Wednesday, 25 March 2015
The Easter Story: My son
THE JORDAN RIVER. FIRST CENTURY.
The palms trees and the shrubs lined the wide river that flowed through the rugged Judean countryside. At some places pools of water, shallow enough to stand in, were made along the banks. It was here that a crowd had gathered.
In the centre of the crowd was a man. He wore camel skin clothes and he lived in the wilderness. Despite his strange way of life, people came all around, from Jerusalem and the Judean hill lands to be baptised by him. They went into the water burdened with guilt and shame; they came out of the water cleansed and unburdened. The man that baptised them was called John.
John was preaching a powerful and unrestrained message. Those who relied on their heritage and ancestry were fools. For pedigree did not matter to God; it was a life lived in the spirit of repentance that he was after. God would destroy those whose lives did not bear the marks of a holy life. They could not think that just because they were important that they could get away with living how they wished.
John also told the crowds how someone greater than himself was coming. This person would impart the power of the Holy Spirit, and with this would bring judgement. John knew that this person would be pure and sinless. He would have no need of the baptism that John offered.
Jesus, from Galilee, came to John and asked to be baptised. John was confused and said that it should be Jesus baptising him, not the other way round. But Jesus insisted.
John and Jesus went together into the water. Jesus was lowered into the river, and then rose above the surface. When this happened, it appeared as if the very sky had burst open. Something that resembled a dove, although it was not a dove, came down and rested upon Jesus. Then I voice said, "This is my son, whom I love. With him, I am well pleased."
Various things are made clear from this passage. First, Jesus' identity as the Son of God is revealed. Of course, John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin, already had some knowledge of his identity. Second, God clearly loves Jesus and delights in him doing things that please him. God's love of his son mirrors and outstrips that of Abraham's love for Isaac. The love held by an earthly father can never rival that of the heavenly Father. This perhaps makes the knowledge of Jesus' impending death all the more harrowing.
Another interesting thing about this passage is the judgement that Jesus is to bring. From the very outset of his ministry, the condemnation was not held by who we perhaps have come to believe as the 'usual suspects': prostitutes, homosexuals, murderers, religious heretics. It was the religious elite that receive the most scorn. They believed it was their identity and worth that made them important. Of course, it is not. The importance of a human being is in relation of the God that made them. In someways this should be exceptionally humbling. There is no way we can compare to the God of the universe. But it should also be reassuring. As we are told in John 3:14: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son". Our worth is not what we can offer to him, but in the lavish gifts that he has given us.