Do you not know that all of us who have been Baptized into Christ Jesus were Baptized into His death?”
On Ash Wednesday, sinners and saints leave church marked with a cross, marked with the sign and material of death. Heads become canvases painted with ashes. The sobering words, “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” spoken to Adam and Eve as they rebelled against the Lord, are echoed today (Gen. 3:19).
The season of Lent is a time of repentance. We, like our first parents, have rebelled against the Lord, not once, not twice, but countless times. We are sinners, transgressors, rebels of our Creator; we too have become poisoned with death and marked by our transgressions.
Repentance never ends with the Law. Repentance does not conclude with confession. God-given repentance always finds its consummation in Christ. In the Augsburg Confession, the Reformers spoke of repentance in this way:
After his sin Adam is reproved and becomes terrified; this was contrition. Afterward, God promises grace and speaks of a future seed (the blessed seed, i.e., Christ), by which the kingdom of the devil, death, and sin will be destroyed; there He offers the remission of sins. These are the chief things.
Today, heads become canvases painted with ashes. Yet, it is not our death imposed on our heads but Jesus’s death for us. Jesus became the dust that we are, for us.
Our sin marked Christ. Jesus was marked with the scars of nails and a spear for us. His hands, feet, and side are marked with scars displaying the cost of our redemption
We are no longer marked by our sin but by our Savior. We have a watery seal placed upon us by our Lord, who marks us as his own in Baptism through water and the Word. The marks of dust and ashes on the heads of worshipers today point beyond our death—they direct our eyes of faith to the death of our substitute, who was marked for us.
Heavenly Father, bring us to a daily remembrance of our baptisms so we may die to our sinful nature and look to you alone for forgiveness, life, and salvation.