Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Baptism and Tears

My eldest son was baptised on Sunday (17th June).  He went down into the waters of our church baptismal pool and thankfully, came up again. We celebrated his faith in Christ, his obedience to Christ’s example and direction to be baptised, and the symbolic death to self and washing and cleansing of sin that baptism represents. It was a night of joy, faith and hope. Both of our two boys are such a blessing from God. We are so thankful that they have chosen to commit their lives to Him and so grateful to be part of a church which has grown them through excellent teaching and caring fellowship.

Does this mean anything in the greater scope of the universe, the eternal struggle between the forces of heaven and the powers of darkness: one young man being washed in a tub of water?  I believe it does. I hope my son’s life is a witness of much, to many, as well as being a joy to our Heavenly Father.

The same night’s sermon focused on an outcast who found her place in God’s kingdom. A woman who had led an immoral life, who disrupted Simon the Pharisee’s dinner party by weeping at Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair and pouring a jar of expensive perfume over them is described in Luke’s gospel, chapter 7, verses 36-48. She, like so many others, had an encounter with Jesus that resulted in her total devotion to him.

There is always conviction when encountering Jesus. Yet along with conviction is the equally compelling factor of His loving forgiveness of those who, in repentance and faith, commit themselves to His mercy.

I wondered, as I listened to our Pastor speaking, what her actions had cost the woman. The perfume was worth much and she readily sacrificed it. Her reputation – well, she was probably used to being gossiped about. Even to perform the scandalous act of letting her hair loose and wiping Jesus’ feet and kissing them – was this not perhaps something that she was accustomed to doing? She would have been no stranger to spurious glances and scorn in the streets and no doubt had hardened her heart to them.

I think, and this is only my personal opinion as one who finds it very difficult to cry in the presence of anyone else, that the greatest cost to this immoral woman was her tears. She allowed herself to cry – once released, a great flood of the pent-up hurt and despair and longing she had felt for perhaps many years. She became vulnerable for Jesus. She allowed herself to be, publicly, fragile and human, exposed in a very different way. She expressed what she most wanted and did not have, to love and be loved for herself in return. Like the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery, she had finally found a man she could relate to in love.

God’s word is full of images of water- rivers, wells, fountains, seas, rainfall, tears and more – washing, baptizing, cleansing, refreshing and healing. Psalm 56 tells us that God keeps an account of all our tears. They are never unnoticed. This woman’s tears washed our Saviour’s feet, in the same way that Mary of Bethany would anoint his feet with nard in a similar act of worship prior to his crucifixion (John 12:1-8). Christ himself washed His disciples’ feet, and commanded us to do the same for one another. (John 13:1-16). And we do.

This beautiful story reminds us that in our brokenness we become whole. Just as the tears shed by this lady washed the grime of the world from the feet of Jesus, so her faith in Him washed the stain of sin from her life. Never would she have felt so clean. And what Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, could do for this unnamed woman, two thousand years ago, He can still do for every man and woman who comes to Him today.

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