You find yourself standing on the shore of the Red Sea, surrounded by your family, your tribe and all your people. All of your life you had been a slave until a crazed desert man arrived promising redemption by the God of your ancestors. After ten catastrophes, Pharaoh lets your people go but now, at the edge of the Red Sea, a dust cloud begins to grow at your backs as the sound of chariots grows ever closer. Staring at the water, you remember the story your father told you of God judging the wicked of the earth, and can’t help but wonder if you are about to be judged. Then Moses raises his hands, a mighty wind appears, and you pass dryly through the waters.
A generation passes and you find yourself approaching the banks of the Jordan. Joshua has promised that today you will enter into the land God promised your forefathers. As you advance you remember the story your father told you of Moses and the Red Sea and hope you may be able to witness the same. However, as the priests and leaders of the tribes continue advancing toward the waters, ark of the covenant in tow, the water does not move and you begin to wonder if God has judged your generation like He judged the last. Then the priests step foot in the river, the waters recede and all of Israel passes through the Jordan.
Over a millennia later, you find yourself once again at the banks of the Jordan. A crazed desert man, a holy man, has created quite the stir with the leaders of the synagogue. You have heard of him washing with water those who wish to be made clean from sin. Today, another man arrives and John declares him “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” This second man comes to John, asks to be baptized and you can’t help but wonder why a spotless lamb would need to be washed clean.
The people of God have always had a strange relationship with water. Rain is often seen as a blessing (see Mat 5:45b). However, water, particularly large bodies of water, is more often seen as a sign of danger, judgement and chaos. The Psalms and Job even have occasional references to sea monsters. This is particularly interesting to me because baptism season is upon SMR. Baptisms are one of my favorite things to witness in the church. There is so much present in our baptism events, from the sharing of testimonies, the fellowship, and the rejoicing at the official welcoming of new believers. However, given our people’s strange relationship with water, I’m left with 2 questions: why do we baptize with water? And why was Christ baptized with water?
To answer the first we must answer the second. Jesus obviously had nothing to repent of, nor need of redemption; He in fact is our redemption! Jesus submerging himself under water points to His taking on of God’s wrath for us. Just as God covered the earth with water in Noah’s day, Jesus submerged himself under water to symbolize willingly placing Himself under God’s wrath on our behalf. We baptize with water “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” both in memory of what Christ has done and in solidarity with His Lordship. Entering the waters of baptism, we remember Christ buried and bloodied for our sin and exiting, we celebrate his victory over the grave. We also mark ourselves as members of His covenant community. In biblical times, taking on a covenant sign was to symbolize the consequences of the covenant if it is not kept (see Gen 15 & 17), so baptism can also symbolize God’s wrath falling on one who does not believe. However, we do not go into this covenant on our own merit, but celebrating Jesus, our true mediator, the God-man who willingly submerged himself under God’s wrath on our behalf.
So brothers and sisters, rejoice in the glory of our God, the strangeness of water and the beauty of baptism.
If you have an interest in contributing to story team, or have a story that you wish to share please contact Jimmy Hettinger at firstname.lastname@example.org