Mark 1:4-11 - Back
to Basics: The Three R's of Baptism
Baptism is a powerful force in the life of a Christian for two reasons. It is
something we share in common. Christians all over the world can say that they
were baptized in Christ. You met a Catholic in
. He was baptized. You met a Pentecostal in
. She was baptized. The second reason Baptism is a powerful force is that
baptism takes us back to the basics. Now let me set these two ideas up for you
with a couple of stories.
You perhaps at one time or another have seen on TV the old black and white video
footage of the civil rights marches in the sixties. Martin Luther King often at
the front received his share of stinging high-pressured water hoses. Rev. King
once remarked that he and the other marchers had a common strength. He put it
this way, as "we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were
a Baptist or some other denomination, we had been immersed. If we were
Methodist, and some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water."
You and I know the water. All of God's children know the water. We share by our
faith this common symbol, this initiation, this rite, this power of God over the
deep and often raging chaos of life. We know water! All over the world Baptism
It also brings us back to the basics. Perhaps in our lifetime the most public
statement of repentance was that of President Bill Clinton's. The one he made
before a Prayer Breakfast on September 10, 1998. He summed up the task perfectly
when he said, "I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have
sinned." Then he quoted from a book given him by a Jewish friend in
. The book is called "Gates of Repentance."
read this passage from the book: "Now is the time for turning. The leaves
are beginning to turn from green to red to orange. The birds are beginning to
turn and are heading once more toward the south. The animals are beginning to
turn to storing their food for the winter. For leaves, birds and animals,
turning comes instinctively. But for us, turning does not come so easily. It
takes an act of will for us to make a turn. It means breaking old habits. It
means admitting that we have been wrong, and this is never easy. It means losing
face. It means starting all over again. And this is always painful. It means
saying I am sorry. It means recognizing that we have the ability to change.
These things are terribly hard to do. But unless we turn, we will be trapped
forever in yesterday's ways."
's quote ended with this prayer: "Lord help us to turn, from callousness to
sensitivity, from hostility to love, from pettiness to purpose, from envy to
contentment, from carelessness to discipline, from fear to faith. Turn us
around, O Lord, and bring us back toward you. Revive our lives as at the
beginning and turn us toward each other, Lord, for in isolation there is no
What ever you might think of
and his sincerity, he understood that he needed to do something very basic
before the nation. He needed to repent. It's amazing isn't it? Not even a
president can escape the basic truths of life. It's like in elementary school.
Our parents and teachers understand the importance of building a strong
foundation for a child's future. So, we were taught the basics, the three R's:
, writing, and arithmetic. Ever notice that only one of those begins with an R.
I always thought the fellow that came up with that one needed to go back to
As parents and teachers and leaders today we would do well to remember that life
is still composed of basics. That is why, when Mark chose to open his Gospel, he
did so with the Baptism of Jesus at the
. Baptism reminds us of the three R's of the soul: Repentance, righteousness,
and revelation. So, don't be amazed when a president of the
repents before the nation for even Christ himself, as we have just read, began
his ministry identifying with the basics: repentance, righteousness, and
revelation. Christ submitted himself to the basics. You ask me, Pastor, why
should I be baptized? My answer is, Christ himself was baptized, so should you.
Baptism begins the most basic elements of the Christian walk: Repentance from
sin, a life of righteousness, and an understanding that God has reveled himself
Let's take a look at our Lord's Baptism and what it tells us about the three
1. The first R is Repentance.
2. The second R is
3. The third R is Revelation.
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