Summary: Through baptism our debt of sin was killed, and so was our sinful nature's control over us,
On November 29, 1942, a curious looking airplane called the Grumman Duck took off from the iceberg-studded waters of Koge Bay on the south-eastern edge of Greenland. The goal of the flight crew, John Pritchard and Benjamin Bottoms, was to rescue seven members of a B-17 crew that had crashed during a search mission. The crew survived, but had already been stranded atop a glacier for almost three weeks. The Duck’s crew had successfully rescued two men the day before and was returning for more of the men. But after they picked up the B-17’s radioman, they encountered whiteout conditions and the Duck crashed, killing all three on board. For 70 years the Duck and its unfortunate passengers remained stuck in the snow and ice of Greenland, but in 2012 a salvage team was successful in locating the Duck under 40 feet of ice. Operations are now under way to salvage the Duck and to return the remains of the crewmen for a proper stateside burial.
Although such salvage missions are costly, they are not unusual. Many governments around the world have a “no man left behind” policy. Alive or dead, they promise to bring you home for a proper welcome, or for a dignified burial as a way to say thanks for your faithful service to the nation. Perhaps some of you have relatives who have received such a burial in a cemetery for war heroes. Or when they passed away they lay in state as hundreds of mourners passed by a flag-draped coffin to pay their respects. That certainly sounds like a better burial than dying atop a Greenland glacier and simply being left there until Judgment Day.
However, as we close out our sermon series on baptism, we’re going to learn how through this sacrament we have already received a better burial than any send off a grateful nation could give. Listen to our text from Colossians 2:8-14; 3:1, 2. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross…1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
When we started our baptism sermon series, we learned that this sacrament provides a better birth. Now we’re saying that baptism provides a better burial? But aren’t the two opposites? They are but baptism provides both. When we think of the blessings of baptism we normally think of how that sacrament gives us new life. It does that by offering the forgiveness of sins, and giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit who creates faith in Jesus our savior. Through baptism we are born again into God’s family.
But our text this morning also clearly teaches that in baptism we are also buried with Christ. The waters of baptism securely tied us to Jesus, like a rope securely tied between two mountaineers edging their way across a glacier. And so everything that Jesus experienced, is now also part of our past and will be part of our future. When Jesus died on the cross, we also died. That sounds bad, but it’s not! Tell me, why do people fake their own death? Isn’t it because they’re running from something? They might have a debt they can’t pay and so they fake their own death so that the bill collectors or the mafia will stop coming around. The problem with those who fake their death is that they end up living the rest of their life on the run, hoping that no one finds out they’re really still alive. But in baptism we really died with Christ. And so our debt of sin is really paid. Paul put that dramatically when he said in our text: “He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13b, 14). Or as the Message translation puts it more simply: “Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross.” We don’t have to live in fear that God’s angels will catch up with us and hurl us into hell. No, baptism offers a better burial. We died to our debt of sin there while still remaining very much alive.