On this second Sunday of Easter (for every Sunday is a celebration of Easter), our epistle lesson from Romans 6 talks about death and resurrection in the gospel waters of Baptism. This is what Paul says:
“What shall we say then? Shall we keep on sinning so that grace may increase? Absolutely not! We died to sin. How can we go on living in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him by this baptism into his death, so that just as he was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too would also walk in a new life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:1-5 EHV).
Of all the images or pictures the Bible uses to teach us about the blessings of this Gospel in the sacrament of Baptism, surely this picture Paul uses in Romans 6 is the strangest to our ears.
Normally we think of Baptism in terms of new life and new beginnings. But what does Paul say here? “All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.” Not only that, “we were therefore buried with Him by this baptism into death.”
It may sound morbid. But every baptism involves a death, a burial, a funeral.
And, every baptism involves a resurrection, a new life. In the gospel of Baptism, Christ makes His Good Friday our Good Friday. He makes His Easter our Easter. Christ took our sins with Him to the grave. And just as Christ was raised up to a new and glorified life on Easter, to an exalted life far different than the humble life He lived on earth for 33 years to redeem us, so we to have begun to live a new kind of life, a life that is more than existing, a life that is truly living, walking with God each day.
One of my old professors talked about how, as children in the Christian day school, they would march over to the church and sing the same hymn for every funeral – “Jerusalem, thou city fair and high.”
Then they would follow the pallbearers as they carried the coffin out the church door to the cemetery right next to the church. Before the commital service, the men would lower the casket into a pine box vault in the grave. One man would go down and nail the cover to the box.
Then the committal service began as an elder of the church stood with his foot on a shovel stuck into the mound of dirt. When the pastor got to the words: “Earth to earth,” the elder threw the first shovelful of dirt into the grave. It hit the pine cover with a loud thud. “Earth to earth.” Boom! “Ashes to ashes.” Boom! “Dust to dust.” Boom! It was heart-rending. Tears flowed. It brought the reality home.
Years later, said the professor, when he became a pastor himself, he could hear those clod of dirt on the coffin lid every time he baptized a child: “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Our baptism is a funeral for our old sinful nature. We died to sin that day that we might live to God. Everything that belongs to Christ has now become ours. It isn’t just that were baptized. We are the baptized children of God.
Let us live up to who we are and all that Christ has made us to be. We have entered a new kind of Easter life. What a blessed life it is!