Summary: The baptism of Jesus has confused folks for 2000 years. Here are some thoughts on why Jesus asked to be baptized.
The Baptism of Jesus
This is week two of our Old School Sunday School series. We tried this last year and had so much fun with the Old Testament Stories that we decided to bring it back for an encore.
Sunday School isn’t a big deal in most churches these days, it’s been rebranded as Jr. Church and instead of happening before the adult service it happens during the adult service. But there was a day when having a big Sunday School was the mark of a growing successful church. And churches sponsored contests and bought buses to bring children in. But not so much these days.
We still have a couple of churches on our district that have larger Sunday School attendance then their Sunday morning worship attendance and that is because parents drop their kids off for Sunday School, presumable to get some churching, and then pick them up before the church service starts. But that isn’t the case for most Wesleyan churches, and probably most other churches as well.
Back in the day churches would have a Sunday School Superintendent, and a teacher for each class and often their own treasurer because you wouldn’t think of coming to Sunday School without bringing an offering. And those teachers taught every week, often for years and sometimes decades, pouring the stories of the bible into those kids.
And a staple of Sunday School was the Flannelgraph board.
(Do Flannelgraph story of the Baptism of Jesus)
It is a story that has confounded preachers and theologians for two thousand years. The Baptism of Jesus.
We know the story, John, Jesus' cousin has been travelling throughout Palestine preaching and baptizing folks, and when people ask if he is the Messiah that has been promised he tells them “No, but I'll let you know when I see him”.
I don't know what type of relationship if any the cousins had. I have 21 first cousins. And some I am close with and other's I wouldn't know if I tripped over them in the dark, unless of course they said something like, "Hey be careful, I'm your cousin." And the bible doesn’t tell us if Jesus and John played together as kids, or if they hung out together as adults. For that matter we don’t even know if the boys ever met before the encounter that we read earlier.
But I would suspect they did, John’s father was a priest in the temple which meant that they lived in Jerusalem and last week we discovered that every year at Passover Jesus and his family travelled to Jerusalem for the celebrations so it would make sense that they would stay with family while they were there. When I was a kid and we travelled to Grand Manan in the summer we always stayed with family and it was then that I reconnected with the cousins who were close to my age. And Jesus and John were only separated by six months. Perhaps they could identify with Isabel Norton who said “In my cousin, I find a second self.”
But can you imagine always being compared to your younger cousin? “Why can’t you be more like Jesus? He never does anything wrong.” I wonder if John ever said “the way everyone goes on about Jesus, you’d think he was perfect.” I wonder if as teenagers when Jesus suggested they do things His way if John ever said “Oh yeah, who made you God?”
And I wonder if the boys ever had even an inkling of what life would have in store for them? And looking back we see so many parallels in their lives. Both were conceived in a miraculous manner, both preached messages that appealed to some and annoyed others and ultimately both paid for their preaching with their lives.
But I don’t think the cousins understood what their future held, because When John was asked if he was the Messiah he never said “No, you are thinking of my cousin Jesus.” As a matter of fact in the book of John we read John’s own testimony (Side note here John the Baptist did not write the book of John but the John who did write it quotes John the Baptist.) So we read John 1:32-34 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”
So there was no doubt in John’s mind when he said to the crowd, “Behold the Lamb of God.”