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  • Power and Vulnerability

    Today we're looking at John and Jesus meeting so John can baptize Jesus Himself.

    Matthew 3:11-17

    11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire12 His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” [Read on through vs. 17. The bold is my embellishment.]

    John goes straight for the punch. He’s not worried about being politically correct or painting the Messiah in any light other than what sounds like a lost fight waiting to happen.

    John’s preaching with conviction, confidently preparing the way for Jesus. And then Jesus arrives, walks right up next to him. Imagine that moment with me. Have you ever been describing a person to other people only to have THAT person walk into the room? It’s an odd moment of hoping you’re describing them as accurately as possible so they won’t be offended by anything that just came out of your mouth.

    Here John is explaining Jesus and then Jesus walks in on him and immediately places Himself before John to be served. He shows an incredible amount of humility and vulnerability. John wants to say no. He does say no in fact, to Jesus’ request to baptize him, and Jesus assures him it is what needs to be done.

    In this one act of humility, He blows every perception that John has just described. John’s description isn’t WRONG, it’s just not yet, and certainly not in the way he’s imagining. In this account, Jesus doesn’t say a THING about John’s description of Him, He just allows the moment of vulnerability to speak for itself.

    John’s just said he’s unworthy to remove Jesus’ sandals and then Jesus shows up right next to him and asks him to remove his sandals. John tries to get out of it. He tries to get Jesus to baptize HIM instead, and Jesus responds, “permit it this time.” He knows Johns heart and the inadequacy he feels in that moment. Jesus knows John’s sin and unrighteousness and meets his lack of confidence with calling on the righteousness of the Spirit. In essence He’s assuring John that his adequacy has NOTHING to do with him in the first place. It has EVERYTHING to do with the righteousness of God. Jesus says, “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” John knows right then in his act of baptizing Jesus, he is also righteous. For all the sins he has committed, he is in that moment committing a righteous act before God. He IS adequate and it has nothing to do with his own righteousness, and everything to do with the righteousness of God.

    And God reassures John and everyone standing there watching by sending His Spirit in a tangible way, through the flight of a dove. After all John’s strong language about winnowing forks and fire, the Spirit lands on Jesus as a dove. It’s the first of many juxtapositions showing Jesus as a Roaring Lamb.  

    God speaks. He opens the clouds and calls Jesus His. He’s pleased with Jesus’ humility and all the work He is about to do. It’s not going to look anything like anyone expects. They’ve conspired to redeem creation through death and resurrection instead of through a kingdom. The Kingdom comes later. For now it’s a lot of struggle, humiliation, fighting, and persecution.

    What perceptions of Jesus do you hold?

    Do you believe they are accurate perceptions?

    Take a moment to ask God to shift any wrong perceptions you may have of Him, and ask the Spirit to give you eyes to see God accurately.