Summary: A sermon for Baptism of the Lord Sunday.
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
“God is Delighted with You!”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
I think it’s safe to say that John the Baptist was as surprised as we are!
Or at least, as surprised we should be if we were to read this passage of Scripture without knowing what is coming.
Imagine you are going to a huge rock concert, packed to the doors with eager and excited fans.
Everyone has their earplugs in; they are waiting for the thunderous music to begin.
This will be music for a battle, for a victory, thunder and lightening and explosions of crazy noise!
The concert promoter comes on stage and declares that the famous musician has arrived…
… “Elvis is in the building,” if you will.
Everyone gets on their feet, to welcome the man who is going to fulfill their expectations.
As you stand there eagerly, a small figure comes on the stage.
He doesn’t look at all like what you expected.
He is carrying, not an electric guitar, but a small flute.
As you watch, shocked into silence, He plays, gently and softly, a tune quite different to what you had imagined.
But as you listen, you start to hear familiar themes played in a new way.
The music is haunting and fragile, winging its way into your imaginations and hopes and transforming them.
And, as the song comes to its close, as though at a signal, the drums, bass and guitars respond with a new version of the music you had been expecting all along.
Now listen to John as the concert promoter, whipping you into excitement about the hero Who is about to appear.
“He’s coming! He’s more powerful than me! He will give you God’s wind and God’s fire, not just water!
He’ll sort you out—He’ll clear out the mess—He’ll clean up God’s farm so that only the good wheat is left!”
We’re on our feet, expecting a great leader, perhaps the Living God Himself, sweeping into the arena with a great explosion, a blaze of light and color, transforming everything in a single blow!
And instead we get Jesus.
The Jesus we have only met so far…as a baby with a price on His head.
A Jesus Who comes and stands humbly before John, asking for baptism, sharing in the mood of those who are being baptized.
A Jesus Who is identifying Himself, not with a God Who sweeps everyone before Him in judgment, but Who is with the people who are themselves facing that judgment and need to repent!
John, of course, is horrified!
Why would Jesus be coming to be baptized?
What’s happened to the agenda?
What’s happened to the wind and fire, to the clearing out of God’s barn?
Surely, if anything he, John, needs to be baptized by Jesus himself!
Jesus’ actions tell us something vital about the whole Gospel Story that is going to unfold before our surprised eyes.
Yes, Jesus is coming to fulfill God’s plans, the promises which God made ages ago and has never forgotten.
Yes, these are promises that will blow God’s Spirit through the world, which will bring the fire of God’s just judgment on evil wherever it occurs, and which will rescue us once and for all.
But if Jesus is going to do this…
…this is how He must do it…
…by humbling Himself…
…identifying Himself with you and with me…
…by taking our place…
…by sharing our sorrows…
…by living our lives…
…and ultimately dying our death!
Part of the challenge of our Scripture Lesson for this morning is to learn anew to be surprised by Jesus!
Jesus comes to fulfill God’s plans, not ours!
Jesus will not always play the music we expect.
But if we learn to listen carefully to what He says, and watch carefully what He does…
…we will find that our real longings, the hunger beneath the surface of excitement—will be richly met!
And those of us, who in repentance and faith follow Jesus through baptism and along the road He will lead us…we will find…
…in unimagined glory…
…that the same voice that speaks to Jesus from heaven…
…speaks to us as well!!!
As we learn to put aside our own plans and submit to Christ’s plans…
…we will be given times of vision, glimpses of God’s greater reality!!!
And at the center of all this, we will find our loving Father, affirming us as His children, equipping us, too, with His Spirit so that our lives can be swept clean and made ready for use!!!
Sadly, it happens all the time…
…in families, businesses…
Too many children grow up in our world who have never had a father say to them (either in words, in looks, or in hugs), “You are my dear child,” let alone, “I’m pleased with you.”