Sometimes I’ve wondered. I’ve been privy to a number of conversations with folks who aren’t “ready” to be baptized–with those who do not see “why” they need to be baptized. And in the past few years, I’ve read many posts and comments regarding baptism. I’ve followed conversations where folks get all worked up over the requirement of, get this, Southern Baptist churches expecting people to be baptized like the Savior by John to validate their fellowship with the Baptist faith which espouses baptism by immersion as one part of Christ’s biblical commands. To be honest, that doesn’t baffle me much, given the fact that men must find something to argue about or they just wouldn’t be men. I’m about to digress and chase a bunny:
Once when I entered a comment stream and asked why the men found such pleasure in arguing with one another, I was told that “Men were born contenders.” From that bit of info I began to view the bulk of these arguments with a c’est la vie kind of resignation.
When I consider the act of baptism today, I am forced to wonder why so many folks and faiths have aversions to the practice of baptism by immersion. Now, I’m sure if I did a bunch of research, read a bunch of history, went to college and seminary, and wrote a dissertation, that I’d find valid reasons (drought, no water, tradition, etc.), theological interpretations, and doctrinal views, to answer my question. And if I ran a dozen or so polls and surveys from a wide dissection of people groups, I’d cully a great deal of excuses and rationale. But, that’s not what I’m really wondering about.
I’m wondering why in the introduction of Jesus to the world, His very first action was baptism. I’m wondering why, when Jesus came up out of the water, God Almighty, El Elyon, Most High, would take that specific moment in time to lend His literal booming Voice to bless Christ’s action with “This is my Beloved Son in Whom I’m well pleased.” God the Creator, was no longer just the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; He was the Father of Jesus, Immanuel. In my limited knowledge of scripture, I don’t recall God ever amplifying His pleasure of Jesus on any other occasion. Not when He was twelve and dumbfounding the synagogue leaders. Not when He overcame temptation in the desert. Not when He chose His disciples. Not when he taught His disciples. Not when He preached the sermon on the Mount. Not when He healed the sick, fed the thousands, raised Lazarus from the dead, made water into wine, reduced demons to a herd of beserk pigs, or stood before Pilate and died upon the cross. Nope. The time God chose to verbalize His approval of His only begotten Son was at His baptism.
I even let my pea brain wander backwards into the Old Testament and wonder why God used water as the first way He destroyed the earth. I wonder why God saved the nation of Israel by parting the waters of the Red Sea then used the same waters to swallow up and drown those who’d dare chase after His chosen people. I wonder why God chose to wipe out the leprosy of the king by making him humble himself and wash seven times in the Jordan. I wonder why Elijah methodically stacked a pile of wood then drenched it with water and let it pool in the trench around the pile of lumber before he called down God’s fire from heaven to prove the absolute power of God over Baal to the heathens who worshiped a god of satan’s making. I wonder why it took “much water” to baptize the Ethiopian eunuch. I wonder why all the early Christians were baptized, without hesitation, upon confession of faith in Christ.
It’s fair to say that today, in a world of such sophistication and progressive intellectual modernism that some may view baptism with as much disdain as the leprous ruler who balked at his servant girl’s advice to follow a prophet’s instruction. It’s probably even fair to say that in a culture so pride-filled and beauty-focused that a hair-drenching, make-up ruining action would cause others to shy away from such public display of humiliation. It may even cause the strongest of men to resist the idea of yielding himself to another man’s control (even if that man is of God) to be dipped into a pool of water and made vulnerable for the entire world to witness. YET…
I stand amazed at how excited a child is to experience the opportunity with such openness, willingness, innocence, eagerness and joy. How compelled they are to share the experience, invite all their family members (lost or saved) to the event, as if it were special. How unintimidated they are to write it in their school biographies and voice it in “show and tell” for their classmates to hear. And then I consider how the Savior said, “Unless you become as a child, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Perhaps the reasoning behind baptism is far more a heart-rendering than a body-rendering. Perhaps the mystery of it all is deeper than a mere ordinance, a profession to the world of an inner confession, or joining with a group of like-minded Believers. Perhaps the reason Jesus said to go, make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all things really carries greater significance than we will ever conceive. Whatever God’s reasoning behind it, I cannot tell. That, I simply accept as many things of God I accept yet don’t understand. He is Sovereign. And after all, since baptism mattered to Jesus, shouldn’t it matter to me? selahV