Baptism of the Lord

Baptism of the Lord
Luke 4:14-21

And, just like that, Jesus became famous. He decides to say His “yes” to God, is baptized by His cousin John, heads off to the desert for some quality time with God. There He discovers quality time with God is not necessarily just prayer and reflection—I would imagine He was a little surprised when the devil showed up. Jesus emerges from that experience with flying colors, but probably exhausted. Exercising your willpower wears you out.

And then, my guess is He leaves the desert a bit bewildered about what to do next. He’s given His life to God, but He’s probably not sure exactly where that’s going to lead. Mountaintop experiences (or desert in this case) always leave you floundering a bit back in real life too.

But, following God’s lead and putting His gifts and talents to their best use, Jesus begins teaching and almost instantly becomes well-known, a regular Galilean celebrity. He’s famous—word about Him travels. Everywhere He goes, people love Him. This would be the life, right?

Then He goes home to the people who think they know Him best. He’s a regular hometown hero and is immediately invited to read in the synagogue. I’m guessing Mary beamed with pride and dusted invisible specks from His tunic that morning. She might have even wet Jesus’s hair down. After all, He was only 30, still her baby and cowlicks aren’t a good look at the front of the synagogue. Her people were about to be saved! The Messiah had come!

In His reading, Jesus does indeed make it clear that He is the Messiah, the one from Isaiah. But, He doesn’t call for the Israelites to arm themselves. Instead, He reads that He has come for “the poor…the prisoners…the blind…everyone who suffers…” Jesus’s hometown Jewish people have a hard time grasping this duality: a Messiah who has come for the POOR? Where, they wonder, is the power? The might? Who is going to prove they haven’t been waiting in vain?

Even for Mary, I imagine this juxtaposition didn’t quite fit. Jesus wasn’t the Messiah the Jews were prepared for, or actually even the one they wanted. They wanted to be restored to political power—that’s what they thought their Messiah was going to do.

For Jesus to intimate that wasn’t the plan… well, He was just the carpenter who had grown up down the street. What did He know? Jesus hadn’t received any special schooling. He was merely one of them. Why did He suddenly think He was special, the Messiah? A little cocky of Him, don’t you think?

Every time I read the scriptures, I wince. I’m afraid I would have been there with the skeptics. It’s hard to undo years of expectations. It’s hard to go against everything you’ve been taught. It’s hard to realize you may be flat out wrong. Yet, that’s what God tells us over and over again. He still loves us, yes, but our way of looking at the world, well, it’s not His way (Isaiah 55:8) and He’s not afraid to let us know that.

Ansley Dauenhauer, Coordinator of Elementary Faith Formation

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