Water Gives Life

Water is vital to sustaining life, second only to the air we breathe. This vitality-giving liquid touches our lives daily, shaped by its temperature and our needs. Without its replenishment, our strength drains away. Soon, we fade and perish.

Frozen and solid, we use ice cubes to chill our drinks. Above freezing, we find refreshment when thirsty. Through water, we rid ourselves of dirt and sweat and make sure our clothes and dishes are clean. Of course, if heated enough, a transformation occurs as steam ripples into the air. Everywhere, we experience the sound of droplets splashing, its coolness upon our skin, and its replenishment delighting our tongues.

Water’s motion can be both gentle or destructive. God’s Spirit hovered over its swirling chaos during creation, causing land to divide and form before He created Adam and Eve. Time passes, and worldwide floodwaters sweep over the earth until its highest mountain sinks beneath its measureless, churning expanse. Oh, but God cuts a covenant, promising to save Noah and his family. Raindrops, likewise, fell from the sky, dripping with salvation.

Later, escaping slavery and bondage, Moses and the people traversed the Red Sea with dry feet. Not so for Egypt’s army. Against them, the Almighty unleashed the fierce rush of a destroying wave. A roar shook, and the waters slammed shut, crushing and drowning the pursuing force. Through an act of God, those once enslaved became free.

In the wilderness, Israel’s throats ached for a desert drink. So God told Moses to take a branch to transform undrinkable bitterness into the sweetest draft. Later, when thirsting, the Lord transformed a flinty rock into a flowing fountain. God always reinvigorates and refreshes His followers. The psalms pray, “As a deer yearns for rivulets of water, so my being gasps for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1).

Water’s presence cascades throughout sacred Scripture from a trickle to a thundering torrent. General Joshua led the people to cross into the Promised Land. How so? God provided them safe passage, parting the Jordan River during spring flooding. Soon after, their feet touch the soil as they dance in long-awaited freedom.

Prophet Elisha healed Naaman, a Syrian military leader. How? By telling him to plunge seven times within Jordan’s depths to receive the miracle. The commander thought otherwise. Why not dip into his home country’s magnificent waterway? Except, the healing promise dwelled in the water and the Word. So he waded into the Jordan’s eddies and coursings, and a divine cleansing washed away the disease.

In those same waters, the heaven-sent Son began His public ministry. Earlier, God’s chosen ones crossed that overflowing river, the Almighty containing its waves. So His people enter the Promised Land. The prophesied Messiah now steps into the moving current, living His life for us, absorbing the toxins of our transgressions and death into His sinless body. In His baptism, Jesus blesses our baptismal cleansings so they can usher us into His promised heavenly homeland. Christ immersed Himself in sin to fulfill in human flesh what is beyond our race’s fallen reach.

Watered sights and sounds splash everywhere during our Savior’s days on earth. In His first miracle, He transforms water into a smooth, flavorful wine. A welcome refreshment for the wedding guests, wishing for more.

Soon after, Rabbi Jesus explains to Nicodemus our need to be born of water and Spirit. Of course, He speaks of a heavenly birth, not a second, earthly one. Within a single conversation, Jesus brings up the baptism He will institute and His coming death, binding this birth from above and believing in the Messiah.

The word “birth” should make things obvious. Our baptismal rebirth is no more a choice than our physical birth. By water and the Spirit—we, born as wayward descendants of Adam—become children of God. Our gracious Father begets us anew as His sons and daughters, bringing us into His family and giving us the rights and privileges of His inheritance. What are these? Sins’ absolution, rescue from the Devil and his destruction, and eternal life for everyone who believes.

Dear sinners, Jesus canceled your debt in full. In His last act of self-sacrifice, water and blood poured from His spear-pierced side as He hung on the cross. Those outpourings became a testament to His suffering for us. Signs and seals of His death, they are, and our redemption; the regal marks of God’s kingdom.

In this dying world, life’s blood and water gushed from our Savior at Golgotha. Such crimson redness flowed, giving baptism its power. Freed of shame, you emerge from this cleansing full of God. On the river of baptism, we stream into the crucified Christ, His watery blood covering us with His righteousness. In such a bath hides the sin-slaying and saving work of the Almighty.

Is this overwhelming abundance of water a mere coincidence? No! Its wetness pours over and saturates Scripture’s pages, pointing you toward Jesus. The Apostle Paul resonates in 1 Corinthians 10. “Our fathers walked under the cloud and passed through the sea…. Baptized into Moses… [they] drank from the spiritual Rock accompanying them—Christ” (vs. 1-4).

The sea roared and spilled, becoming both a massive, swirling body bag and a liquid womb of life. The old foreshadowed the new. Not ocean-washed in Moses; no, the water and Word baptize us into Christ Jesus. The “ancient, wicked Pharaoh” within us drowns. Alive in our risen Lord, we emerge on the other side of the baptismal sea.

Another Apostle, Peter, tells us God saved Noah and his household by using water. So, he says, baptism now saves you (1 Peter 3:18-22). The same water, which destroyed the sinful world, became God’s vehicle of salvation for old Noah, including his family. The death-dealing and life-giving water of the vast flood foreshadows baptism. In our baptisms, the faith-bestowing Spirit connects us to the grave and a blessed rebirth, to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Noah and Moses received life from water, from which many others met their end. By water, God kept them both safe, birthing a new generation for Him after massive destruction. In a later tragedy, our incarnate God comes to His people, though plenty refused to receive Him. Except, here is the triumph: those who welcomed Him, He gave the power to become God’s dear children—born not of blood, flesh, or someone’s will, but by God through Holy Baptism.

Your heavenly Father reshapes and rewashes you daily, conforming you into the image of His Son. At every Divine service, our hands and arms move, making the sign of the cross, not as an empty formality or hollow ritual. No, to remind us, and again to confess, into whose name we received salvation’s washing, which always refreshes, cleanses, and forgives.

What follows is confession and absolution. In repentance, we return to our baptisms, turning with sorrow from our sin-sodden lives to find life anew in Jesus, our Lord. To the cross, He journeyed, becoming sin’s corruption for you, bleeding and breathing His last so you might be alive in Him. Not once, but greater than seventy times seven, His forgiveness comes as a cleansing wave, washing away your transgression. Again, He sets you free to live a life, fresh and holy—with a righteousness not your own but from God Himself.

Lent focuses on drowning the old you, so a different, joyful one arises. In this season, the Church is dark and laden with purple, reminding us of Christ’s crucifixion, death, and burial. So, how do we receive Jesus’ gift of grace earned for us on the killing cross? In baptism, Jesus drowned our sinful nature and gave us a new life. In those waters, He took us in His arms, our every sin, and carried us into His tomb, where he buried them.

Does this sound absurd? Listen to Scripture. “Don’t you realize? Baptized in Christ Jesus, you’re baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3). The way Paul frames his question shows he isn’t teaching something new or unknown. No, he’s reminding Christians what they should already understand and believe. This union with Jesus in the Word-soaked water of baptism is the pattern for our entire lives. The Spirit slays our rebellious and egocentric natures and raises us to shine forth Jesus, our Lord and King.

Remember, you can’t tame the sinful nature or reform sin. The only cure is death. Two deaths exist—either dying alone or in Jesus. Daily, your inherited fallen sinfulness must enter death’s tomb with the crucified Jesus, which happens when you confess your faults and failings.

To take our sins out of the secret hiding places of our hearts is for them to die in repentance and confession. The Holy Spirit renews the death we died with Jesus, bestowing again the life we received with Him. Entombed with Christ in baptism, we, likewise, arise with Him. “Buried with him by baptism into death, as Christ arose from the dead by the glory of the Father, we, too, can walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

Today, we embody the resurrection life planted into us at our baptisms. What pulses inside us, prompting us into virtuous action, those gracious opportunities to live out our resurrected life? Love. Oh, not the shallow emotions which often enter people’s minds. No, God’s affection for us in His beloved Son stirs us to care for and cherish one another. Our Savior’s love helps us recognize our possibilities to serve are blessings given to us by the Father. Yes, you and I can share in spreading His love to the world through the gifts He grants us. Amen.