John the Baptist Monologue – presented by Michael Jones
(“Jesus Is Baptized”, as told by John the baptizer, based on Matt. 3:13-17 and Luke 1:36-45, Seasons of the Spirit, January 12, 2014, adapted)
Sometimes people ask me, “What’s it like to have Jesus as a relative?” My mother loved to tell me the people story ask of when me, “What’s her relative it like Mary to came to sit us when she was pregnant with Jesus. At the same time my mother was pregnant with me. When Mary arrived, my mother said she could feel me leaping for joy inside of her. Even before I was born we had a special bond. Even though we didn’t always understand exactly what it would mean, we knew that Jesus would grow up to be an example of how God desires that we live, full of love and peace. I will never forget the day that Jesus came and asked me to baptize him. I never would have expected it! And it changed me. The way of living that Jesus teaches is very important to my entire family. Before Jesus began his ministry I wanted to do everything I could to help prepare the way for his message to be heard, so I went into the wilderness to share the Good News that God loves everyone. I baptized people, initiating them into this way of living and inviting them into a new way of seeing. Part of my baptism was like a symbol – like washing away the bad things from our past, so we could start afresh with God. When Jesus came to me and asked me baptize him I was so surprised. Jesus is the very example of how we are to live. I thought, “It should be Jesus baptizing me. But even when I hesitated, Jesus insisted that I baptize him. It was a humbling moment As Jesus came up out of the water it seemed as if the heavens were opened; I could feel the Spirit of God very close – like a dove descending on Jesus. And deep down and all around it seemed words from God were swirling around, too. This is my child, the Beloved, with whom I am very pleased.” I got to serve Jesus, the one who has committed his life to bringing justice. I realized that when Jesus asked me to baptize him, he couldn’t bring about righteousness on his own. This is something that is best done with the help of others It was an “aha” moment for me. I wasn’t merely just preparing the way, I have an important part of bringing justice and righteousness to our land
Thank you for reminding us that there were many events and relationships that led to the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River that day so long ago.
In our church calendar, it may seem peculiar that we celebrate the Magi’s visit to the Christ-Child on Epiphany Sunday and the very next week we celebrate the adult Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.
Matthew’s Gospel doesn’t tell us anything about Jesus as a child except that Mary and Joseph fled with Jesus to Egypt to escape King Herod’s killing spree. When Herod died Joseph led their family on a journey to Galilee where they settled in the town of Nazareth.
The next story that Matthew records is that of John who was in the desert preaching and baptizing and preparing the way for the coming of the messiah. Matthew quickly reveals that Jesus is the one for whom John has been waiting and the story of Jesus’ baptism is revealed.
Jesus’ baptism is the pivotal point in the story of Jesus’ life and ministry in the gospel of Matthew. Everything in Jesus’ life up to this point has prepared him for this public recognition of God’s blessing and his affirmative response to God’s call. Jesus’ baptism is the inauguration of his public ministry and Matthew focusses all his efforts after this point to describe Jesus’ life and teachings, his ministry among the people, and the account of his death and resurrection.
It is significant that the gospel story for today is paired with a passage from Isaiah that speaks of a servant-leader whom God has chosen and in whom God delights. This servant-leader is anointed by God to establish justice on earth. Isaiah says that God has led the anointed one by the hand and offered the ability to open eyes that are blind to injustice.
Now hear again the words from Matthew’s Gospel telling of Jesus’ baptism:
…when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came out of the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him 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, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’(Matthew 3:16-17)
We know from the gospel accounts that one of the ways that Jesusfulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy was that he was a leader who empowered others; who brought healing and the light of God’s love to those who struggled with the darkness of oppression and intolerance; who advocated for the rights of ordinary people and showed by his words and actions that all are God’s beloved.
In Jesus’ life and ministry we can see glimpses of our own lives. Jesus was born in humble circumstances, was baptized as many other people were, and lived and worked with ordinary folk. Yet in the midst of the ordinary experiences of life, God’s spirit worked through Jesus in miraculous ways to give faith and courage to people who struggled to believe that life could be meaningful – full of blessing and purpose.
When we think of Jesus’ baptism – where he was blessed with God’s spirit and called “beloved” – we remember that we, too, are God’s beloved; that we belong to God; that we are precious in God’s sight; that God’s spirit dwells within each one of us. We also remember that we are connected by a faith tradition rooted in the life and ministry of Jesus – the one we call Christ. When we gather as a community of faith, Christ is present, in story and in spirit, and in the way we, as members of the Body of Christ, continue his ministry of love and compassion in our daily lives.
As followers of Jesus, if we know ourselves to be loved and blessed by God, then I believe we have a responsibility to share that love with others. Jesus’ call for radical inclusivity is an invitation and a challenge to us. Just imagine what our community would be like if we welcomed every person as precious and valued – as beloved of God. And what a difference it would make in our own lives if we truly believe that regardless of our own human frailties, our mistakes and shortcomings, that we are, and will always be, God’s beloved.
Jesus reveals a different way of being in the world. He shows us a glimpse of how the world can be if: love is the guiding light; justice is what we strive always to achieve; hospitality and the sharing of resources is a priority; and we see ourselves and every other person as God’s beloved – flawed, imperfect and yet loved and held with grace.
To take seriously Jesus’ call to us as followers of his Way means that we need to help to empower others; to work with each other in our community of faith to strengthen our ministry together – supporting and encouraging each other; to move beyond the walls of our sanctuary and stretch ourselves beyond our known limits to discover where God’s Spirit is leading us in the future. This requires faith and trust. We have a trustworthy guide in Christ and we have the assurance of God’s faithful and unfailing presence, inspiration and empowerment. We need only to respond with faith, with hope, with love for each other and the world.
Baptism – as viewed through Jesus’ own experience – is a recognition of belonging to Christian community that spans time and space. As we see in Matthew’s Gospel – and in our own lives – baptism is not the end of the story. Baptism is the beginning of a life of faith that requires attentiveness to God’s presence and a willingness to respond with commitment to God’s persistent guidance and direction. As with John’s insight – in the monologue we heard at the beginning of this time of reflection – each one of us has an important part to play in bringing God’s vision of love, peace and justice to our world. No one can do this work alone. We need each other and God needs us to be the hands and feet of Christ in our world today.
If we take our baptismal faith seriously, we are committed to sharing together in Christ’s ministry and we believe that we are surrounded by God’s love and the wisdom of the witnesses in our midst – past and present. Keeping this in mind, I’ll close with an Affirmation of Baptismal Faith:
We believe in the power of baptism.
We believe that something deeper than we know happens
and we are bound forevermore to a life
that is ancient yet born anew in us.
We believe in the power of baptism
to transcend time and space
and call us to discipleship with Christ.
…We are no longer our own or on our own.
…We believe in the power of baptism to immerse us in the waters of blessing and send us forth,
wet and wild with hope, to be a blessing ourselves.
(Seasons of the Spirit, 2011, adapted)
May this be our promise
and our blessing,
this day and in the days to come.