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. (Romans 6:4 NLT)
When I was a child, I loved to read about the adventures of Tom Sawyer. One of the stories that stood out to me was the time a funeral was held for Tom, he had been missing and assumed dead. The funny thing about the story was that Tom was not really dead, and he attended his own funeral. That day ended with a combination of being loved and being punished, no one knew quite how to respond when they found out Tom was not dead after all. I was recently thinking about my own funeral, the one that I attended myself, back in the summer of 1973. I had recently given my life to Christ. It had taken place after being witnessed to by some “Jesus freaks” out on the lakefront of Lake Ponchartrain in New Orleans. Shortly after that “Jesus freak” encounter, I found myself back at the lakefront, this time I was coming to be buried.
You see, baptism is a burial service, not much different from other funerals you may have attended. People gather together and sing some songs to the Lord, the preacher reads some scripture, prayers and comments about the deceased are made, and then you proceed to the graveside. The only real difference is that the dead person at a baptism is still breathing. I’ll never forget the evening I was baptized. My new Christian friends gathered to pay their last respects and the gathering crowd of mocking party animals assembled hoping to have a good time at my expense. I wasn’t aware of very much, I was caught up in the moment. You see, I was leaving behind my old life, I really had died. My life of foolish, sensual pleasure was over, a new life was about to start. You see, there was another guest, an invisible guest, at my funeral that night. Jesus was there, watching the proceedings. He was rejoicing with the angels at my new life, He was speaking to me about things to come. As I was dunked into the dark waters of Lake Ponchartrain that night, I knew my life would never be the same. I had some sense of the past events of my life passing through my mind, like a video on super fast forward. Everything I used to be was gone, all things had become new. The Christians on the bank rejoiced, the party animals shouted profanities, and Jesus and the angels shouted for joy. As I climbed the steps at the edge of the Lake, I was beginning my new life. I had left one party and joined another, but this new one will never end.
I kind of know how Tom felt that day. People act different when you are walking around after your funeral. Your earthly friends want to keep their distance, but your spiritual friends begin to embrace you. They know what you are going through, after all, they attended their funerals too.