…because of their baptism, they are bound to the patient, long-term discovery of what grace will do with them. (Rowan Williams, Silence and Honey Cakes)
How important is baptism?
It seems to have been important to Jesus.
In Matthew’s version of the baptism of Jesus, John the Baptist tries to put him off:
John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?’
But Jesus insists. This is the way forward.
John’s baptism was a sign of repentance; that’s why John didn’t want to baptise Jesus. He knew Jesus didn’t need to repent.
But Jesus was identifying himself with sinners. All of them, from the unclean and those outside the law to religious hypocrites who thought they were fine as they were. He was identifying himself with the whole of Israel. Eventually it would be clear that he was identifying himself with the whole world. He was the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
Christian baptism—our kind—is a little different. In his baptism, Christ identified with sinners; in our baptism, we are identified with Christ.