How the story of Jesus’ Baptism in Mark’s Gospel helps Christians to understand why baptism is important in the Church today

Christians today are followers of Jesus Christ and try to follow Him and His teachings as best they can. As followers we sometimes literally follow his example. Obvious examples of Christians today following Jesus are when we get baptised and when we celebrate the Eucharist. Today these two practices are referred to as Dominical Sacraments because they can be traced back to Jesus. In Mark’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus travelled from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the River Jordan. Immediately after emerging from the water, the heavens tore apart, and the Spirit like a dove descended on him.

A voice came from heaven, declaring, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased”. Jesus’ baptism was the starting point of his public life which involved preaching, teaching and working miracles. These are the defining qualities of Jesus of which we base our faith on, and all of which happen after his baptism. This makes Jesus’ baptism, and baptism itself seem all the more meaningful and it is why, to this day, Christians hold baptism with high importance and respect, and get baptised. There are two main forms of baptism: Infant and Believers’ baptism.

Infant baptism is when babies are baptised, whereas Believers’ baptism is when adults are baptised. Consequently, the two ceremonies differ slightly. Infant baptism is celebrated by both the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. Both Churches have similar ceremonies, except for some minor alterations. In the Catholic Church, Baptism goes as follows: The child enters the church with his or her parents. The priest welcomes them into the Christian family at the door. The parents and godparents promise to take responsibility for the child’s spiritual upbringing.

The priest traces the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead, which the parents and godparents repeat, symbolising that the child now belongs to God. Four readings and The Word of God are then read. The priest will give a short homily to the congregation, explaining the readings. Next is the exorcism and anointing. The priest holds up his hand and proclaims: “O God, you sent your Son to cast out the power of Satan, set this child free from Original Sin. ” The child is now free from the control of evil forces.

The priest then anoints the child on the chest with the oil of catechumens as a sign of strength and healing against temptation. After, the parents and godparents make promises, profess their faith and renew their baptismal vows. The water is blessed and the priest asks them to renew their faith. The baptismal promises are simple questions and answers which are made by people who intend to live a Christian life. The parents and godparents agree to reject Satan and state their belief in God as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The next stage is the baptism itself and is performed by infusion. The water from the font that has been blessed is poured over the child’s head three times while the Priest says the following words: “(Name), I baptise you in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. ” The child has now been baptised and is officially a member of the Christian Church. A second anointing on the forehead with the oil of chrism follows the baptism. This oil is a symbol of being chosen for a special task in life.

The child is asked to take up the challenge of living according to the values that Christ gave his followers. The child is then clothed in a white garment, which symbolises their new life free of sin. The garment reflects the state of the child’s soul: it is now spotless, pure and cleansed of Original Sin. The child’s baptismal candle is given to one of the parents who then lights it from the paschal candle and this represents Jesus’ resurrection. The light represents the child’s life- it shows the child has moved from spiritual darkness to light.

The service is then concluded at the altar with the ‘Our Father’ and a blessing of everyone present. The Anglican service is very similar but has slight variations. The main features of Anglican baptism are as follows: The parents and godparents agree to help the child grow up as a good Christian. The priest traces the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead and the parents and godparents may do the same. The family and the whole congregation state their belief in God as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The child is then baptised in exactly the same way as in the Roman Catholic Church. The parents and godparents may be given a lighted candle that represents the light of Christ in the child’s life. The congregation then welcomes the child into the Christian faith. Unlike in the Roman Catholic service, the child is not anointed with any oils and is not clothed in a white garment. The Baptist, Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches all practice Believers’ baptism. It is carried out by full immersion and when the candidate is old enough to understand what they are undertaking.

Churches that celebrate Believers’ baptism do not follow a set form of service and so it varies from church to church. It normally takes place during Sunday worship. The minister gives a sermon to explain the importance of baptism. There are usually a number of candidates and so they are called forward one by one. They often wear light or white clothing which represents forgiveness and new life. They are then asked if they have repented of their sins and have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Each candidate may read a bible passage that is important to them or they may give a testimony explaining how they came to be a Christian and why they want to be baptised. The candidate enters the pool, symbolising leaving their old, sinful life behind them. The candidate and the minister are now in the pool and the minister says “(Name), because you have repented of your sins and have requested baptism, I now baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”.

The candidate is then briefly immersed in the water. This symbolises that their old life has died, and that the Christian is buried in the same way as Jesus was buried for three days. The person leaves the pool, showing their new Christian life has begun. Just as Jesus rose from the dead, the candidate has risen to new life with Christ. Holy Communion often follows the baptism and the believer is given the right hand of fellowship from the minister. The congregation welcomes them as a full member of the Christian Church.

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