediate message from Jesus was that He would die, be buried, and then rise triumphantly, as the conqueror of death, hell, and the grave. Yet, Jesus includes an ancillary message. Jonah was in the “belly of the great fish. “Jonah was in the water of God’s judgment. But Noah was considered by God to be righteous, but not Jonah. However, by God’s answer to Jonah’s prayers he came out of the water, out of judgment, and lived.
We have all been born of water, for we came with water when we were born. However, everyone also comes from Noah. The flood was God’s judgment by water on humanity as punished for their sin. But Noah was counted as righteous, so he passed through the judgment uninjured. As children of Noah, being in his body1, we passed through the water – God’s judgment by water upon Earth.
Noah passed through the water unharmed because he was considered righteous by God. As for Jonah, “He [Jonah] said to them, ‘Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.’”
Jonah willingly was thrown into God’s judgment. Did you catch that? Likewise, Jesus willingly accepted God’s judgment, for He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) By God’s mercy He put Jonah in the belly of a great fish. God saved Jonah from the water of judgement. It was the great fish, like Noah’s ark, which kept Jonah safe from the water judgment and delivered Jonah to dry land, just as Noah was delivered to dry land. So why didn’t Jesus use righteous Noah for His example instead of Jonah?
Doesn’t Christ’s choice seem a bit odd? Not really. Jesus was numbered among the transgressors. (Mark 15:28) Jesus was in the grave because He took our sins to the grave; the wages of sin is death. Jesus’ death and burial was a substitution for us. He had to go to carry our sins to His grave. In Psalms 16:10 we find a clue to what’s going on: ‘For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”
This Psalm is a Messianic Psalm. Jesus had to go to the grave, but He didn’t experience decay the way we do, for Jesus was sinless and He was going to conquer and break free from death, hell, and the grave. It’s like Jesus showed up in His grave, and His grave said to Him, “What are you doing here?”
Now Jonah, a prophet of God, was a sinner but God protected him from the water of judgment. Jonah is an interesting type for what Jesus prophesied in Matthew 12:39-41. As noted, Jonah was a prophet. Jesus is the preeminent prophet – “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.2” Also, Jonah had sinned since he ran from God. As for Jesus, “For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) And then there is the water.
Jesus said, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jesus was buried in the earth. The “earth” is a type for the water of judgment. We should state this the other way around. All the types of water as judgment foreshadow Jesus takes God’s judgment upon Himself, being buried in the earth, but breaking free from death and the grave.
The Point of It All
Water baptism symbolizes a person’s death to Adam’s world and birth into God’s kingdom. Baptism physically demonstrates what spiritually takes place – death, burial, and resurrection. In baptism we show that we are following the footsteps of Jesus. As believers, we must pass through the water of judgment; we must die, for the wages of sin is death. But we do not remain in the water (spiritually dead, under judgment), but we come out, as Jonah did. We are no longer under God’s condemnation; we have passed through God’s judgment.
One of the ordinances Jesus established for His Church is water baptism. This law of the Church is from the grace of Jesus. Every member of His Church comes through the water of judgment. We would go into the grave and would stay there except Jesus provided the way for us to rise up out of God’s judgment, to be seated with Christ in heavenly places, to me counted among the redeemed.
During baptism, when that man or woman that takes hold of your body and lifts you up out of the water of judgment, they do so as a representative of Jesus. It is Jesus that preceded us in death, and it is Jesus, the victor over death, which pulls us through our death and lands us on dry ground, a new creation, a citizen of God’s kingdom where no one can condemn us to spiritual death. That’s what it means to be “through the water.”
1 – Hebrews 7:8 The priests who collect tithes are men who die, so Melchizedek is greater than they are, because we are told that he lives on. 9 In addition, we might even say that these Levites—the ones who collect the tithe—paid a tithe to Melchizedek when their ancestor Abraham paid a tithe to him. 10 For although Levi wasn’t born yet, the seed from which he came was in Abraham’s body when Melchizedek collected the tithe from him.
2 – Revelation 19:10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
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