Mark 1:7-11 | Baptism of the Lord, Year B
A Messiah-Sized Adolescent
My youngest child is a high school senior this year. Every time something happens that worries my husband and me, we remind ourselves, “x number more months…” with a little laugh. While we know our worries won’t end when the nest empties, and though we will miss the chaos, that milestone does mean we won’t have primary responsibility any more. The kids will have to deal with their consequences, both good and bad.
I wonder if Mary and Joseph ever felt that way? With the fanfare around Jesus’s conception, birth, and dedication, all of which resulted in three years in Egypt as refugees, they had an inkling of God’s plan for Jesus’s life—even if they didn’t fully understand how it would play out. But I bet it was easy to forget the plan when Jesus was hungry at three am. Or when He hit the terrible twos and threw his pita across the room because He wanted chickpeas instead. Or when He gave Mary a sticky, grape-laced kiss when she got home from an errand. Or when Joseph had to soothe away a boo-boo acquired when Jesus swung a hammer for the first time.
Jesus was fully human, and just like we have with our children, Mary and Joseph had full parental responsibilities to raise Him to hear God’s call. Everything Jesus did in that vein probably caused them to swell with pride. But I’m sure every temper tantrum, every broken window (from a ball game) or broken promise (preadolescence), gave Mary and Joseph pause. “Are we doing this right? What if we mess this up?” And unlike us, their shoulders harbored a Messiah-sized weight.
But, at the same time, those sticky kisses, those whispered, “I love yous,” the unexpected cuddles, and the surprise wise observations, I bet those made them breathe a sigh of relief. When Jesus did something “right,” Mary and Joseph probably nodded at each other over His head. “Yep, we got this. God’s in charge…” until the next worry came down the pipe. (Jesus did go through puberty, you know, so worry wasn’t in short supply. He was the Messiah, but He was a human one. Extra worry.)
Just like us and our children, though, Mary and Joseph’s responsibility was to set Jesus up to hear God’s call. Following it, though, that was all up to Him.
So, when John baptized Jesus, Mary probably exhaled a big one. Just like us, she wanted Jesus to say yes to God. Even if the yes isn’t always exactly what we picture. I wonder if Jesus’s desert interactions with her hair-shirt-wearing, grasshopper-eating nephew made Mary a little nervous? (I’d have been praying, “God, are you sure?”) But when she saw the Holy Spirit descend from heaven, Mary must have felt a transcendent peace. She didn’t have primary responsibility for her Son any more. All as it should be. Her worries wouldn’t end, but she could rest a little easier.