Jesus saved us by dying to sin.

Thursday, 10/20/16

In the Gospel Jesus said, “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized.” Of course, he was speaking about his death. And, if there is something about baptism in his death, so  there is something about  death in our baptisms.

Some seventy years ago the church came across a surprising account of the only way in which Baptism was conferred in the early church. The first Christians tried to relive the life of Jesus every year. They thought of him as being born on Christmas, going into the desert on Ash Wednesday, dying on Good Friday and rising on Easter. In that sequence, on Holy Saturday they thought of him as lying in the tomb.

In  line with that, it was only on that Saturday that they baptized. They imagined their baptismal pool to be the tomb of Jesus.  

Now, St. Paul reminded them that it was not by his physical death, but by his death to sin that he saved us. (After all, the two thieves crucified with him underwent the same death, and it did no one any good,)

On the forty days after his baptism Jesus went into the desert, and the Bible tells us that what he went for was to be tempted. From then on, as the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, he was tempted in every way that we are, without ever giving in. Then, in the Garden of Olives he sweat blood in resisting the urge to abandon what the Father laid before him.

Getting back to baptism on Holy Saturdays in be First Century, by the very action of stepping into the pool, the person being baptized was declaring his or her intention of dying to sin with Jesus. For us, even though we baptize on other days, and even though we don’t step into a pool, each one’s subjection to baptism is symbolically stating an intention to die to sin.

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