Monday, November 09, 2009

Baptism as Revolution

“" Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion," Says the LORD of hosts. " Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones. And it shall come to pass in all the land," Says the LORD, "That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one- third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, 'This is My people'; And each one will say, 'The LORD is my God.’” (Zech. 13:7-9)

Here Zechariah is in the middle of declaring that God is planning to bring a great crisis, a great revolution upon Israel which will have a number of results. At the center of the crisis is God Himself acting and being acted upon. He says that He will judge the nations in this revolution, and at the same time, they will look upon Him whom they have pierced and mourn. He says he will cut off all the idols from the land, and that He will cause a great fire to burn that devours the wicked and refines the gold. Then the subject shifts from the first person who is pierced to a third person referent: “Awake O Sword against my Shepherd, against the Man who is my companion, ‘ says the Lord of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered…” And Matthew says that this Shepherd is Jesus. So the crisis, the revolution has a narrow and wide focus. There is a center to the crisis which focuses on this One who is pierced, who is struck, but more broadly you have the images of nations being destroyed, idols being cast down, enemies devoured in fire, and a remnant saved through the fire and refined as gold. And the gospels insist that this great Revolution that Zechariah prophesied occurred in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The death and resurrection of Jesus was the great Crisis centered on a Man who was pierced and struck, but this crisis has global implications, the casting down of nations and idols, the devouring of God’s enemies in fires of judgment, and the salvation of many through the refining fires.

The New Testament repeatedly tells us that baptism is the death and resurrection of Jesus applied to people. In baptism we are buried with Jesus and raised to newness of life. In baptism, we are crucified with Jesus and reborn to resurrection life. This means that baptism is the continuation of the great Revolution. It is itself part of the ongoing wide lens view of that original act. Jesus died and rose again 2000 years ago, and we’re still feeling the aftershocks. It’s still echoing throughout the world. But we can also view each individual baptism itself as the Great Revolution begun again. In baptism, God Himself comes to an individual, and promises to be their God, to forgive their sins, and makes that individual His child, His companion. The old man is crucified with Christ, and a new man is put on through faith in Christ. This child is no long a child born of Adam, no longer an individual outside the household of faith, but now a child and an heir of the promises of the covenant, a recipient of grace. That’s the Revolution in miniature. But if that’s the narrow view, there is also the global and wide view. Every baptism declares and some way joins in the judgment and destruction of nations, the fires of destruction for the wicked, idols being torn down, and the salvation and purification of God’s people. Every baptism is another instance of this Great Revolution, this Great Crisis. And we must believe that this simple act of a little water sprinkled on a baby is weakness and foolishness to the world, but it is the wisdom and power of God to cast down the wicked and the proud, to raise up the humble and the meek.

In this way, the gospel Revolution, the Great Gospel Crisis which began in the death and resurrection of Jesus was like the first boulder setting off an enormous landslide. Every echo multiplies exponentially its effects and after effects. And here we are 2000 years later amidst the great roar, the great thundering roll of God’s grace growing and filling the earth. When the Shepherd was struck, He began a great landslide in which His grace struck others and they have struck others and still others. We are the great revolution, the great crisis, and baptism is our entry into the Storm, into that Great Revolution, and here God promises to bestow on His people His Spirit, His refining fire. And here God speaks and says, “This is My people,” and we respond and say, "The Lord is my God."

So Peter and Claire, as you raise up young Peter, as He grows up, teach Him about the Great Revolution. Remind Him that when He was baptized He was struck by the Shepherd who was struck. And He must embrace the calling to carry on this Revolution, repenting of sin, welcoming the refining fires of the Spirit in His life, and working to extend the justice and mercy of our God to the ends of the earth. Remind Him that here God claimed Him as a member of His people, and teach him to respond in faith saying, The Lord is my God.

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