Following, mimicking, obeying and believing in Jesus are the most important things in life to me. At this point, my faith, 26 years later, has gone beyond being a moral system or religious practice; it is an obsession. I’m not perfect, far from it. But one thing I will never apologize for is my belief in Jesus. I believe His way is the greatest, highest way. I know many Christians, including me at times, have really messed up and made Jesus look like a really bad guy. Please trust me when I say it’s not Jesus but us, his followers, that mess stuff up. Through my sinning and short falls I try with great effort to make Jesus look fantastic. He’s worth it. The life Jesus calls humanity to is the best life.
This blog series is just an attempt to reconcile what Jesus did with how I perceive life and faith for the modern Christian. You may disagree or have a differing perspective; I value your vantage point. Healthy dialogue is what I’m aiming for when it comes to faith and friendship. These are just my notes on Jesus’ life as I walk word by word through Jesus’ quoted words as curated throughout the Gospels.
I hope you enjoy. Most of all, I hope you find Jesus’ life and message so irresistible that you choose to follow Jesus with me.
Why All Christians Should Be Baptized
Right from the get go Matthew’s Gospel quickly jumps from story to story. Beginning with Jesus’ genealogy in chapter one, Matthew paints a wild picture of angels giving names to immaculately conceived children, billionaire fortune tellers fulfilling Mary’s baby registry, and midnight jaunts to Egypt as refugees to avoid infanticide by an insanely jealous ruler. Before Jesus can even walk, He has a baby-book worthy of being on the New York Times Best-Seller List.
Jesus’ first written words, according to Matthew, come at an oddly peaceful moment. Instead of in the middle of action and adventure, Jesus speaks while walking into the water to have his cousin John baptize him in the River Jordan. We see from the context of the story that John was a hype man for Jesus’ coming work:
In the disciple John’s gospel account, John the Baptist is quoted as to have said, “He whose sandals I am unworthy to untie” about Jesus. These are odd words for a guy who wears camel fur and eats bugs. From there John goes a step further and tells Jesus, no, that it is not he (John) who should be baptizing Jesus, but it is Jesus who should be baptizing him (John). Jesus makes it clear to John that the path God has given requires baptism.
I believe that there is one main reason that Jesus was baptized, and this is why every Christian should be baptized; even if they have been sprinkled or dedicated as an infant.
The reason I believe that Jesus was baptized was to give a precedent for our faith process. John the Baptist commands people to repent and be baptized for the Kingdom of God was at hand, but Jesus being perfect didn’t need to repent. So why was he baptized? My heart tells me Jesus wanted to set a precedent for all believers – that an outward sign of belief in God and the figurative process of being washed by the water – were to be done all God fearers. This action will never be a means of salvation. It is a sign, and external expression of an internal desire, to walk in faith and obedience with God. Matthew highlights the baptism at the beginning of Jesus’ story, as a precursor to the work He was going to do. Baptism matters and should be done as soon as possible for any Jesus follower.
I have found during my talks with many Christians, that their salvation moment was a prayer prayed quietly and to themselves. This is contrary to the many examples we see in the Bible. In a culture that wants Christians to keep their faith to themselves in a hidden journal, Jesus gives an example of faith expressed physically through baptism.
The historical reason for the tradition of infant baptism or dedication matters to this conversation. Infant mortality rates have historically been very high. Low sanitation, high disease and mixed fluids leads to high death rates for women and babies during the birth process (See current rates here: https://ourworldindata.org/child-mortality/).
When the church became the official religion of the state (For the record I believe that legislated morality is bad, bad, bad) babies were died at a very high rate, and so to take necessary precautions against an eternity in damnation, the church baptized the babies “JUST IN CASE!” (I also don’t believe God damns babies). The tradition continued as the church gained more and more power, though today infant baptism tends to only be practiced by my Catholic and Lutheran brothers and sisters. Most mainline protestant churches practice baby dedication (same thing, just no water).
The infant baptism is a beautiful expression of faith by parents. An infant has no say in the matter. The external expression is one by the parents regarding responsibility and accountability to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6). It is then the responsibility of the child to choose to be baptized as their own, personal external expression of faith. If YOU own YOUR faith, be baptized as Jesus was.
Baptism does not mean you are a saved. It’s pretty clear that grace is what saves, not our works. The other side of the same coin says that our faith, while internally believed, needs to be expressed externally. The first step Jesus took before his ministry began was baptism. I believe this is enough precedence to encourage all who express hope in Jesus to acknowledge their faith through baptism.
If Jesus did it, we should do it. If Jesus said it, we should believe it. If Jesus commanded it, we should obey it.
Not blindly like a dumb sheep, but boldly like a dumb sheep with a Good Shepherd.
Have questions or comments please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
I’d love to share a conversation with you about anything. I’ve got lots of room in my heart for lots of friends.