In the earliest centuries of the faith, Christians in Africa resisted the temptation to deny their faith in a unique way. Persecuted by conquerors hungry for power, Ethiopian Christians, and later Egyptian ones, branded their hands and foreheads with various Christian symbols. In addition to making it more difficult to deny their faith, these symbols gave believers strength during difficult times. Their bodies marked their belonging to Jesus.
Through the ages, the bodies of God’s people have been marked in various ways. In establishing His covenant with Abraham, God commanded that every male in Abraham’s household be circumcised (Gen. 17:10–14). For several thousand years, Jewish male babies were circumcised at the age of eight days, a physical sign of being part of the Jewish people.
After Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension, the body of believers who had experienced salvation through Him—both Jews and Gentiles had to figure out if circumcision, or becoming Jewish first, was required for Gentile Christians. We already know how this one ended, as circumcision is not requisite for male converts today! The bodily sign today, which God has established and blessed, is baptism. This physical action identifies someone as belonging to Jesus. Baptism is also a marker to remind us of God’s claim on our lives.
When John baptized repentant Jews in the Jordan, he balked when Jesus requested baptism. Though the act didn’t cleanse Jesus—the sinless One—from sin, it identified Him as God’s chosen one. This was confirmed by a voice from heaven, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (v. 17).Today Christians are marked and claimed as God’s own through baptism. This action marks our belonging, and belovedness, to Jesus’ Father.
Apply the Word
Return to the memory of your own baptism. Reflect on the ways that God responded in love to Jesus’ baptism, and remember that He also extends that love to you. Though we may not hear an audible voice, what signs of God’s love surround you? As you think about the ways God shows you love, thank Him for the gift of His blessing and favor.