The starting place

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Last week we were thinking about the hidden years of Jesus – from his birth to being aged 30. This week we pick up the story as Jesus comes fully onto the scene, at his baptism.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?’

Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now. For in this way we shall do all that God requires. Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, who I love; I delight in him.’

It’s a very striking moment – Jesus joining the crowds who are coming down to the river to be baptised by John. John recognises him and tries to stop him – but Jesus insists.

Why does he insist? He doesn’t need to repent – to turn around – to make a new start in the way that everyone else does.

But this is a new start for him – the start of him stepping out into a new role – speaking the message which he has been holding inside himself for so many years – acting out in his life his radical words about God’s inclusive, transforming love.

There is something about acceptance and submission in Jesus being baptised – ‘let it be so’ he says. His starting place is the same as the ending place will be – ‘not my will but yours be done.’ He gives himself fully to all that the Father has for him to do –whatever the cost will be.

There is something about solidarity too. Jesus comes to John as part of flow of people surging out to see him. He identifies himself with all those who are looking for a new start. He enters as fully into our humanity as he enters into the water – he is one with us.

And then there are the words. As Jesus comes up out of the water and experiences the Spirit coming down on him, this message comes from God: ‘This is my Son, who I love. I delight in him.’

This is the real starting place for all that Jesus goes on to do. He knows that he is loved. His Father delights in him. God’s gifts to him at the beginning of his ministry are his Spirit – his presence within – and this assurance of love. Not power, or wisdom, or authority – love.

It is because Jesus knows that he is loved that he is able to follow his own path and speak his own truth even when others do not understand. He has no need to find favour or impress people – and he has overflowing love to share with those around him.

Whether or not we have been baptised, I believe that God says the same words to us as he said to Jesus. He says to each of us: ‘You are my child who I love. I delight in you’. I’ve been beginning my prayer times for the last 6 months by reminding myself of that truth. And I’ve found that it makes a difference to how I face the day – how I face meetings that seem daunting, or people who may be difficult, or my own negative judgments of myself. It’s an important truth for us all – but it’s a hard truth to really take in.

As we remember Jesus being baptised – and maybe a connection with our own baptism – we can remind ourselves of those words to us. At our service today I used some water to make the sign of the cross on each person’s forehead, saying their name, and reminding them what God says to them:  You are my child, who I love. I delight in you.

You might like to do the same for yourself (with or without the water) – make the sign of the cross on your forehead and hear God saying your name and then saying You are my child, who I love. I delight in you.

Loving Father, help us to believe more and more deeply in your love for us. And as we receive your love, may it transform our lives….

Loving Father, whenever we feel insecure – when we feel the need to impress or we are scared of being judged – when we face the challenge of living out our truth in some way, help us to remember your love for us and your delight in us…

Loving Father, we bring to mind those we know who have a particular need to know your love, but find it hard to accept. May they begin to learn how much you love them – and may we show them something of that love…

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