Monday, December 25, 2017

When Jesus was taken to Pilate, Mark refers to the place as the “hall” or “Praetorium” (Mark 15:16).  John calls it the “Pavement” (John 19:13).  The primary motivators who called for Jesus’ death were the “chief priests” (John 19:6).  The exact number of demonstrators is unknown, but it was not every citizen of Jerusalem nor all of the temporary pilgrims in town who shouted, “Crucify him.”  How do we know?

Information on Jerusalem’s population is not exact.  Some give twenty to thirty thousand,  A Roman historian, Tacitus, gives us six hundred thousand!  The trial and crucifixion of Jesus took place when pilgrims were flooding the city during Passover.  Luke names fifteen different places that some called home.  The number of visiting pilgrims also varies.  Josephus, a 70 A.D. Jewish historian, puts the number killed during the siege of the city at one million, one hundred thousand.  He states that ninety-seven thousand survivors were sold as slaves.  That number killed and enslaved tells us the combined number of citizens and visitors.

When Peter spoke in Acts 2, he was probably in one of the Temple courtyards.  It is estimated that one hundred thousand could easily occupy that area with four hundred thousand creating a shoulder to shoulder crowd!  Since “about three thousand” responded to Peter’s message, the non-responding must have been much larger than those who obeyed.  Peter repeated his charge twice to that large gathering,

Jesus . . . you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death . . . Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:23, 36 NKJV).

Someone who had been in the Praetorium crowd, must have asked verse 37’s question.  However, some present had not been at “the Pavement” during Jesus’ trial.  Is that possible?  Were all in Peter’s audience personally guilty of killing God’s Son by shouting, “Crucify him”?

Although Luke focuses upon the apostles in Acts 2, the first chapter reveals that they and one hundred and eight others met together in an upper room (Acts 1:13-15).  The vacancy left by Judas Iscariot was filled by Matthias (verse 26).  In Acts 2 “about three thousand” responded and were immersed (Acts 2:41).  Were the apostles, Jesus’ mother, the other women, and brethren who were included in the one hundred and twenty, also immersed on that occasion?  If not, why not?  One reason given is that the apostles were immersed earlier by John the baptizer.  Jesus, speaking about John, quoted from Malachi 3:1, “For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You” (Matthew 11:10 NKJV).  From this passage the theory is advanced that the apostles were “grand fathered” into the future body of Christ prior to Pentecost.  Therefore, they were not required to submit to the post Pentecost baptism.  What about the one hundred and eight who were also meeting in the upper room?  Were they not also baptized by John?  If so, wouldn’t John’s baptism allow them to be added to the saved as were the apostles without submitting to the Acts 2:38 baptism?  Why would they not be grand fathered too?  If none of them had received John’s baptism, we must assume it.  That would mean that none needed to become better Jews nor to receive the forgiveness of their sins!

There are some differences between the pre-Pentecost and the post practiced baptism.  John’s baptism was not performed in the name of Jesus nor in any other.  It did not put a candidate into the body of Christ prior to nor after Jesus death, resurrection, and ascension.  Its purpose was to make a Jew, who was in covenant relationship with Yahweh, a better Jew.  It’s only relationship to the baptism on Pentecost is that both were commanded, both were by immersion in water, and both were “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3).   That is where the similarity ends!  John was preparing them for the coming Messiah or Christ.  Matthew tells us, “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him” (Matthew 3:5-6 NKJV, Emphasis mine-RH).  While John was immersing Jews, Jesus’ apostles were doing the same.  If their baptism was not for the same purpose as John’s, no evidence is given to explain their practiced.  Post Pentecost baptism was not limited to the Jews as John’s was.  The Pentecost baptism was to make all, both Jew and Gentile, children of God under the new covenant.  The post Pentecost baptism was in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 10:48).  It was to obey the Lord’s command (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; Luke 24:47).  It was to clothe one with Jesus by putting him on in baptism (Galatians 3:27).  It was so one could be immersed into his death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12).  According to Luke, one’s baptism was followed by the person being added by God to the saved (Acts 2:41, 47; Also see Romans 6:17-18).

How many were immersed during John’s ministry?  Jerusalem had a population between thirty to one hundred and fifty thousand.  What was the population of Judea?  That’s anyone’s guess.  What about the region around the Jordan?  Same answer!  I suspect that the number immersed by Jesus’ apostles was smaller than those baptized by John, since he had been doing it longer.  The scope of John’s work was throughout Judea and around the Jordan River.  People in all those areas sought, heard him, and responded to his command to be immersed.  The only ones mentioned who refused were the Pharisees and lawyers (Luke 7:30)!

If the one hundred and twenty in the upper room were grand fathered into the saved-on John’s baptism, would the multitude immersed by John not also receive that blessing?  Although we believe the apostles were grand fathered into the saved because God ordained John’s baptism for that purpose, we don’t have that detailed for us in scripture.  We assume that it is so, since there is no mention of them receiving an additional baptism.  If we may assume that view for the apostles, why can’t the others immersed by John be added by that same assumption?  If so, then John’s ministry was more successful than we previously thought.  One hundred and twenty is good, but thousands are better!  Because of John’s work, neither those in the upper room, nor a lot of other citizens in Jerusalem, joined in with that crowd who screamed, “Crucify him”!  They were believers and recognized Jesus as the one who fulfilled Malachi’s prophesy.

Merry Christmas