Summary: The waters of commitment call us to take a plunge, but will we let fear take over?
My younger son, Sam, loves to swim. I remember the days when he took his first swimming lessons. Like most kids, he loved the water and just dived right in. Some swimmers are like that – plungers. How many of you like to plunge right in? How many of you like to take your time getting into the water?
How many of you wouldn’t be caught dead in a swimsuit?
Faith is like swimming. Some Christians are plungers. They totally commit themselves to the water. Others walk out until their ankles are covered, then their knees. Next they rub water on their arms, and slowly lower themselves all the way in, splash around for a short time and return to land. And a whole mess of folks haven’t even gotten wet! They’re still on the beach as spectators.
In Jesus’ day, some people came out to hear and see John the Baptist, and they responded immediately and wholeheartedly to his call for repentance baptism. Others were cautious, fearful not of the water but about plunging into a radical new life. The Pharisees and Sadducees, for instance. These pious, wealthy religionists showed up at the river, but not to repent. They had it too good. Wealth. Prestige. Power. Why change? It was unthinkable.
Today, most of us have that same fear.
We’re like the pig who was strolling along the country lane with the hen. They pass a church with a marquee sign that asks, “WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP THE POOR?” The hen immediately responded, “We could feed them ham and eggs!” The pig shook his head, grunting. “No way!” he said. “Why not?” the hen asked. “Because for you it only requires a donation,” the pig replied, “but for me, it means total commitment!”
So we poke a toe into the water, and then draw back with a shiver of fear.
“John, what do you mean by repentance? Change, you say? Hm. What will this change look like? Will it inconvenience me? I’m busy, you know. Does it mean I’ll have to give up some old ways? Well, I might be able to give up some, but others….what’s that, John? TOTAL commitment to Christ? Giving up ALL control to Him? Won’t my friends and family think I’m a religious nut? Let me just splash around a little bit, hang around in the shallow end. And don’t get my wallet wet, either. Keep my watch dry, too. The church is always asking for time and money. You see, John, there are some things that I simply don’t want dunked. So let me have, oh, just half a baptism. Better yet, a quarter of a baptism. Only a drop of change, if you please.”
And so we dawdle on the shore, secretly wanting to dive into the new life but keeping our feet anchored to familiar ground, our anxiety about a complete change of heart suppressing our longing to be transformed.
What can spring us loose? What will it take for us to plunge all the way into the river of faith and commitment?
The only thing that would free us to charge totally into the water is if someone plunged in before us. . .yes, that’s it! If we could witness another person go in – someone in whom we could trust, someone with authority and power, someone who has completely thrown himself into the baptismal waters and emerged in victory – then we would go in.
Look! See who is rising out of the Jordan, drenched from head to toe. Heaven parts above him, and the dove of the Spirit lights upon his shoulder!