Get Out of Jail Free Card?
When I was a kid one of the board games I loved to play with my family was Monopoly. Any Monopoly fans?
For you avid Monopoly players, you know that on the Monopoly board there are 2 stacks of cards. At certain points in the game you have to draw a card from one of these piles.
My favorite card in the deck to get was always the “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
This is the card that if you got sent to Jail… you could use this card & it was automatic… You could get out of jail & continue the game. You didn’t have to loose a turn. You didn’t have to spend any money to get out of jail. You could just turn this card in & you could “Get out of jail” free!
My guess is that for a lot of us, we’ve thought of baptism as our “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
Somewhere along the way we may have lost sight of what biblical baptism is really all about. Somewhere along the way we started treating it, though not intentionally, as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. It almost became our “ticket to Heaven.”
But what if baptism is so much more?
What if it’s more about your life now than where you go when you die?
What if it’s more about your relationship with God now than getting a mansion over a hilltop in Heaven some day?
What if it’s more about what defines you as a person now than making sure you’ve checked all the boxes so that God has to let you into Heaven?
What if our God isn’t a legalistic God?
What if there is no get out of jail free card?
What if, instead, there is a way to restore our relationship with God now that changes who we are & participates in God’s work to make things on Earth as they are in Heaven?
What if that is what baptism is really all about?
Through the Water
For hundreds of years, the people of Israel had been held captive in the land of Egypt. Pharaoh, the ruler over Egypt, would not let the people of Israel go. So God sent Moses to Pharaoh to tell him that it was time to let the people of God go.
Of course, Pharaoh wasn’t about to do this. Why would he? He’s the most powerful person in the world at this point in time. Israel is his slave labor force. In many ways, they provided the man power for Egypt’s economic engine to run. Without this slave labor force, the empire of Egypt would surely fall.
So God does what only God can do to set His people free, to deliver them from their bondage & oppression. He unleashes 10 different plagues on Pharaoh & Egypt. Each one worse than the one before. Time after time, despite the suffering of his own people, Pharaoh refuses to let God’s people go. That is, until the 10th plague.
That’s when God sent Moses to Pharaoh to tell him that if he did not let His people go that the first born child of every person & animal in Egypt would die that very night.
Now, this would have even applied to all the Israelites still living in Egypt. But God told Moses to give Israel these specific instructions… if they would take a lamb, sacrifice it & put the blood of the lamb on the doorpost of their homes, then that night when death came through Egypt their lives would be spared & not one of them would die!
So Israel did as Moses instructed, & that night death passed over their people. That moment became known as Passover.
In Egypt, there were many tears shed that night because in every Egyptian home the firstborn of each family was dying all because Pharaoh would not obey what God had commanded.
Failing to obey God’s commands always leads to death.
But that night, Pharaoh called Moses & told him to take the people of Israel & get out of Egypt.
Moses & the people leave quickly… but soon after they leave Pharaoh has a change of heart. He realizes that if the people of Israel really do leave, his days of wealth & prosperity are over. He won’t have the man power to drive his economy, to build his empire & maintain his wealth.
So he goes after Israel with his entire army to capture the people of Israel & bring them back to Egypt.
The Defining Moment
Here’s what happens next…
God LEADS His people THROUGH the WATER in order to save them, deliver them, rescue them. There’s no way that Israel could say they were saved by their own power. NO! It’s obvious… this is the work of GOD in this moment.
In the Exodus, the moment that defined the people of God as the people of God, God led them through the water to new life.
He gave them a new identity as the people of God. He led them from darkness to light. From death to life. From bondage to freedom. From the land of slavery to the promised land. They are given a new identity as God’s chosen people.
And then, 50 days later, GOD would give them what became known as the Law of Moses at Mt. Sinai. This day became known in Hebrew as Shavuot. Maybe you’ve heard of the 10 Commandments. These were the words of God for the people of God telling them how to live into their new identity.
50 days after Passover, after the being saved by the blood of the lamb & walking through the water they receive the Word of God for the first time at Mt. Sinai. This day, 50 days after Passover, becomes known & celebrated as Shavuot.
The Red Sea Crossing Changed Israel
Here’s what Israel knew when the walked through the waters of the Red Sea that day.
You can’t walk through the water & not be changed.
You can’t walk through the water & live like slaves in the promised land. That doesn’t make sense. And if you’ve experienced that deliverance, you know you wouldn’t go back to Egypt when you received the word of God & you’ve been given the gift of life in the promised land. And should you ever forget, all you need to do is remember the day you walked through the waters. Remember life before. Remember your salvation. Feel the freedom, deliverance & grace of God again.
Maybe you thought that baptism was important because you were bad & you wanted to be better.
God didn’t lead Israel from Egypt to the promised land because they had it bad & he wanted to make it better. No. He led them out of Egypt through the waters because they were dying, literally dying, & He wanted to give them life.
Eighty years before Pharaoh had ordered that every Hebrew boy that was born be killed, murdered, for population control. But the life of one Hebrew boy was saved. How? Get this… through the water! His name was Moses – meaning drawn from the water. And God saved him through the water. Moses would grow up & eighty years later he would lead all of Israel through the water to be saved!!!!
When we walk through the water everything changes.
So, there is no “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
But there is freedom. And when you walk through the water, just like Israel did that day when they were delivered from the Egyptians, you realize that this moment, walking through the water, this is all about what God has done for you.
And when you walk through the water you realize that just like that day when God led Israel through the Red Sea, there is one who goes before you too.
Just like God moved before Israel as they walked through the water into a new life, into a new identity… Jesus has gone through the waters before you too.
Jesus wants you to enter into the water, to die to yourself, be buried with Him & then raised to NEW life.
This is what defines you as a person. It’s what defines us as a people. It’s our baptism. It’s our defining moment!
May WE be KNOWN as people who have come through the water! As sons & daughters of God. As people who can say, “We have decided to follow Jesus through the water into life!”