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  • Fr. Scott Haynes

Christ's Baptism and Noah's Ark

Fr. Scott A. Haynes


A MEDITATION FOR THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD

The Octave of Christ's Epiphany



The Biblical account of Noah and the great flood is a testament to God’s hatred of sin and determination to wipe it from the face of the earth. He of course offers a way to escape the waters of destruction; He instructs Noah to build an ark which carries eight people and a pair of every animal to safety.


With these, He provides the earth and the human race with a new beginning. As a sign of God’s covenant of friendship with the newly recreated world, He places a rainbow in the sky.

From the beginning, Christians have seen in this story a hint of a greater work of God that would come later. The first flood swept away the evil from the surface of the earth, but not from the hearts of the ark’s passengers. The Red Sea closing in upon Pharaoh and his armies had much the same limitation — it did not cleanse the soul of Israel.



Even greater act of salvation was needed, one that was more radical, that penetrated to the very “root” of evil. God himself enters into our world through the mystery of the Incarnation. And today, Jesus Himself is immersed in Jordan’s waters, a sign of the destruction of sin, though He Himself had no sin.


The Bible is full of parallels or “types.” We can see God arranging the affairs of several Old Testament people and events to show us similarities to Jesus Christ, the focal point of the Gospel. Consider the following parallels:

  • The ark’s construction was made to be waterproof and resistant to decay by sealing it with “pitch” inside and out. The Hebrew word for pitch—kopher—means a “covering”. But it’s also the Hebrew word for atonement.

  • This is the Bible’s first mention of atonement. The pitch sufficed as a perfect covering for the ark, to keep out the waters of judgment, just as the blood of the Lamb (Christ) provides a perfect atonement for the soul.

  • The Jewish date that the ark rested (Gen. 8:4) and the date Jesus Christ rose from the dead are the same: “the seventeenth day of the seventh month”.[1]

  • The ark became the bridge from the old evil world to the present one (Gen. 7:7, 2 Peter 3:6-7). God also delivers us from spiritual death through His Son, Jesus. This is symbolized through water baptism (1 Peter 3:21). He saves us from God’s judgment of sin.



  • Although Noah wasn’t perfect, he is described as a “righteous man who walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). But Jesus was perfect, blameless, and obedient to the Father (Heb. 4:15).

  • Noah was like a “second Adam” since humanity got its second birth from him (Gen. 8:15-9:17). Christ is called “the second man (Adam)” since He gives us birth to eternal life (1 Cor. 15:47; Acts 4:12).

  • Just as the Flood is a type of baptism, so too the ark is a type of Christ, specifically a type of Christ’s atonement. Genesis 6:7 tells us that God desired to “wipe off man whom I have created from the face of the earth”. God accomplished this by the Flood. The Flood, then, was the expression of God’s wrath.

The ark was the means God provided for salvation from His wrath. In verse 14, we read part of God’s instructions to Noah:

“Make an ark of cypress timbers for yourself. You shall make rooms in the ark; and you shall cover it with pitch inside and out”.



The “pitch” or “tar” in Hebrew is kâphar. Besides meaning to cover something with pitch, this word also means to “make an atonement.” In fact, this word is used for pitch only here, but it is used to mean atonement, purge, forgive, and so forth, about one hundred times in the Old Testament. Clearly, by covering the ark with pitch, Noah made it a vessel that typified the atonement of Jesus Christ. This vessel, then, is what saved them from God’s wrath that killed the rest of the world.


Notice also the ark had one door (Genesis 6:16). It seems unusual that such a large vessel should have only one door. I believe the door pictured Christ, the only way to salvation. The Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament uses the word thura for the door in Genesis 6:16. It is the same word Jesus used in John 10:7 when He said:

“I am the door.”



Jesus is the living ark of salvation. He is the Good Shepherd and the Savior of the world. Christians know and believe that salvation is found in Christ alone, for He said:

“I am the door. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9).


On the Cross Jesus destroyed sin and death. When the soldier pierced Him with the lance, a stream of blood and water flowed that was more powerful than the ancient waters traversed by Noah and Moses. Through faith and immersion in these mighty waters of baptism, sin can finally be scoured from the heart.



Baptism does not merely picture death. It also pictures resurrection. So, there must also be a coming forth from the water. Genesis records:

“And in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4). [2]

Ararat was the mountain range where the ark came to rest. Several Bible dictionaries say that Ararat means “the curse reversed.” For the remnant of mankind that were saved through water, this water symbolizes baptism that now saves us, not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God in Christ Jesus Our Lord.



Many centuries after the Flood, beginning with the Passover, God ordered that the seventh month be considered the first month (Exodus 12:1-2). He also ordered at that time that the Passover lambs be killed on the fourteenth day of that month (Exodus 12:6). [3] This is the day mentioned in Luke 22:7-8:

“The day of unleavened bread came, on which the Passover must be sacrificed. He sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.'”



That night, which according to the Jewish manner of marking days, began the fifteenth day of the month, was the night Jesus and His disciples ate the last Passover and instituted the Lord’s Supper. Jesus was arrested that night and crucified the next day—still the fifteenth day of the month. It was a Friday. Jesus was put in the tomb and stayed there over the Sabbath or Saturday, which was the sixteenth day of the month. Sometime early on the seventeenth day, the very same day that the ark came to rest on Ararat, Jesus rose from the grave.



The ark coming to rest on Ararat, with the waters continuing to subside so that the ark was now out of the water (Genesis 8:5), was a type of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It corresponds to the person being baptized coming up out of the water. The cataclysm of the Flood contains a beautiful picture of salvation. We, too, are occupants of an ark. God called us to this ark, and we entered it by faith. We trust in this ark to save us from our sins, to shelter us from God’s wrath. We will stay in this ark through life’s storms and through death, and one day it will bring us to rest on Mount Zion, triumphant with Christ in our resurrection.


Notes:

[1] In Exodus 12:1 the Lord changed the Israelite's calendar. What had been the 7th month since creation was now to become their 1st month. To this day the Jews have these two calendars (civil and religious calendars). So the 17th of the 7th month (when the ark came to rest and a new life dawned for Noah and his family) is exactly the same day as the 17th of the 1st month (called Nisan) in the religious calendar.

[2] The 17th of Nisan (the first month in the Jewish religious calendar) is a very key date associated with Christ's rising from the grave. These events also occurred on this day: (1) Noah's ark comes through the waters and rests on the earth on the 17th of Nisan. (2) The feast of first fruits (symbolizing new life) would occur on the first Sunday after Passover (Passover was on the 14th of Nisan (Exodus 12) so any time this falls on a Thursday, the feast of first fruits was on the 17th of this month). (3) Israel came through the Red Sea on the 17th of Nisan having left at Passover on the 14th. For them this was death to their old life (with the drowning of the Egyptians) and resurrection to a new life. (4) The manna which had fed the people of Israel for the 40 years in the wilderness stopped on the 16th of Nisan and from the 17th onwards Israel feasted on the new grain of the promised land (Joshua 5:10-12). (5) The death sentence hung over the entire Israelite nation as their sworn enemy, Haman, had convinced the king to sign a decree to destroy them (Esther 3:1-12). The decree went out on the 13th Nisan (Esther 3:12), and then Esther then proclaimed a three day fast (Esther 4:16) for the 14th, 15th and 16th. Then, on the 3rd day (Esther 5:1) Esther approached the king thinking to herself, "If I perish, I perish. God's will be done!" On the 17th Nisan, the tables were turned on the enemy Haman and instead of the Jews being destroyed, his own life was taken.

[3] If you read the Exodus 12 passage mentioned earlier, you would have noticed that God told the Israelites to take a spotless lamb on the 10th of Nisan and to inspect it up until the 14th Nisan where it would be killed in the Passover sacrifice. The 10th of Nisan, in the week leading up to Jesus' crucifixion, was Palm Sunday. It was on this day that He presented Himself to the Israelites as their Messiah to be openly adored and worshiped. On Thursday the 14th of Nisan, in direct fulfilment of the Exodus 12 passage, the true Passover lamb was slain for our sins.

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