Summary: Why be Baptized?
Baptism January 10, 2010
A few years ago we gained some new neighbours on our street – a great couple named Bev & Laird. On a warm summer Saturday, a bunch of us we having coffee on the front porch – Linda was talking about the wedding dress that she was sewing for a niece & it came out that Bev & laird weren’t married. Being good neighbours, we gave them a hard time. Linda volunteered to sew the dress, I volunteered to perform the ceremony, others were happy to cook the food etc…
We all had a good laugh, but I’m not sure Bev. & Laird were laughing as hard as we were! Last summer, Laird told me over the back fence, “hey, I’ve got some great news! Bev. & I are engaged!” On New Years eve past, the whole street turned out to see Bev. in here beautiful dress, and Laird in his … (I mean kilt) and to see them off as they went off to the ceremony.
I never asked them why they decided to actually get married – they had been together for years, the had bought a house together, they had all the trappings of a marriage minus the ceremony. I would guess that beyond family (and neighbourhood) pressure, they saw the need for a deeper commitment to each other than just financial and social ties. There really is something about the vow, the promise that we make to each other to love each other and be faithful for the rest of our lives. It is a beautiful thing to know that in good times and bad, you have someone who has vowed to stay with you.
I think that there are some Christians out there who are much like Bev & Laird before new years – you’ve made a commitment to God, you’ve accepted Jesus’ death and resurrection to forgive your sins and give you new life,
The meaning of Baptism
There is a great about of symbolism around weddings – there is even more in the single act of Baptism!
Baptism is a sign and commitment to new life
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
"A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.' "
John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
Baptism is a picture of starting a new life, of turning over a new leaf. The people who were baptized by John were making a commitment to live differently that they had before.
Baptism is a sign that we want to get a restart in life. We are saying that the person that we once were is not who we want to be, the way that we used to live is not the way that we want to live now.
Baptism is a powerful image of this new start because it is an image of death, burial, and resurrection. We are saying that our old way of living is dead, and we are leaving it in the watery grave as we come back out into a new life. This is what the people we saying as they came to John to be baptized – “we want to start again, we have not been living for God, and now we want to live for him.”
Baptism is an act of obedience/ righteousness
The funny thing is that Jesus comes to John to be baptized!
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
We believe that Jesus is the sinless Son of God; he is the only one who did not need to repent, because he had never done anything wrong! And yet he says that he should be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. This account reminds me that righteousness is not just about what we don’t do. It is also about what we do. There are things that God calls us to do to be righteous. He doesn’t just say, don’t murder or hate, don’t steal or covet lustfully. He says that there are things that we need to actively do – symbolic things like baptism, and very earthy practical things like serving the poor, loving the people he has given us, and caring for his creation. God cares about what we do as much as he does about what we don’t do.