Who Is This Man? The Ecstasy & The Agony


This Sunday is marked on the official church calendar as "Baptism of Our Lord Sunday"---the day that the church universal reflects on the meaning and implications of baptism, and looks to the example of Jesus to figure all of that out.   So, pretty important day.

Which makes the choice of my main Scripture a tad interesting, since I am basically focusing on what happens AFTER Jesus' baptism---an account in Luke chapter 4 where Jesus is led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

I'll get to why I am preaching from that passage instead of the passage before it in just a moment.

Before we do that, however, let's get a little bit of the "story behind the story," so to speak:
15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with[a] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” - Luke 3:15-17
John the Baptist was baptizing repentant sinners.  He was straight up preaching some fire and brimstone stuff to them and they were getting in line to get baptized as they began preparing their hearts for the coming of the Messiah.

And Jesus got in line.

Why?  Why would Jesus get in line to get baptized when he didn't need to repent of anything?

Here's what I think.  Jesus identified with sinners, with the downtrodden with the damaged and broken people who needed God.  When he got in line to be baptized he was declaring his preference for the lost.

Then this happened:
21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Pretty awesome, right?

And after this everyone lived happily ever after.

Or this:
4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted[a] by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’[b]”
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[c]”
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[d]”
12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[e]”
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.  - Luke 4:1-13
The key verses here are so important for us as we focus on this part of the story:

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil...”

Jesus had this incredible moment where the heavens part, the Spirit of God descends the voice of God speaks and he is affirmed beyond belief.   Then God actually plops him right in the desert where the devil shows up when he's weak, tired and vulnerable.

Awesome.

But here's what we need to understand about this story, and the truth about the baptism moment.

Jesus identified with us in our brokenness.  This is good news, people.
Jesus humbled himself and got in line.  He showed us what he thinks of us.
Jesus was obedient in his baptism.  We are called to the same obedience.
Jesus was affirmed and empowered to face the Enemy.

Listen to this like you've never listened to anything before...  

When the valley, the wilderness surround you it is easy to forget something very important...
When the words of the Enemy are whispered in your ear, and you are tempted to give up your identity...

Remember this:

When you feel like you are alone and lost...
When you feel like your life has turned to desert...
When you feel like you have to compromise to survive...

KNOW THAT YOU ARE BELOVED.

There is nothing you can't face... nothing that you can't over come.

Why do we submit to the obedience of baptism?  Why do we go under the water and are raised up out of it?  Why is this important.

Because it reminds us that in our brokenness, frailty and sinfulness that Jesus stand in line with us, that he knows what it's like to experience the highest highs and the lowest lows.

And he knows how much we need to hear the voice of God speaking to us and telling us how much He loves us.

You are beloved.

Never forget it.
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