Summary: A short talk encouraging the congregation to see that God wants us to become more like Jesus.
Matthew 3: 13-17
Are there some things that we would never expect the Queen to have to do? I guess we wouldn’t expect her to be on the ‘phone arranging all of her appointments because she has a secretary to do that. If she attends a major engagement – perhaps as the Patron of a charity – and there is food being served for a hundred or so guests we wouldn’t expect her to be slaving away in the kitchen for hours cooking and washing up! Or if she has visitors I wonder if it is the Queen who takes their coats and then hands them back out again at the end of the evening! I somehow doubt it. She’s the Queen after all! Kings and Queens do not usually do those sorts of things.
In the UK we don’t need to go back too many years – maybe just 60 or 70 years – to a time when lots of girls aged 14 left school and went ‘into service’. They became servants for ‘well to do’ people, and they did things around the house which ‘only servants do’!
John the Baptist was calling people to repent, to change their ways, because the kingdom of God was near (3:1). It must have been a fantastic event to witness because many people were coming to John from the surrounding area, a bit like a Billy Graham rally from the 50’s and 60’s. Many people were confessing their sins and were being baptised (3:6) as there was a fresh turning to God taking place. Apathy and arrogance was being replaced by realisation and repentance.
John was getting quite a reputation. He was an ‘exciting’ minister to be around and he was preaching about someone who was coming – someone more powerful – a fire-baptizer; one who will bring a pure crop into the barn. A messianic leader!
John must have known that he was talking about Jesus because when Jesus comes – asking for baptism (13) – John is shocked by the request (14).
The Lord of the Universe is coming to your house; the Creator of Heaven and Earth wants to meet you; the King of kings and the Lord of lords knows your name. The Master is returning from a long journey and quite naturally we want to be prepared for Him. We want to serve him and we want to please him. Of course we do. He is the Lord!
In John’s gospel (John 13: 3-9) - at the Last Supper – we read about Jesus wrapping a towel around his waist and washing the feet of his disciples. Washing feet was the job of a servant. It was something which ‘only servants do’! No wonder Peter objected; but what we discover is that Jesus takes up a position which is way below his ‘station’ in life.
Having committed no sin; having no need to repent Jesus come to John the baptizer and asks for baptism. Jesus identifies with ordinary people and in doing so he models for us the path of servant hood.
St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippian Church (2: 5-7) that our “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant …”.
Jesus submitted to baptism in order to identify with us. God became like us in order to reach us. What do we need to do in order to identify with others? What would our equivalent of foot-washing be? What would it mean for us to take the nature of a servant?
As Jesus arose from the water the Holy Spirit came upon him “like a dove” (3:16). A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased” (3:17).
“This is my Son whom I love”. These words may well have reminded Jesus of Psalm 2:7.
They were words which Jews associated with the Messiah. God was confirming for Jesus if he didn’t fully know it already, that he was The Messiah.
How about the second half of the words spoken by the voice from heaven? “With him I am well pleased”. These words may well have reminded Jesus of Isaiah 42:1 in which God says this: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight.” These words a part of God’s description of the Suffering Servant, and this may well have been the moment when Jesus realised that he was indeed the Messiah; but he was also to be the Suffering Servant.
I believe that God wants to take us deeper into his service. We see from Jesus that this involves going down the social ladder, mixing with ‘undesirables’, washing feet instead of having our own feet washed; identifying with ordinary people. Let’s pray that as a Church we will know what that means for each of us.