Sunday, September 26, 2010

“Crossing the Rubicon”
Billy Mitchell

The crossing of a small stream in northern Italy became one of ancient history's most pivotal events.

It was January 49 BC, Caesar was staying in the northern Italian city of Ravenna and he had a decision to make. Either he acquiesced to the Senate's command or he moved southward to confront Pompey and plunge the Roman Republic into a bloody civil war. An ancient Roman law forbade any general from crossing the Rubicon River and entering Italy proper with a standing army. To do so was treason. This tiny stream would reveal Caesar's intentions and mark the point of no return.

“Coming up with his troops on the banks of the Rubicon, which was the frontier of his province, he halted for a while, and revolving in his mind the importance of the step he meditated, he turned to those about him, saying: 'Still we can retreat! But once let us pass this little bridge, - and nothing is left but to fight it out with arms!'

Even as he hesitated this incident occurred. A man of strikingly noble mien and graceful aspect appeared close at hand, and played upon a pipe. To hear him not merely some shepherds, but soldiers too came flocking from their posts, and amongst them some trumpeters. He snatched a trumpet from one of them and ran to the river with it; then sounding the "Advance!" with a piercing blast he crossed to the other side. At this Caesar cried out, 'Let us go where the omens of the Gods and the crimes of our enemies summon us! THE DIE IS NOW CAST!'” -Suetonius was a Roman historian (taken from

There is something very powerful about that story and the idea of having a defined line that tells the whole world what you are all about. Imagine… crossing this little stream was going to inspire Caesar’s army to complete the mission at all cost (and possibly create fear from the opposing army). As far as I can tell there was nothing physically demanding about crossing this stream of water, but by doing so a story was told of the army’s intent. Crossing the Rubicon meant that there was something much worse than being considered an outlaw by your country. Life and death were no longer priorities, only the mission.

From my understanding this is what baptism once was and I guess still is in some parts of the world. Again, imagine living in a country that is violently opposed to Jesus and His followers. Think about what it must be like to have your country, your friends, and your family come after your life if you begin to follow Jesus. Thousands, probably millions, of Christians have been considered outlaws for following Jesus.

This is one of the reasons why Christ followers are to be baptized. It’s our Rubicon moment. Physically it’s a small action, but it sends a powerful message to the world around us. By wading into the water and ceremonially showing that the old you is dead and a new you has been born, you show the world that everything about you has changed. Self no longer matters. Defeat is not an option. You are a Jesus person and part of His bride and every moment is to be lived for Him and not yourself.

Honestly, I’ve made baptism pretty nice and peaceful. I’ve probably made it something it was never supposed to be. I’m not sure what it’s going to look like, but I’m praying and thinking of ways to remove the civility of baptism and infuse more of a “Crossing the Rubicon” mindset. May we never forget that we were made for war. May we never stop at a threshold because the world has told us to. May we cross streams, rivers, and oceans to show the world that nothing matters to us as much as fulfilling the King’s mission.

Billy and his wife Ellie live in St. Petersburg, Fl. They have 3 children, two twin boys, one girl and another blessing on the way. Billy helped me to transition to Port Saint Lucie, FL. He allowed me to rent his house when he moved to St. Petersburg, introduced me to other pastors and pretty much paved the way for The Well :)

Billy Mitchell
Suncoast Baptist Association
Church Planting Strategist
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