This Easter will not be forgotten in the life of my family. In a lot of ways, it was a typical Easter Sunday filled with gifts from grandparents, Easter egg hunts, teaching on the significance of the resurrection of Jesus, time with extended family and other things that are part and parcel with Easter Sunday in the Bible Belt. These are all great in and of themselves I suppose (especially the part about the resurrection), but none of these are why this Easter was so memorable for me.
I have what most would consider a large family. My wife Steph and I have the honor of raising two daughters and two sons. My oldest is 8 and her name is Jada. Her name means “wise-peacemaker” and she fully embodies the meaning of her name. She has one of the most tender hearts towards the Lord as well as people.
About year ago I was putting her and her younger sister to bed one night. I remember having to discipline her sister and explaining the gospel in the process, when I noticed Jada was crying. After I tucked her sister in, I went over to Jada’s bed to make sure she was OK. I assumed she was sad that her sister was being disciplined, but to my surprise, she had a huge smile on her tear-stained face.
When I asked her to tell me what was going on, she replied by saying, “I’m just so glad Jesus died for me.” She was crying as she spoke, but they were happy tears. It was at that moment that I knew she got it. She understood that she needed a savior, and that Jesus was the one that had come to rescue and redeem her life. I talked to her about baptism that night, but wanted her to be the driver of that decision.
Fast forward to one week ago (about a year after this bedtime experience.) Jada has developed her own little faith and prayer life over the past year, and we have seen her become increasingly more convicted of her sin. Steph and I have been discussing baptism for Jada, but we had not approached her about it yet.
While I was away on a trip to Iowa, Jada told Steph that she wanted to be baptized, and she wanted to do it on Easter, just a few days away. Steph told me while I was on my trip, and I was eager and excited to get back to discuss more about baptism with my daughter.
As we talked through the meaning of baptism, I was reminded of the significance of such a symbolic act. I explained to her that to follow Jesus a long time ago meant that you had to risk your life. I explained that throughout much of the world today following Jesus means you will have to suffer.
It is amazing how easy it is for us to become lulled to sleep in America, especially in conservative, Bible Belt America. We have a difficult time relating to the costs of discipleship. We don’t quite know how to translate what Jesus meant when he said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” in Luke 9:23.
We struggle to identify with Paul when he declares, ”I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” Galatians 2:20. We struggle to identify with the reality Paul talks about when he states, “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin” in Romans 6:6.
Let’s face it, when times are good and there’s no pressure on our lives because of our choice to follow Christ, we tend to get sleepy. I have read about pastors that have been in solitary confinement for months and even years as a result of their faith in Christ. After their release back into freedom, I’ve read about how much they grieve the loss of the nearness of Jesus they experienced while alone and utterly dependent upon Him for their very survival.
Don’t get me wrong, my daughter’s baptism did not produce in me the desire to be persecuted. Far from it! But it did remind me to consider the reality that my old man has been buried with Christ in baptism. It reminded me through Jesus’ death and resurrection, he has purchased for me freedom from the bondage of sin and fear and death. I was reminded that as Bonhoeffer says, “When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Through the process of baptizing my daughter, I was reminded of the gospel. Not just that Jesus died and rose again for sinners. But that he died, that those who live (that’s you and that’s me) should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Inherent in the gospel is a call to live, not for ourselves, but for the one who paid it all so that we might enter into the life that is really life.
My daughter reminded me of these truths this Easter. May we all walk deeper into the life and freedom that was purchased for us through Christ death, and the victory that is ours through his resurrection!