And so it all begins.
Jesus, not another like him, number eight.
We left Joseph, Mary and 12-year-old Jesus traveling the dusty road from Jerusalem back to Nazareth, and I’m thinking there just might have been a lot of silence. Jesus was no doubt thinking of the conversations he had had in the temple, Mary and Joseph wondering if this was just the first of many times their Son would have to be about his father’s business, and they would not understand. Luke’s concluding remark is that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in the favor of God and man. 2.52
And that’s all we know of Jesus’ growing up years--his staying behind at 12 years old and then nothing through his teens and twenties. Anything besides what we read in Scripture would be from other historical sources of the day. However, permit me to do a little wondering with you today -- like I wonder if it was God’s blessing on faithful Mary that she raise the Son of God in tiny Nazareth unobserved, watching him learn the trade of his stonemason/craftsman father Joseph, watching what ‘the favor of God and the favor of men’ looked like in Jesus. Luke had already told us that Mary pondered many things in her heart. I can’t even imagine. Did she worry more or less about Jesus than his half-siblings as they grew? Hmmm. As Jesus turned 20 years old, then 25, did villagers ask why Jesus had not taken a wife?
And then, how did she feel when Jesus announced it was time to begin his public ministry at age 30? She must have felt bereft as he left, right? --especially since there is no mention of Joseph at this point. Hmm, how did Jesus travel the distance down and out from Nazareth to out near the town of Jericho - which Google maps lists as 99 miles in distance - noting this travel is from Nazareth, Israel to Jericho, West Bank.
How long did it take Jesus to find John (the Baptist) out at the Jordan River? What was Jesus thinking about as he went? I’m sure he talked a lot to the Father along the way. Did he carry a bedroll, food and water? I like thinking of his journey, yet having driven the route several times, I don’t like to think of him being cold - the terrain is tough and rugged. Yes, he was on mission, yes, he was God, but Jesus was also fully man. And as I picture the Lord out there on that journey toward what I know was coming next, I realize there is so very much we do not know about Jesus’ time here on earth.
As Jesus approached that day out at the Jordan River--recorded in all four gospels, even John knew it seemed backwards … why, Jesus should be baptizing him, right? No, this was to be a public statement of that start of Jesus’ public ministry. Soon, there would be a passing of the baton in the desert; soon, it would be the baptism of Jesus, not the baptism of John as it had been out in the Judean desert.
But this glorious day was inauguration day! I picture Jesus wading into the Jordan to where John stood…did they hug? Did they shake hands? While physical details do not matter, I cannot help but wonder of their height, their weight, even their muscle strength. Both were physical men, so neither was a weakling. It is interesting to ponder though, isn’t it?
But here comes the glory - as soon as John raised Jesus out of the water, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and came down and rested on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So amazing, such perfection, such love.
Huh, Jesus began and ended his ministry with baptism in mind. Jesus models for us a public declaration of our faith, but just before he ascended into heaven, he told his followers to go into all the world and preach the gospel, make disciples, baptize each in the name of the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Matthew 28.20.
Jesus does not ask anything of us that he has not experienced. Our own water baptism does not save us/make us Christians, no - we are baptized in obedience, we are baptized to express what God has done in our hearts. And like when Jesus was baptized, who is present? Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen!
[If it is the same area that experts agree on today, there is nothing remarkable about the area - the river is not very wide and kinda silty near the bank--my feet sank. Halfway across the river there is a rope in the water showing the border of the country of Jordan. And traveling through the town of Jericho? It definitely felt like the West Bank and not Israel.] see below