Recently I was meditating on how central the "baptism" experience is to New Covenant faith (Acts 2:38 -"Repent and be immersed everyone of you..."). It seemed as central as...as...and then it hit me: as central as crossing the Red Sea was for the people of ancient Israel. Immersion in water is not a foreign Gentile ritual, but a symbolic experience rooted in the Exodus from Egypt.
This viewpoint is essential to understanding the teachings of Yeshua and the disciples. They saw the Torah (Law of Moses) as a model of what is to happen in the life of each believer. What happened to Israel nationally is supposed to happen to us individually. What happened to Israel historically is to happen to us spiritually.
This is parallel to the rabbinic concept that each time a Jewish family eats the Passover, they are to see themselves as re-enacting the exodus, being delivered from Egypt themselves. It is also parallel to the Kabbalah (Jewish mystical) concept that all Jewish souls were present at the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai.
Almost 30 years ago, I started doing "Messiah in the Passover" demonstrations as a young believer in full time "Messianic" ministry. We would show all the parallels in the traditional Passover seder to the Last Supper of Yeshua. However the New Covenant writings take the idea much deeper.
The Exodus is seen as an archetypal experience representing our exodus from sin. The Torah is the universal pattern upon which the Gospels are based. As Israel was "saved" by the blood of the Lamb, so is each one of us saved by the blood of Yeshua. As the blood was placed on the doorposts, so was Yeshua hanged on the wooden posts of the cross.
Israel had not only to apply the blood, they also had to cross the waters of the Red Sea (Yam Suf). There is a play on words here as the Hebrew also means the "Sea of the End". As essential to the exodus is the parting of the Red Sea, so is it essential for everyone to pass through his own "waters of exodus" through the baptism.
Through these waters, we "exit" our old life. We are separated from the influence of sinful "Egyptian" society; we are separated from our past, separated from our identity as slaves. Our demonic oppressors are crushed in a moment by the waters of immersion. We experience our own exodus into freedom.
At Mt. Sinai, Israel received the Law on tablets of stone. At Mt. Golgoleth we are to receive the Law on the tablets of our hearts. That IS the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:33 - "For THIS IS the covenant I will cut with the house of Israel... I will give My Torah within them and on their hearts I will write it.") As the old generation died out in the wilderness, so is our "old nature" to die as we walk with the Lord.
We are to drink spiritual water from the rock (I Corinthians 10); we are to eat the revelatory manna from heaven (John 6); we are to follow the cloud of the Holy Spirit (Numbers 9). As Israel was 40 years in the wilderness, so Yeshua fasted 40 days in the desert (Matthew 4). As Israel went down to Egypt, so did Yeshua go to Egypt as a baby (Matthew 2:15).
As Israel also passed through the waters of the Jordan, so are we to receive our second baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5 - "For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit in not many days.") As Israel possessed the Promised Land, so are we to possess the earth, possess the promises. (Interestingly, the name "Canaan" comes from the Hebrew root word for "submission".) We are to drive out evil powers and principalities, as Israel drove out the evil giants of the land.
The universal pattern of the Torah is re-enacted in our lives, as we believe in the blood of the Lamb, cross through the waters of separation, and receive the instruction of God's word. To God, the Law and the Gospels are part of the same plan and the same purpose. When you see the unity of the two parts, the whole body of scripture is more understandable.
Through Yeshua, we enter into the revelatory meaning of the Torah; by faith, we live out the spiritual experience of the Exodus.