Our devotional reading this Sunday focuses on the Gospel text and comes from Concordia Commentary: John 1:1–7:1.
Romans 4:1–8, 13–17
[In John 3:1–17], Jesus is confronting Nicodemus with the fact of Jesus’ own Baptism at the hands of John in which he was receptive of the Holy Spirit. . . .
Water refers to the preliminary rite of John, and the Spirit to a subsequent direct action of the Spirit. However, it can hardly be the case that Jesus claims that the baptism of John, considered in itself, remains indispensable for entering the kingdom of God. The argument of the Gospel is that John’s baptism is preliminary to the appearance of Jesus and was for that purpose (Jn 1:31; see also Jn 1:15, 23, 26–36). With the appearance of Jesus, the baptism of John loses any independent value that one might attribute to it; it is superseded and becomes irrelevant. . . .
The water baptism of John . . . is not so much superseded as transformed and consummated in another water Baptism, that to which the Spirit is added. What the Baptist witnesses when he sees the Spirit come down upon Jesus is exactly that consummation of his own water Baptism. “And I have seen and I have borne witness: ‘This one is the Son of God’” (Jn 1:34). The baptism of John continues in the water and Spirit Baptism of Jesus; the baptism of John is replaced by the Baptism of Jesus as the water Baptism that is the instrument of the gift of the Spirit. Water and the Spirit find their unity, therefore, not first in the post-resurrection Sacrament of Baptism, but in the Baptism of Jesus himself. When Jesus confronts Nicodemus with the necessity to be begotten “from above” (Jn 3:3, 7) and “from water and the Spirit” (Jn 3:5), he confronts Nicodemus with the necessity of being baptized into the Baptism of Jesus.
Yet, already in the testimony of the Baptist, the Baptism of Jesus in water and the Spirit is connected with the death of Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29; cf. Jn 1:36). The Baptism of the Spirit with which Jesus will baptize will be nothing other than his death (“the Lamb of God”), and this Baptism of his death will be proffered to those who believe in the waters of the renewal of the Spirit. This is the significance of the final and great scene of Jesus’ passion when he hands over “the Spirit” (τὸ πνεῦµα, Jn 19:30) and “blood and water” flow from his side (αἷµα καὶ ὕδωρ, Jn 19:34). In the death of Jesus the Baptism of Jesus receives its effective power to cleanse from sin, and in this cleansing resides as well the life-giving gift of the Creator Spirit.
Devotional reading is from Concordia Commentary: John 1:1–7:1, pages 422–24 © 2015 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.