What They Didn’t Tell You About Baptism
Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by John the Baptist because of his brother’s wife and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison. – Luke 3:19-20
Whether you are dunked or sprinkled, baptism is the entry-point of Christian life. It’s a moment of repentance and commitment to the way of Jesus.
But you know that already. Here’s what you might not know: baptism is a dangerous, anti-imperialist thing. It’s not only subMersion, it’s subVersion.
When a radical, homeless, preacher named John dipped people in the Jordan River to prepare them for the messiah, it marked an important shift of allegiance from the likes of Caesar and Herod to God’s chosen leader.
Naturally, this royally ticked off King Herod. Herod also didn’t like the news John reported about him, so Herod threw John in prison to shut him up. Jesus later called Herod a “fox” (that’s right, Fox!).
Why did John baptize in the Jordan River? Because the Jordan was the border the children of Israel crossed into the Promised Land as refugees fleeing tyranny and slavery in Egypt. That means if John was baptizing today, we would find him in the Rio Grande, the river-border between the US and Mexico.
Baptism is all about crossing borders from death to life, from despair to hope, from tyranny to freedom. Baptism marks you as a border crosser, undermining one kingdom and preparing for another.
Babies aren’t the only ones who don’t immediately appreciate the full meaning of baptism. It takes decades but there is no better time to dive deeper than right now.
Lord Jesus, you defied the Herods of your time to reveal God’s kindom. My baptism demands that I do nothing less.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series publishe by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first book, The Spinner Prince available now.