Matthew 3:13-17, Colossians 2:12-14, Hebrews 13:5

Liz Dumain compares baptism to life experiences that can suck you down under the water.

Liz Dumain
Liz Dumain

In Matthew 3:13-17 we meet John the Baptist, who is teaching and telling of the coming Messiah. He's baptising people as a sign of repentance from sin, turning away from following other gods, to worship the one true God.

And here is Jesus, not well known yet, coming to be baptised. John is surprised and reluctant because he recognises that this is the Messiah, God in human form. He has no sin to confess, no turning away from other gods. What was going on?

In this moment we get a glimpse of Easter. Of the standing in our sinful shoes that is to come at the cross. It was a big moment for Jesus. Breaking with His past life of obscurity; stepping fully into the life that was to come. Setting His face to the cross.

That's what baptism is for each one of us too; whether you were a baby and your family made promises on your behalf, or an adult who made the decisions yourself. Baptism is about stepping fully into a new life, being changed and changing.

As Jesus is baptised the heavens open. The three-in-one God in evidence. Jesus, God in human form, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. The heavens open and we see that Jesus' baptism was not just like anyone else's, no matter how fun or exciting ours might have been. Jesus's baptism would have been fully under, no sprinkling.

I wonder whether you have ever fallen into water unexpectedly. Or jumped into water that was so cold it felt like it sucked the life out of you for a moment.

Baptism is a symbol of burial and resurrection. Our entrance into the water during baptism, whether it's fully under as an adult, or the shock of water on your head as a baby, identifies us with being sucked under; being powerless.

The Message translation of Colossians 2:12-14 says this, "Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive-right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant cancelled and nailed to Christ's cross."

In Jesus, our sin is forgiven, the slate is wiped clean. Old stuff is done with. New life for all!

Jesus came up from His baptism into a different more public life: exposed, criticised, and on His way to the cross.

'Different' can be good, or a bit of a challenge.

Different can be full of joy: the difference of a new love filled, Spirit empowered life, can make us beam inside.

But sometimes different can be a bit more of a challenge. Different can be one of those life-sucking moments. Sometimes it can feel like the downward suck goes on for a long time and what we come up into feels uncertain and not ok.

Sometimes we can experience a tummy-sucking experience, but not in a baptism service. Maybe we feel like life is drowning us and we can't get up for air.

How might we respond? Logic it away, theorise it out, grit our teeth and carry on. But what about when none of that seems to work?

Sometimes we need to walk the bravest way. Trust that Jesus who has known it all is with us in it all.

God is just as present when we're going down into the mess, flailing around in it, or when we're cruising because the water is like a millpond.

He promises all through the Bible Hebrews 13:5, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

If you're sinking - He's not left you
If you're drowning - He sees you
If you're exploring - He is with you CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.