Of all the pictures the Bible uses to teach us about the blessings of the gospel in the sacrament of Baptism, surely the picture Paul uses in Romans 6 is the strangest to our ears.
He says: “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 through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
Normally we think of Baptism in terms of new life and new beginnings. But what does Paul say in our Easter epistle lesson? “All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.” Not only that, but “we were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death.”
It may sound morbid. But every baptism involves a death, a burial, a funeral. Every baptism also involves a resurrection, a new life.
In the gospel waters 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 for 33 years to redeem us, so we too 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 go 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 service, they 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, this is what he thought of every time he baptized a child: “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Every 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. Easter means a brand new life – here and now – and forever hereafter. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!