I remember one particularly brutal Halloween about 1996 or so, when the weather started out fine, but by mid-day the north wind was howling, the temperature dropped, and a storm was coming for sure. Weather in Texas is like that sometimes. The only down side to this particular day was the fact that I was scheduled to sit in a dunking booth to raise money for our Youth department to take a mission trip. Good natured as I am, I committed to sit in freezing weather while everyone threw baseballs at a target, all in the hope they would strike the plate that would immerse me in ice cold water. I’ve never been a fan of dunking booths since.
I was able to use this illustration though many times about what immersion really means. Growing up in West Texas, I was always partial to southwestern slang. I listened as a young man when our pastor would teach about baptism, he described it as “We dunk ’em under till they bubble.” Everyone laughed, even after years of hearing it, we knew it wasn’t true, but it was fun to watch the newbies about to be baptized and see them grimace and squirm.
Did you know there is more to this whole immerse thing we call baptism, and that there are actually Biblical images seldom taught about the whole experience? Jesus gave His followers a very simple three step commission about how to begin and to build the church after He ascended back to heaven. Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
People who take that initial step across the line of faith and believe in Jesus as savior, are called disciples here. The very first step of obedience in discipleship is to be baptized. The original Greek word used in this verse is βαπτίζω (bap-tid’-zo), and means to submerge, or immerse. I believe Jesus used this word on purpose to illustrate what actually should happen when a person becomes a new believer. In the first century when people would make robes for the rich, they would take fine fabric and immerse the material in a vat of dye. They would used wooden paddles to make sure every part of the fabric was immersed and absorbed the dye into every single strand. Jesus used this illustration to help the early disciples know that baptism means that we are giving every fiber of our being to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in baptism. We recognize he has rescued us from darkness, and brought us into His marvelous light. Therefore we give to Him, our complete and total self in the act of baptism… we are immersed in Christ.
Today, folks around the world find all sorts of activities to immerse themselves in, including sports, politics, their job, chasing money, clothes, cars and power. When a person finds their true purpose for living is to bring God glory, they are only able to stop chasing these other pursuits, by immersing themselves in learning all that God wants them to learn from His word. That’s why the last part of the commission is to teach these new disciples, how to be disciples. My goal today is to help new disciples young and old to learn about our future on earth, and our future in heaven. Your can read more about that here.
What have you immersed your life into?