|Baptisms in my backyard|
I was baptized by one of my campus ministry leaders, Ray Anderson, in a Wesleyan church in DeKalb, Illinois. I was 21. My parents came to witness this. For all of us this was a great day. Baptism is an identification rite, and I had cast off the old clothing of my life in the kingdom of blindness and put of the new garment of Christ. (Colossians 3:12-15) This was a joyful and serious thing, and its effect continues in me today.
Baptism is serious and joyful business. I found this out when I was teaching at an Assemblies of God Bible college in Singapore. One of my Chinese students was named Kek (pronounced 'cake'). I asked Kek a question: "What was the hardest thing for you when you left primitive Chinese religion and becamae a follower of Jesus?" Immediately Kek said: "It was when I was baptized. Then my parents knew I was serious. They knew I would not be a son who bowed before their graves. They knew I would not be a son who kept a family offer and offered sacrifices and prayers to them after they died." This is baptism as revolutionary activity.
Jesus got baptized. To understand the Real Jesus we must understand his baptism, in the River Jordan, by John the Baptist. New Testament scholar Michael McClymond writes:
“The story of Jesus’ adult life begins with John the Baptist… [T]he beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the beginning of the gospel message lie in John and his preaching. John the Baptist is part of Jesus’ identity... John is important for understanding Jesus because the gospel accounts consistently portray Jesus’ baptism as a major transition… Once he had been baptized by John, Jesus began to announce that “the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15).” (McClymond, Familiar Stranger, 66)
Jesus, in allowing himself to be baptized by John, identified with John's cause. So... who was John the Baptist, and what was his mission? McClymond nicely summarizes for us.
“John was the leader of a sectarian baptizing movement centered in the wilderness of Judea – a place with eschatological as well as ascetic associations. Like earlier prophetic and apocalyptic figures, John announced the imminent end of the world and the time of divine judgment. John also spoke of a “Coming One” who would carry out the judgment. He summoned people to repentance because the remaining time was short, and the end was drawing near… " (McClymond, 62)
John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. To repent is to turn and go in the other direction. Jesus, in submitting to John's baptism, identified with the idea that our world is a freight train rushing headlong towards destruction.
Eventually, John was imprisoned. Jesus left Nazareth, withdrew to Galilee, and lived in Capernaum. "From that time on Jesus began to preach, 'Repent......'" (Matthew 4:17)
Today think about Jesus as your Rescuer, who turned your soul away from death and called you in the other direction towards life.