“Today, you will witness the death of your brothers and sisters.”
I have spoken these words many times to many people, and whenever I do I watch as a look of confusion and mild concern spreads across the faces in the room. Then, before a crowd of people who know exactly what is coming, I place my hand upon the head of their loved one and thrust their bodies beneath a body of water.
There are no gasps or scream, no panic, and no fear. But there is anticipation. Because although they have gathered to witness death, they also understand that death is only part of our story. The other part is resurrection. And only moments after they have been submerged beneath the water, they are lifted out of it – the same body, the same name, the same life experiences – and yet somehow, powerfully, new.
“Today, you will witness the death of your brothers and sisters. When they are plunged into the baptismal waters, they are baptized into the death of Christ, buried with him beneath the surface. And as they emerge from the water, they emerge into new life, according to the power of Christ and His resurrection, which is at work in them.”
I cherish these moments. I cherish the newness of life that emerges from the shallow grave of the waters of baptism. I cherish the sounds of affection and celebration that burst forth from the family of God as they welcome the new member into the fellowship of believers in an all-new way. I cherish the journey that follows, because I know that the pursuit of Christ gets even better still.
I was baptized late in life. I knew what it meant. I was already studying to be a pastor, in spite of never having been obedient to the instruction to be baptized. Yes, I could articulate what it meant. But I could not anticipate the change that would come about through it.
I admit, on the day I was baptized, I did not feel much change. But every time I reflect on that day, I recognize that the power of God is at work in me through those baptismal waters. My baptism means more to me today than it did the day I was baptized. Because that day was day one, in a sense, even though I had been a follower of Jesus long before it. And since then, Jesus continues to shape my life evermore.
This series of posts isn’t about baptism. It is about the incredible work of God that takes place within the baptized person. It is an invitation to recognize the powerful journey we are on, and to live into it fully and embrace it completely. It is a reminder of the unending love of God and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, who works both in our lives and through our lives to bring about the remarkable kingdom of God through the pinnacle work of King Jesus.
But most of all, I hope that what follows will serve as an invitation to recapture something that many of us, and by my observation, much of Western Christianity as a whole, has lost: the sense of awe-inspiring adventure that takes hold of us as we become disciples of the truly revolutionary Jesus, the Messiah. My prayer is that our lives become motivated by an unquenchable thirst for more of Him, and we would find joy in its purest sense with every step closer we take to him, as he draws us nearer and nearer day by day.
My greatest hope is that we will live into and out of our baptism. Because, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, nothing in us will ever be resurrected if it hasn’t already died first. So as we begin this series of posts together, I want to remember that we are called to die, so that in Christ we might live.