June 19, 2008

Baptism and Suffering

Luke 12:49-53

“I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!”
Luke 12:50


A few days ago we learned that the water of baptism reminds us not only about washing and birthing but also about drowning. Today’s text also brings an alarming message.

In connection with Christ, baptism can also refer to suffering. (Occasionally we still hear the phrase “baptism by fire,” which suggests a bit of this meaning.)

When Jesus looked ahead to the cross, he exclaimed, “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” He knew he would soon have to deal with intense suffering.

As believers in Christ, we need to understand that being associated with Jesus through baptism means that we too may have deal with suffering.

Perhaps you are a Muslim, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or an atheist. When you accept Jesus, your family or friends may disown you.

Perhaps you are a lifelong Christian who has never experienced persecution or mockery. Even so, you may one day have a neighbor, classmate, or coworker who excludes you from activities, resists your influence, or even mocks your faith.

The path of following Jesus may not always be easy. But it can be redemptive. God can use even our sufferings to spread the good news that Jesus saves.

Gracious God, your Word speaks to us in honest and bracing ways about our calling as your people. Give us courage to live as your people, following our suffering Lord. Amen.

About the author — John D. Witvliet

Dr. John D. Witvliet has served as a professor at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary for the past 11 years, as well as serving as Director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. He and his wife, Charlotte, have four children.

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