January 3, 2019
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.”
The baptism of John is referred to in Acts 19 as a baptism of repentance, and that’s how we normally think of baptism, as a public turning away from selfish living. But if baptism were only a matter of repentance, then there would have been no need for Jesus to be baptized, seeing as how he had no selfish past to renounce. Although baptism does normally imply repentance, I believe there is a deeper meaning to this ancient ritual. Baptism is first and foremost a ritual of submission and surrender. To put it plainly, letting another human being hold you under water is a profound expression of trust! When a person walks down into the waters of baptism, they are saying for the whole world to hear, “I surrender. I submit my will to the will of the One who upholds everything that He created. I will seek the good of the Whole Picture above my own self-interest, and I will sacrifice that which is temporal for the sake of that which is eternal.” Taking a deep breath and yielding to the hands of another, trusting that you will re-emerge from the water, is a potent symbol of the self-sacrifice that always leads to resurrection. For Jesus, it was also a foreshadowing of what was to take place in his ministry.
The death and rebirth that are symbolized by baptism can be seen throughout the life of Christ. From his first miracle, to the washing of his disciples feet, to the ultimate miracle of Easter, it’s one example after another of Jesus letting himself be taken under in total trust that he would be brought back up. All he did was die. All he did was rise again. In doing so, he sanctified the role of the servant for all time. He did a lot more than just that though. Jesus physically embodied the one truth that is currently holding the universe together; the truth that all life comes through death, and that all beauty comes through sacrifice. Jesus wasn’t afraid to go under. He knew it was the only path to resurrection.
Giver of life, equip us with the courage to surrender. Help us to trust that your hands will bring us back up at the proper time.
- What act of service are you afraid might take you under for good? Remember that redemption often follows a downward path, but that it always leads to Life.
- What emotion or memory are you afraid might take you under for good? Sometimes the path of life can lead through painful valleys. It’s always worth it.