A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
On the second day of college freshman orientation, each hall of the boys’ dormitory was paired with a hall from the girls’ dormitory to form teams for a co-ed ultimate frisbee competition out on the soccer field. For the uninitiated, ultimate frisbee is essentially two-hand touch football except you can not run while holding the frisbee and every time the frisbee hits the ground the possession turns over to the defending team. We were numbered off and then divided by number and then told to select a team name. Being that we had all been assigned the number 2, I had the ingenious idea of naming ourselves, “Team 2.” Of course, this elicited a few laughs and, remarkably, no one else had a better idea, so Team 2 stuck. Unbeknownst to me, somehow I had already caught the eye of one of my fellow teammates, but by offering the sarcastic and super-lame name suggestion, her immediate thought, as she still loves to remind me on a regular basis, was something along the lines of, “What a waste of a good-looking guy.” Of course, over the last 13 years of marriage I have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that I have many more flaws beyond my sophisticated sense of humor.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus shows up out of nowhere, or if you are like the disciple Nathaniel upon hearing that Jesus is from Nazareth, less than nowhere. Notice that Mark doesn’t even attempt to give us an explanation of who Jesus was or where He came from aside from the small town of Nazareth, roughly 60 miles north of Jerusalem. Like everyone else, Jesus came to the Jordan river to be baptized by John, who Luke informs us is actually the cousin of Jesus. We read in the opening chapter of Luke’s gospel that when they were both still in the womb, yet-to-be-born John is the first human to acknowledge the true divine identity of his slightly younger cousin, but he would not be the last.
Since John already knew who Jesus really was, and recognized that he was not worthy to even untie the sandals of Jesus, he was more than a bit reluctant to baptize Jesus (see Matthew 3). The people coming out into the wilderness to be baptized by John did so to confess their sins before God and change their course to walk in righteousness. Since Jesus, as the Bible tells us, knew no sin and was already perfectly obedient, John believed that baptism was not necessary. In fact, if Jesus’ baptism were viewed through the same lens as the others, it would be fair to call it a lie or a charade. However, Jesus did not come to John to be baptized for His own forgiveness, but rather as a form of validation of the ministry of John. Rumor and speculation were already swirling about the meaning and identity of John, as many believed him to be either a prophet in the vein of Moses or Elijah, or perhaps even the Messiah Himself. Jesus’ baptism by John served as confirmation that John’s ministry and message was ordained and inspired by God.
The baptism of Jesus also served a perhaps even more important role: it confirmed the identity and authority of Jesus. As Jesus rose up from the water the heavens split apart, the Spirit descended, and the voice of the Father roared with approval for all to hear, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” There at the Jordan River, the ancient entrance to the nation of God, the entirety of the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, unanimously announced that God had now entered into our midst, the Promised One had arrived in the Promised Land.
Jesus still appears in our lives today. We aren’t looking for Him, we aren’t expecting Him, yet here He is. Regardless of how it appears, we never find Him, rather He finds us. As Francis Thompson wrote in his brilliant poem “The Hound of Heaven”:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him.”
Praise the Lord that Jesus appeared in the wilderness of the Jordan and also the wilderness of our lives and minds, chasing us down and being for us what we could never be, the beloved Son of God. Because of His perfect obedience to the Father, we might now one day hear for ourselves those most precious words of affirmation and commendation: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter in to the joy of your master.” Not because of our works, but because of His works for me.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You are the beloved Son of the Father. While we were still your enemies, at just the right time you appeared in our lives, seeking us out, hunting us down. We acknowledge that all of our works are nothing more than grass and flowers that fade and fall before You. Empower us to live our lives no longer for our glory but for Yours. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.