A whole sermon series on Baptism? That sounds so Christian, doesn’t it?
What I mean is – you won’t find a lot about baptism in other places. It’s a word that kind of has a religious only meaning. You don’t talk about baptism and grocery shopping. You don’t have to be baptized to become a member of your gym. Baptism isn’t an exercise in your local hot yoga studio.
Baptism is strange. To this world, it doesn't' make a lot of sense. It's precisely that truth that might cause Christians to downplay Baptism's value.
If you entered my apartment, you'd run into the dining room table. If you turned your neck sharply to the left, you'd see a book shelf. On the shelf are a few photographs -- pictures of our wedding, a day at the beach and family. The shelf also holds some videos, a few books, and a light.
But in the middle of the photo frame jungle are two small ceramic figures. A grey elephant and a tan hippo.
I don't have some kind of obsession over large pachyderms.
They don't hold salt and pepper.
They aren't big enough to hold any papers down.
We have them because they are old. They are heirlooms from my great grandmother. Nothing else. They don't have any practical value. They are just antiques.
Do you ever think of baptism like that? As if it were some old, antiquated item that really doesn't seem to fit into the modern church? We keep it around because it's old..?
In the next six weeks, we’re going to examine baptism from all different kinds of angles. We'll see that Baptism is much more than just old. Baptism is still and remains a part of the Christian life and faith.
Tonight we are starting by taking a look at the moment Jesus first instituted Baptism.
I. Jesus Said What
Take a look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19. He says, “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Quick English lesson. An imperative is a command. There’s not a lot of wiggle room. Imperatives are exactly what Jesus uses when talking to his disciples here. Jesus didn’t say, “If you might could, possible think about this as an idea worth considering, in your spare time, when you get a chance, if you want, no worries, no hurries, if you get around to ok, ok then, I’d appreciate…thanks for thinking about it.”
Nope. Just “Go” and “Make.” Simple commands.
But it wasn’t like Jesus told them what to do without telling them how to do it. He said, “Go and make disciples…baptizing them,” meaning, “Here is the way to do it.” A crucial part of this disciple making process is baptizing.
More English. The word “Baptize” comes from the Greek word baptizo. It is used a lot in secular Greek writing of the time. People would baptizo their hands. They would baptizo their dishes. They would even baptizo their dining couches. Using context clues the meaning is clear.
Simply put baptizo means to wash.
Granted. There’s another big school of thought out there that says “baptizo means to submerge.” As a result, some churches teach that if you don’t submerge anyone under water, then it isn’t baptism. If you weren’t submerged under water, then you aren’t baptized.
How’s that for a conscience burden? Especially if you have longer hair:
Did all my hair make it under?
What if the upper half floated on top and was never truly submerged?
Do I still have unwashed sin located in my split ends?
But here’s where it’s important to look at what Jesus says. Check out the text again. “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Do you see any clue that this baptizo means submerge underwater? Me neither.
Let’s not add to what Jesus says then. Can we do that? There’s no need for us to improve on Jesus’ command. Let’s take him at his word and move on.
But don’t think that baptism is nothing more than just washing your hands. This isn’t just Jesus’ version of “make sure and wash up before dinner.” Look at else is involved besides the water “…baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
At Precious Lambs we are getting ready for ECERS. That stands for “Early Childhood…Something, Something, Something.” They are the ones who gives us five stars. Part of getting that five star rating is hand washing. The kids need to wash their hands using the state approved 8 step method. Step 1 – Turn water on. Step 2 – Get hands wet. Step 3 – USE SOAP!
Do you know how many times I have to remind kids of that!?! Use soap. If you don’t use soap, you aren’t really washing your hands clean of germs.
But when it comes to cleaning our souls. When it comes to cleansing our beings of all our unrighteous acts. It takes more than water. It takes more than water and Dial 100% antibacterial soap.
It takes washing in the name of the Father. The God who wiped out the whole earth with his floodwater.
It takes washing in the name of the Son. The one whose blood flowed from his side.
It takes washing in the name of the Holy Spirit. The one who floods our hearts with the message of God’s love.
Why do we baptize then? Because Jesus said so. We baptize how Jesus said, because Jesus said. Fair enough?
II. Jesus Said Who
Jesus doesn’t leave us in the dark as to WHO to baptize either. Take a look at what he says about who to baptize. He says, “Go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them…”
That pronoun “THEM” is key. It refers back to all nations. That’s who we are to baptize.
But Jesus isn’t racist. He doesn’t say “Baptize only white people.” Or "baptize only Latino people.” He says, “Baptize all nations,” as in all people of all nations.
And Jesus isn’t sexist. He doesn’t say “Baptize only the men.” Nor does he say, “Baptize only the women.” He says, “Baptize all nations,” as in males and females.
And Jesus isn’t ageist.
This is probably the one Christians have a hardest time with. Some churches teach that we should only baptize those who are old enough to have the rational capacity to verbally confess faith in Jesus. The thinking is that they don’t know what’s going on. They can’t really believe.
Ever been to a children’s lesson? Ever heard those kids answer my questions? They know that Jesus was on the cross. They know that Jesus took away their sins. They know they had rose from the dead. They know way more bodly and way more confidently than almost any adult I’ve ever talked to.
Jesus might be my Savior. If it’s all true, but I have my doubts.
I know he’s supposed to be my Savior but…I really do have a lot of really bad sins, soooo…..
Me, forgiven? I don’t really feel it. I don’t know if I’ll have heaven.
And the kids? Jesus is my Savior. He died to take away my sins and I’m going to heaven. Can I go back to eating my yogurt now?
It’s ok. Kids put me to shame, too.
UNDERSTAND THEN: Jesus isn’t ageist. He doesn’t say, “Baptize only those people over 18.” He doesn’t say, “Baptize only those who you think might be old enough.” He doesn’t say, “Baptize everyone who has graduated sixth grade.”
Nope. Just baptize all nations. Baptize adults. Baptize kids. Baptize babies. We baptize who Jesus said, because Jesus said. Fair enough?
III. Jesus Has the Authority
So what, Pastor!?! I don’t do things just because someone tells me to. CNN tells me to vote this way. I might not. FoxNews tells me to vote this way. I might not. Pepsi tells me to drink Pepsi and I drink Coke! I don’t do something just because someone tells me to!
But what if they have the authority?
Back up with me a moment. Right before his command to baptize Jesus said this, “All authority in heaven and earth had been given to me.”
Was anyone here ever a room monitor back in elementary school? Room monitors get to have some power. They make sure no one else is talking. They make sure everyone stays in their seats. They get to look around at all their friends and write their name on the board if they do wrong. (And they have the ability to abuse their power. “I won’t write your name on the board, if you pick me first for kickball at recess.”)
But a room monitor…is not the end all. They have some power. Not all.
Note Jesus’ words. Not “some.” “All.”
Understood. It is one thing to say you have authority and another thing to actually “Have authority.”
But Jesus had just proven that to be true. He had shown his authority over death by rising from the dead a few weeks earlier. In fact, he had been in the business of proving his authority throughout his ministry.
He proved his authority over the body…and made blind see, deaf hear and the lame walk.
He proved his authority over pathogens and bacteria…and made sick people healthy.
He showed his authority over evil spirits…and drove them out.
He proved his authority over the elements…and reduplicated matter…bread and more bread out of little bread.
He proved his authority over nature…and calmed the storm.
He even proved his authority over the earthly element in baptism – water. He made it into wine. He made it into a walking surface. When he tells us he is going to use it as a means of making disciples – why would we doubt it?
If Jesus has the authority in your life? Be baptized.
Be baptized because he said so. Be baptized and receive the incredible blessings of baptism. (More on those in the coming weeks).
And parents, have your kids baptized and let them receive the incredible blessings of baptism. (Again…more on those in the coming weeks.)
And if you have been baptized – continue to dwell under Christ’s authority. He made you His. Do as he says so.
And…yes. I really have answered that question “Why” in a very rudimentary and Sunday School way: Because Jesus said So.
Do you really need anything else?