Sermon in a nutshell Acts 8:26-40 “I want to be baptized.”
This is the first Sunday of a new year! In Christ, we know that we are a new creation. The old is gone and the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17). In Christian tradition, BAPTISM is the symbol of this transition from the old self to the new self.
In some churches, pastors even say to the candidates in the baptism, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I kill you!” Then they put the person’s body under the water three times. If they did not have baptism class, people would have some misunderstanding or suspicions! It is like the Holy Communion in the first century. Non-believers spread the rumor that the Christians killed humans and ate their flesh and blood. If you just listen to the words outside of the church wall without seeing and experiencing what is going on inside, you may have such misunderstanding!
The true meaning of the baptism is a new creation. The Old Testament story of the general Naaman of Aram (2 Kings 5:1-14) shows symbolically how great God’s power is. It also shows what baptism can mean to everybody. The general Naaman was a great warrior. However, he had skin disease. He did not know what to do. However, one of the slave-girl, who was a captive from Israel, told her master that the servant of God in Israel could cure his skin disease. Naaman was desperate and decided to go to Israel. He brought lots of gifts to the servant of God.
The king of Israel did not know the whole story and did not have faith in God. He thought that the Arameans tried to find some excuse to start a war against Israel. When Elisha, the prophet of Israel, heard the story, he invited Naaman to his house. However, when Naaman arrived at his house, Elisha did not come out nor prayed for him. Elisha simply ordered him to go to the Jordan River. He said, “Go to the Jordan River and wash seven times. Then your flesh will be restored and you will be clean.” Naaman was angry, saying, “I thought he would come out and pray for me in the name of the Lord! Abana and Pharpar, the rivers in Aram, are better than all the rivers in Israel!” He may be right! However, the servants of Naaman said to him, If the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash and be clean!’” Sometimes, your pride is your best enemy. Naaman finally gave in and washed himself seven times in the Jordan River. His flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy and he was clean.
This story clearly shows the power of God who can clean our skin and cure our bodies. However, in deeper meaning, this story shows the power and love of God who can restore our relationship with God. The New Testament story shows us this more clearly. Here, Phillip, one of the disciples, met an Ethiopian eunuch, an official of the queen. He was an eunuch, who cannot be included in the community of worshippers according to the law (Deuteronomy 23:2). However, he came to Jerusalem for his pilgrimage. He also read the scripture, a scroll of Isaiah (A Song of a Suffering Song: Isaiah 52:13-53:12)! In this sense, he was like the general Naaman: He was not one of the Israelites in his form but he was a believer in his heart!
God allowed Naaman to be washed at the Jordan River. Now God allowed the Ethioipian eunuch to be baptized by one of the disciples! This is a new beginning! The Good News is now offered to the Gentiles! The Jews who believed that they were the only chosen people now had to see God’s spirit upon outsiders! Our church keeps expanding the boundaries through the years. Who should be now included among God’s people?
1. Is there anybody who wants to be baptized today to be a part of God’s family?
2. Is there anybody whom you would recommend to be baptized at our church?