Shaquille O’Neal is a professional basketball player who stands seven feet tall, weighs 300 lbs, and can easily dunk a basketball. Once he dunked a ball so hard that the backboard shattered and broken glass rained down on the court. On the day he broke the backboard the fans in the stadium exploded in a celebration of his raw power.
The most powerful dunk in the world does not happen on a basketball court. It does not merely shatter a backboard. It does not only shake a stadium. The most powerful dunk in the world is the dunking of a child into the waters of baptism. This dunk smashes the power of death; and at this dunking the multitude of angels in heaven explode with joy.
Imagine Lake Michigan calm and still. So silent that you could see your reflection. Not a wave, not a ripple in the water. Imagine a meteorite a mile wide blazing in from space and landing dead center in the lake. The waves created stand as ripples before the power of baptism.
Baptism is a spiritual tidal wave that cleanses the soul; an implosion of purification. Its power is incomprehensible. We cannot begin to fathom how such a simple act can be so transformative. Baptism is mysterious. It is sacramental.
Being a witness to this sacred God-given mystery is an honor. Anyone of prayer will stand in silent reverence knowing that spiritual fireworks are occurring in their presence. A poet writing a fantasy of the day of disarmament writes:
We’re going to send all the weapons up on a starry night.
Explode them above the atmosphere- it sure sounds right.
The whole world will be watching
the magic moment in the night sky
such a point of splendor
what a way to remember
Imagine seeing the power of death destroyed in a glorious way. Imagine seeing Christ coming on the clouds to establish his reign of everlasting peace. Imagine the dissolution of doubt and full affirmation of what you so fervently believe - that Jesus is Lord and we are guaranteed the resurrection. Imagine the joy of that day. Knowing salvation, knowing we are saved.
This is the joy of the angels singing in heaven as they see a saved soul lifted from the waters. A child who has taken off his or her worldly garments to be clothed with Christ. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal 3:27 )
There is a great scene in a Clint Eastwood western where Clint’s character, (who had been left to die hanging from a noose by a bad guy), cooly confronts the bad guy again in an old fashion shoot-out. The bad guy looks confident, strong and determined and shoots Clint’s character in the heart; and Clint falls to the ground, but a moment later he gets back up. The bad guy shoots him again in the heart and Clint gets up again. After this happens some five times and Clint is still standing the camera moves to the face of the bad guy. Now the bad guy’s face is full of heavy beads of sweat and worry. He’s probably thinking ‘I left him to die in a noose and now I’ve shot him five times and he’s still standing’, I can’t kill this guy! The bad guy is nervous as Clint starts to walk toward him. Then Clint lifts up his serape to reveal he has a large metal plate under his clothes with five dents in it at the location of his heart. Clint was cool before his attacker because he knew he was safe from death. He knew he did not have to submit to the bad guy because the bad guy did not have the power of death over him.
We too can confidently remain cool before our attacker because we know he has lost the power to take our lives. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12 ) The devil and his evil angels have been defeated by Christ. Christ has destroyed the power of death through His resurrection. Therefore we can be confident in what we have received in Christ and need not fear standing for the good. For the devil can not kill us and we do not have to submit to him.
It is through the sacrament of baptism that we are joined to Christ and share in his victory over death.
(Rom 6:3-13 ) Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.
The devil wants you to doubt God’s power to save you. He does not want you to believe that you already died in the font and were raised with Christ. In a word, the devil wants you to forget your baptism.
So why not do this? The next time you see Shaquille O’Neal do a power dunk, or watch Mr. Jordan do one of his gravity-defying spinning backward dunks, or even see a dunk on the news say to yourself, ‘child’s play’. Jesus dunks better.