Why The Baptism?
Marty was only fifty-three, but on Monday I had to assist in his memorial service. This was the second death for his family in only a few months. Before Thanksgiving Jennifer, his cherished 29-year-old daughter, suddenly died and left behind her husband with two little ones. Many of his family members and friends shared at the serviced that Marty had died of a broken heart.
I knew Marty as a young man and my responsibility was to open the service, greet the packed funeral home, read Scripture, and pray. Ron Nolen, his pastor from the Wagon Wheel Cowboy Church did the close. Ron began like this:
“I didn’t have the privilege, like many of you, of being Marty’s close friend. I got to know him when he started attending our church with his son, Tanner. It wasn’t long before he came with Tanner and expressed that he and his boy wanted to be baptized. Marty told how he had received Christ as a boy, then wandered away as a young man, but now wanted to reaffirm his commitment. Tanner had accepted Jesus, and Marty wanted to do what he could to encourage his son to follow Jesus.” Then in a few words Ron made the Gospel clear and gave an opportunity in his closing prayer for any of Marty’s friends to nail down where they stood with Jesus.
Here in Texas this story is a familiar one, and again I was reminded how powerful baptism is as a picture of the far more important internal cleansing from sin that only Jesus, the Messiah can give. In our Devos from Luke we’ve seen how John the Baptist’s ministry began with a call for his people to turn away from their sin to God and prepare for the imminent coming of the Messiah. What’s amazing is that when Jesus showed up, he came down to the Jordan, joined the crowd, and was baptized by John.
“Now when all the people were being baptized, Jesus also was baptized. While He was praying the heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him. Then a voice from Heaven, ‘You are my dearly, loved Son. With You I am well pleased.’” - Luke 2:21-22
Like every good storyteller God presents an event at the beginning that foreshadows what will happen when we get to the climax. Think about it. Water can be deadly, and Jesus going down into the water pointed us forward to His willingness to enter the deadly suffering of the cross. He was the only person who never wandered from God. He was the only Son whose father could constantly affirm how pleased he was, yet Jesus was willing to identify with us as sinners, take our sin upon Himself, and His wounds would heal and forgive us forever. Because of Jesus Marty was reunited with Jennifer, and his family can look forward to a family reunion party that will never be crashed by death again.
LORD, move all those who came to Marty’s service because they loved to ride Harley’s with him to have an even deeper love for Jesus. I pray that all who heard the Good News on Monday will realize that it’s not about trying to be a ‘good ol boy.’ It’s about humbly facing the truth about our sin and trusting Jesus to forgive us based on His death and resurrection. Help the family the next few days to be powerfully comforted as they see Marty in the presence of Jesus getting to hug his little girl again.
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