Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Baptism Part 1: New Exodus

Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him; and a voice came out of the heavens: "You are my beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.".
Mark 1:10&11 
Baptism has been an important tradition in Christianity since the very beginning. There are many ways to practice this tradition, sprinkling, immersion, in a church or at the beach, some baptize infants whereas others believe baptism to be for consenting adults. Though there exist a wide variety of opinions, baptism is a very treasured sacrament by all who believe in Jesus as Messiah. Lets briefly look at baptism as it connects with Exodus.

Baptism is connected to the Exodus story of Israel. When Israel found themselves enslaved to a cruel Pharaoh in Egypt they cried out to the God of their ancestor, Abraham and He heard them. Sending Moses as his representative he ordered that Israel be set free. Pharaoh refused resulting in a showdown between the God of Israel and the gods of Egypt. The God of Israel wins this bout and delivers Israel from Pharaoh by parting the Red Sea and leading the Israelites safely through to the other side and then having the waters swallow up the Egyptian army. This deliverance is the climax of the Exodus story, God delivered Israel through the water to safety, Exodus 1-15.

When John the Baptist begins his movement it has this story of Exodus as his platform. He sets up his prophetic ministry in the wilderness, dressing and eating like a wandering prophet of old, preaching a similar message of repentance and renewal. He offers a baptism in the Jordan, Mark 1:1-8. His baptism is an opportunity for people to reenact the story of their faith by coming through the waters like their forefathers and thereby renewing their faith and covenantal commitment to the same God who delivered from Egypt. They are saying through John's baptism that they believe the God of Abraham is not done with his people and that he is bringing salvation as he has promised.

Jesus begins his movement with this baptism by John in the Jordan, Mark 1:9-13. This is important to keep in mind as we read and study the Gospels. Jesus has a message, "The Kingdom of God is here", Mark 1:15. His message of Kingdom is accompanied by actions, all of which in some way or another point back to Exodus. His baptism is the beginning of a movement of deliverance and restoration, his is a new Exodus movement.

Jesus goes through the water by way of his baptism and like Israel before him goes from the sea to the wilderness. Israel was in the wilderness for forty years, Jesus for forty days, Matthew 4:1-11. God feeds Israel manna from heaven, Exodus 16. Jesus feeds the four and five thousand the fish and the loaves, John 6. God parts the Red Sea, Jesus walks upon the stormy sea, John 6. Israel builds a temple in which God dwells, Jesus condemns the Temple and claims to be the new Temple, John 2. Looking back at Jesus' wilderness experience after his baptism by John, he is faithful and defeats the Satan, whereas Israel is in the wilderness because of their disobedience and unbelief, Numbers 14. Where Israel failed, Jesus has succeeded. His Exodus is a better one. As the author of Hebrews says, he is a better Moses, Hebrews 3:3.

So the New Testament conveys Baptism as an action that connects the believer with the Exodus, with the entire story and people of God. Through baptism we are taking part in the grand and cosmic mission of God to "put the world back to rights" (N.T. Wright). In baptism we are joining the Jesus movement and we are casting off our old identities for a new one, the true humanity, the people of Exodus. We, in baptism, affirm that God is faithful and has become King of the nations through the victory of Jesus. A great place to see this is in Romans 6, where Paul is retelling the Exodus story in light of the Jesus movement. In Jesus both Jew and Gentile have experienced Exodus, being delivered from the Law and from idolatry. The result is a new humanity made of people placed into the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul says that in baptism we have "been united with him (Jesus)" Romans 6:5. Baptism is a very real and powerful action of imputation (being placed into Jesus, meaning we have his status as sons and daughters) and of enlistment, baptism is the believer joining the Jesus movement and therefore the Missio Dei ('mission of God' that of restoring creation from evil).

If you haven't been baptized and you believe that Jesus is the true Messiah who died and rose from the grave in victory over evil and death, I encourage you to do so! In baptism you join hearts and faith with all who have come before you, all you stand with you and all who will come after you. In baptism you will join the new Exodus movement of God and take part in his mission to deliver and restore. If you have been baptized, I encourage you to always remember your baptism as that moment you passed through the waters to the promised inheritance of God. Think back with joy knowing that what is true of Jesus is also true of his people, in you God is "well pleased".

We have briefly looked at how baptism connects us to Exodus and places us in a role in the New Exodus accomplished in Jesus. Next blog we will look at how baptism connects us to Resurrection and the restoration of all things. Grace and Peace.

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