Blog # 431 The Baptism of the Lord a
This blog will come in two parts, a and b. This week-end we are celebrating the occasion of the Baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan. The story is given in Matthew 3:13 - 17 and Mark 1:7 - 11.
In part a I just want to review the process whereby we come to our knowledge of the facts of the
story. In part b we will consider the meaning or application of the facts and our response to them.
Whenever a high school football team wins a State championship in their division it means they played good football. I remember living in Sandersville, GA back in 1997 when our local team did that. Their record was 15 wins, no losses.
You could have known our team played good football if you actually attended any of the games. But even if you did not attend the games you could tell they played good football by the record. And the more you know of football either by playing the game yourself or following it as a fan the more you appreciate and find interesting and exciting the experience and performance of the local team.
Then when the season is over, the final game is won, and the trophy brought home, large enthusiastic headlines in the local paper proclaim the victory and exalt the team. A parade is organized and the team rides through town on a flatbed truck. Cheers go up. The memories and excitement of the games come alive. The team is not actually running tackling passing scoring and winning now. That had all been done. Now is the time of glory appreciation and celebration of what had been done.
I see what you have been reading so far, lived out in our relationship to Jesus, in general, and particularly in relationship to the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Here's how. As any Sandersville Hawks fan knows the team played well, so any believing Christian knows Jesus did something great with His life. But a difference comes here. None of us was alive almost two thousand years ago when Jesus actually spent His life for others. This would be something like having none of us from town actually present at any of the fifteen games our team won. We know what Jesus said and did primarily from the Bible. That would be something like knowing how our team performed by their record, by the newspaper accounts, and by the pictures in the high school year book.
The sweat has been washed away, the victories have been won, the games are over. Some of us can get really excited just by reading about a good season this way. We watch the parade and cheer for the team even though we did not actually attend any of the games. With Jesus it can be somewhat similar.
We know we cannot eat with Jesus in Martha's house, walk with Him on the streets of Jericho, hold the scroll for Him to read from it in the synagogue of Capernaum. We were born too late for that. We could take this for granted and be satisfied to read it all in the pages of the Bible.
The actual games our team played, the actual life experience of Jesus on earth is over. The memory of it, handed down through the centuries is exciting in itself. It is fitting and proper that we bring deep praise and appreciation to Jesus for all that He has done.
This is the way it would be for someone coming to Sandersville years from now, when all the tacklers, end guards and quarterbacks will be gone. You could get out some copies of old newspapers, read about the games, and rejoice in the victories that we won. But the real action in the three dimensions of it all would be in the past, real in that sense, but only in that limited sense. Here is where our analogy parts from the reality of the story in the Bible.
In dealing with Jesus we are not dealing with the limited human reality of a local football team, capable of living only once in the present and only in the memory of someone who might remember. We realize these memories can have real power to inspire and call forth from a future coach and future students in our local school real hard work and real dedication to practice all that needs to be practiced in order to have a great team. But it is different with Jesus and us.
In Jesus by faith we are dealing with God. Limited for a time according to God's plan (Phil. 2: 16), Jesus was one of us. He walked and talked ate grew tired and responded to events around Him in joy and sorrow in a way that was as human as our own. He can and should be imitated in this, but He did not come merely to be imitated.
He was always, personally, even in the historical limitations of His experience on earth, divine. When His work on earth was done and His perfect love for the Father and their perfect love for us was fulfilled on the Cross, then, as the Risen Christ, His story would take a new turn. Because they were true, His human experiences would be dated in time and recorded in history, which means, in all the ages since Jesus walked among us in His human body they would be spoken of in the past tense. But the Risen Christ is free of time. As with the Father, so with Jesus. "a thousand years are as yesterday...or as a watch in the night (Ps 90:4), and " one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as one day." (2 Peter 3: 8).
The presence of the Risen Christ among them was for the Apostles, for Paul, and for the early Church the foundation and a substantial part of their faith. Jesus was alive until Calvary. But now, after the Resurrection, He is alive! They knew this during the forty days He appeared among them here and there from time to time. But after His ascent to the Father it would still for them be true. It is true for us today.
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