You are afraid of WHAT?!
When bold men bow their knee to Jesus willingly and vulnerably, it reminds me that Jesus really is “the Man.” My friend and I were making small talk as he was waiting to be baptized. What he said shocked and delighted me. It’s honestly one of my favorite stories of all time.
When I’m preparing someone to be baptized, I typically ask, “Are you nervous?” It’s not because I have any doubt. I have participated in hundreds of baptisms. Every person who is planning to go under the water is nervous.
Maybe it’s the unknown crowd of excited worshippers ready to watch a simple portrayal of a burial and resurrection that has the newbie nervous. Maybe it’s the sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of known family and friends—the good, the bad, and the ugly—that is responsible for feelings of distraction and anticipation. Maybe it’s the specter of recent and distant memories, the cold hard facts, and the tense fresh failures that have the initiates rattled and wondering about whether or not they can actually live up to the commitment they believe they are making to God…themselves…their family and friends…
Maybe the tension actually emanates from a fear of God and the genuine offensiveness of their own forgiveness at the expense of the Jesus they have come to love and fear. Regardless of the reason, they are all nervous. Except one. One poor guy said he wasn’t nervous, but he looked terrified. So my belief stands.
“Regardless of the reason, they are all nervous.”
I once baptized a guy who dwarfed medium-sized me (for the baptism, we had to buy 5x clothing), looked down at me as we were preparing, and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll help ya.” I once baptized a smallish kid so genuinely filled with anticipation for the event that he bounced up out of the water halfway through the burial. He had to be replunged.
So, my friend and I were making small talk as he was waiting to be baptized. “You spent time in the military? What was your area of expertise?” I don’t have any military background or training, so I really have no idea how to properly ask this question, but as long as he didn’t shower me with a barrage of military acronyms, we should be able to carry on a conversation.
He carried on in plain English, and what I remember was this: when fighter pilots come in for a landing, sometimes the jet is in trouble.
“When fighter pilots come in for a landing, sometimes the jet is in trouble.”
According to my research, a wire system designed to snag the jet’s tailhook can violently stop a 54,000-pound jet (travelling 150 miles per hour) in two seconds.
My friend said the pilot typically blacks out for maybe 30 seconds. When the pilot wakes up and sees anyone running toward the aircraft, the pilot may mentally snap back to their training for if they see an enemy combatant approaching. In such cases, they are trained to pull the ejection seat handle to explosively fly clear of the area, putting some distance between the pilot and approaching enemy combatants, and attempt an escape.
My friend was the firefighter trained to approach the aircraft in its crippled state, open the cockpit, and disengage the ejection seat before the pilot wakes up, activates the ejection seat, and produces enough fiery liftoff to effectively eliminate the firefighter crew rushing to save the pilot’s life. Simply put, if he is underneath the aircraft when the pilot ejects, he dies.
So I asked him, “Let me get this straight…you are willing to run underneath a downed fighter jet knowing if you don’t get there in time, you will die…and you are nervous about being baptized?”
“You are willing to run underneath a downed fighter jet knowing if you don’t get there in time, you will die…and you are nervous about being baptized?”
He chuckled in his calm and likable way, “Yeah, I guess I am!”
“I guess because I’m not in control.”
He got it.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3, NIV)
“For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” (Rom. 6:4 NLT)
That day, my friend surrendered to Jesus, and I understood a little better that Jesus is the Man.