August 11 2020

“Introductions Are in Order”

When meeting a new person, it is always helpful to have some one who already knows them well to do the introduction.  It is especially comforting if the introduction is done by someone you know and trust.  When I first came to our family of churches, the senior pastor and I spent a significant amount of time together getting to know each other—we became good friends very quickly.  His introducing me both publicly and individually made a huge difference in how I was received by the rest of the family.

Our first look at Jesus as an adult just happens to be one of those times when introductions are in order.  He is just another face in the crowd until someone respected introduces him and vouches for him.  In Jesus’ case the one introducing him is God Himself.

To help understand the introduction of Jesus, imagine the life of a typical Jewish person at that time.  Since they will prove to be significant in Jesus’ life, imagine simple fishermen from a small village with access to the Sea of Galilee.

These fishermen are young men who have grown up in the family business.  Everything they know about the business and most of what they have experienced about their faith has come from their extended family.  Their village may not have had enough people to have a synagogue and a rabbi.  Everything about life is passed down from previous generations.  It is a simple life; it is a hard life; it is a life where your family and your reputation are everything.

Since these young men live some distance from Jerusalem, they may not be as impacted by the big city life and the challenges it brings.  Roman presence may only have been an occasional event for them.  But they felt the sting of the Roman taxes; and, they knew the disdain everyone felt for their own countrymen who collected those taxes and profited generously from the process.  Whether they wanted to admit it or not, they were a conquered nation.  It did not set well with them—especially since they were working class men who were not accustomed to backing down from anyone.

Even though it was rare for them to get to go to Jerusalem for a special religious celebration, they had surely experienced the corruption in the religious institution.  They had been judged by the Pharisees and dominated by the Sadducees and others in the ruling body.  It probably felt like organized religion was more interested in their money than their relationship with God.  They were probably glad they did not have to deal with all that every day.

Overall, for them, it was a time for survival.  There was not a lot of reason for hope. 

There was one possible reason for hope, but it was not something that most people thought about anymore.  It was an ancient set of prophecies found in their older scriptures.  The prophecy spoke of a time when God would send a deliverer called the Messiah to restore their country to its former glory.  But that hope for many must have felt like a children’s story without much reason to expect it to come to reality.  After all, it had been hundreds of years since that was written.

To make things worse, there had been a couple of times when assertive men lay claim to being this Messiah and led the Jews in rebellion to Rome.  Every time this happened, it was quickly crushed by the Romans.  False Messiahs have a way of crushing hope for everyone.

This was the time the adult Jesus came into their world.

Just prior to Jesus showing up, there was a very strange man who became popular with the people.  He did not bother to go into the cities, but rather did all his work, which was primarily preaching, out in the countryside.  He could usually be found near the Jordan River.

John’s role was to call people back to their God.  Without a reason for hope, people tend to drift away from God; they lose their connection with Him and spend their lives in other things.  John announced that this long hoped for but usually forgotten promise of God to send the Messiah and restore His kingdom was about to happen.  What he told people to do was to get their hearts and life focussed on God in preparation for what God was about to do.  He called the people to be baptized (immersed in water) to cleanse them from their sins.

Multitudes of people were coming out to John and responding to his teachings.  Even the religious leaders sent people to check him out even though they did not like what he was doing, especially when He directly challenged them calling them a “brood of snakes.”

This is the time, and this is the scene that Jesus walks into when it is time for his introduction to the people.  Jesus comes and ask John to baptize him even though they both know that he has not turned away from God.  He does not need to be baptized as others did, but the baptism brought about the time for him to be introduced.

When Matthew, Mark and Luke tell the events of this day, they tell us of Jesus’ baptism followed by a voice from heaven that said: “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”

What an introduction!  Can you imagine being introduced by God Himself?  That’s what happened to Jesus that day.  And, as if being introduced by God is not remarkable enough, think about what God had to say about Jesus.  He gives Jesus the identity of being His son.  He tells us that He loves His son.  And, God is pleased with Jesus. 

What a proud father God is!

Our young Jewish fishermen have some decisions to make.  What were they going to do with what they had just seen?  Could this be the rumored Messiah?  Is there hope after all?  Could they really believe their ears?

This whole scene shared by three writers compels us as well to make some decisions about Jesus.  First we have to decide whether this event even happened at all.  Do we trust the reality of what they have written?  Is this a cleverly devised tale?

If we accept their account of this event, we then must decide if God Himself is trustworthy in what He has told us about Jesus.  Is God a reliable source of information?  How does He know this Jesus guy?

And finally, we need to start thinking about what we believe about Jesus.  What do I think about a man endorsed by God?  Should I let him into my life?  Should I trust him?

For Our Reflection:

The events described in Jesus’ introduction are either true or false.  Either they happened as reported or they made this stuff up.  Even though I believe this event to have happened exactly as reported, I can understand someone deciding not to believe it is true.  And, of course, if they believe it is not true, then Jesus would not be compelling to them.   I can also understand others believing it to be true (as I do) and then finding Jesus to be very compelling—after all, he was endorsed by God.

What I do not understand is someone who says they believe this is true but are not particularly moved by it.  How can I not be blown away by the voice of God at Jesus’ baptism?  Who else have you heard God literally endorse?  I don’t know about you, but I have never heard God’s actual voice from heaven!  If He bothered to speak, I should bother to listen—shouldn’t I?

Read This In The Scriptures:  Matthew 3:13-17  Mark 1:9-11  Luke 3:21-23