More than a Mikveh
"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Messiah Yeshua were
baptized into His death?" Romans 6:3
There is a ceremony in Judaism that is called a mikveh. It is immersion (tevilah in Hebrew). Orthodox Jews observe this purification rite to this very day. Unmarried women (and men) immerse in the mikveh prior to their wedding. Married women immerse seven days after their monthly cycle. But the mikveh is also used for an individual who desires to convert to Judaism. Immersion is required for the conversion process to be valid.
To the Jew, to totally immerse oneself in water is to signify a new birth. A bride or groom-to-be enters into a new phase of life; a married woman is fertile again; the Gentile desires to be a Jew.
The requirements for a mikveh are very detailed down to its location (it must be built into the ground). It must have still water, the water must be chlorinated. When one goes through this ceremony, there is an officiant of the same sex there to recite the prayers. The person then immerses themselves.
Here in Romans, Paul Servant of Messiah Jesus (Sha-ul Eh-ved MaShiach Yeshua) gives an illustration of immersion. Yet it is more than an immersion, more than a mikveh. It is the practice of being buried. Goodbye to the old life, the old body, the old sin. It is a burying of one's self forever.
When John the Baptizer came on the scene, he was a revolutionary. Here he was, a Cohen (his mother was from the tribe of Aaron, the high Priestly tribe). The leaders in Jerusalem were very amazed by this John. This was the first time in the history of the Jewish people, that one man baptized another. Up to that time, immersion involved the ceremonial mikveh pool; the participant immersed oneself.
The Jewish leaders - the priests and Levites (first and only time that they are mentioned being together in all of the Gospels) were amazed. "Who are you?" they wanted to know. It was to be expected that the ruling religious authorities would want to know about this man and this new movement. John was gaining popularity. But the religious authorities were perplexed because John was doing something novel, something radical. The mikveh ceremony, the immersion ceremony was only do be done to Gentiles, to converts who wished to become Jews. But here was John, immersing Jews!
The Jews knew that the Gentiles were "dogs", they were unclean. The Jews knew that the Gentiles needed ritual purification. But John immersing Jews? John immersing Jews who admitting being sinners and in need of repentance? This was outside of their God-in-a-box thinking. This was absurd. Yet John's baptizing was not an end in itself. It pointed people to Yeshua, to Jesus, to the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
So Paul tells his Roman audience that baptism is an identification with Yeshua Jesus' death. Yes, the old body, the old sin, the old ways are gone. Gone are the old ways of thinking - selfishness, greed, jealousy, envy, lust, dishonesty, immorality. Gone and buried.
Yet we don't preach an uneven Cross. Yes, there is death. And there is resurrection. Messiah Yeshua Jesus' death also leads forth to resurrection. To newness of life. Eternal life becomes your future. It is a promise of God. When we die and are buried, we will be raised in newness of life. Victorious and glorious. What a blessed Glorious Savior we have! No more ritual cleansings do we need. Just once, bathed in the Blood of the Lamb. Buried with Him. With Him, we rise.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.