Summary: John was shocked when the sinless Jesus asked to be baptised. Jesus identifies with us in his baptism. We identify with him when we are baptised and we too can receive God’s Spirit! Truly this is a tale of the unexpected.
The Baptism of Jesus must surely qualify as a ‘Tale of the Unexpected’!
Have you ever been somewhere or seen something which was the exact opposite of what you were expecting? Have you ever been waiting expectantly for an event, only for the event itself to come as a total surprise or even a big shock?
John the Baptist is on the scene and he looks and sounds pretty wild. (Matthew 3:4) He wears clothes made of camels’ hair plus a leather belt, and he eats locusts and wild honey. His looks are disturbing, his eating habits are disturbing; his preaching is red hot …and disturbing. People are coming to John, admitting they’ve done wrong, that they have sinned, they’ve ignored God, and they are being baptised (Matthew 3:6); a symbol of cleansing, purification.
Using strong language John tells the religious leaders that they are a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7); they are a pit of snakes, full of poison. He warns them that being a descendant of Abraham (Mt 3:9), being Jewish, is not a guarantee of having a close, personal, saving relationship with God. No, what counts is whether we as people produce “good fruit” (Mt 3:10). In other words, what we do and what say is very important. Turning away from sin is very important. Being a respected religious person is irrelevant. If we are like branches of a tree, God has designed us to bear good fruit.
John went on to say that someone is coming after him. He wanted people to know that judgement was coming. The one who was coming soon would baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Mt 3:11).
John knows that the ministry of his second cousin Jesus is about to begin. God is about to act.
In my mind’s eye I see this wild preacher, John, preaching and baptising, preaching and baptising, warning the comfortable religious people, comforting the wanderers who are returning to God, preaching and baptising, preaching and baptising; and as Jesus approaches I imagine drums rolling and cymbals crashing. John must have been expectant, excited, energised as he saw Jesus approaching.
In the film ‘The Buddy Holly Story’, Gary Busey starred as Buddy Holly. The year is 1956. Buddy Holly and his band ‘The Crickets’ have sold thousands of records with their first hit ‘That’ll be the day’. Somehow they manage to get themselves a live concert at a very popular venue. The crowd have heard the music on the radio and they can’t wait to see and hear this new band for the first time. The MC announces the band, the crowd goes wild; the curtain is lifted and suddenly the applause becomes silence, as the all-black audience realise that Buddy is white. (Thank God that would not happen today!) Of course, the band then play their music, they win over the crowd, and the rest is history, but that crowd were well and truly surprised by Buddy Holly and the crickets!
In the film Shrek 2, Shrek and the princess are married and they have been summoned to see the King and the Queen. As their carriage arrives in the kingdom of ‘Far, far away’ people begin to follow. At last, it is the long awaited return of the beautiful princess, and as the carriage enters the massive courtyard at the palace there is rapturous applause. A basket of doves is set free. There is a traditional fanfare played to welcome her royal highness and her husband. The princess and Shrek emerge from the carriage and as the crowd looks upon the two podgy green ogres there is silence. One of the doves crashes into a wall and a baby starts crying. Shrek is later the hero of the film, but at this point there is a stunned, shocked silence. [Show the clip! Chapter 4]
People are confessing sins and John is baptising. John is baptising sinners and Jesus comes to John and asks to be baptised. Jesus asks John to baptise him. John was deeply shocked.
In the Bible God says that his ways are not our ways. Speaking through the prophet Isaiah (55:9) he says this: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
God is full of surprises! He often does things which we do not expect. He will never contradict himself and he will never do anything contrary to his nature, but God is a God of surprises.
Has God surprised you this week? Has God shocked you by his amazing grace? Jesus had no need to be baptised, but God is a God of surprises.
Jesus’ baptism is good news because yet again he identifies with us! In his birth in a cow shed Jesus identified with ordinary people, especially those who are born in dodgy conditions. By needing food, water, shelter and sleep Jesus identifies with us.