This blog series is focused on studying the words and actions of Jesus throughout the four Gospels and finding out how they apply to us today. If you would like to start at the beginning, go here.
Nothing. That’s what we hear from Jesus for the next 18 years. Nothing. We can assume Joseph dies (we never hear about him again) and Jesus takes up his father’s trade to provide for his mother and siblings. Times were probably tight supporting His mother, four brothers and sisters. That is a lot of mouths to feed on one income.
Meanwhile, the Jews have been waiting … waiting for their Messiah, who they believed would be of royal blood and noble birth, and who would rise up to save them from their present enemies, the Roman Empire.
You and I may think the Jewish leaders were shortsighted or even blind to ignore the deity of Jesus and God’s plan of salvation through the sacrifice of His Son. But if you look back through Jewish history, there is a precedent for their belief. God delivers His people using a specific type of leader – strong, brave, able-bodied, capable on the battlefield (think Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Samson, Elijah, Elisha, Saul, Jonathan, David…). The coming of the Messiah for the Jews meant political, physical and practical salvation. “Save me from my enemies who surround me physically right now.”
They never expected they would need spiritual salvation and that their true enemies were Sin and Death. The Jews had the Temple, the sacrifices, the ordinances, the laws, God’s words and blessings. They believed they were ALREADY saved from sin and death. The Jews certainly never would have expected their Messiah to come from Nazareth, be a carpenter’s son from some “common” family born into poverty and obscurity. No, they were looking for a Saul, head and shoulders above the rest, ruthless in battle. God, on the other hand, knew their true needs, and met those needs in Jesus. This poses the awkward question: Do you and I think we know what we need better than God? Am I looking for specific blessings and guidance rather than looking to the Lord? Do I want God’s “stuff” more than God Himself? Am I looking for physical/financial deliverance instead of spiritual deliverance?
The next time we hear from Jesus, it is when He is visits John the Baptist in the wilderness. John has been “preparing the way” for the Messiah, preaching a message of deep repentance. personal purity, individual righteousness and practical holiness. He is not “fluffy” either. His message is direct and offensive: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” And the surprising thing is, people from all over, even from the cities, come to hear him and are baptized. Truth is offensive, but to some it was worth traveling into the wilderness for. It is life-giving.
And then Jesus shows up to be baptized. The Messiah, the Son of God. John recognizes Him as such, and says, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me?” John is saying that Jesus can baptize with “the Holy Spirit and with fire,” that Jesus is “more powerful than I,” and that he is not even worthy to untie His sandals. Jesus is greater and John is lesser. But Jesus says and does something remarkable: “Let is be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus has no sins, has no need to repent. But baptism does not cleanse you of sin. For Jesus, His baptism is a public declaration of His love and obedience to God, and Jesus, as in all things, is submissive to the Father. Baptism for you and me symbolizes our union with Christ in His death and resurrection (“buried with Him in His death, raised up with Him in union of life”). But this baptism marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. For you and me, baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality.
One last thing about Jesus’ baptism. Jesus goes under the water, and then comes up out of the water. At that moment, “heaven opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased’ Now Jesus Himself was about thirty years old when He began His ministry.”
Think about this. For the first time in history, God Himself condescends to come to earth in human flesh and He is armed with the Holy Spirit who can move and change hearts, convict others of sin, and open eyes to see and ears to hear. God tells Jesus that He loves Him and is pleased with Him! And if we know and love Jesus, we are covered in His righteousness, and therefore God loves us and is pleased with us!
If you are struggling now with doubt or anxiety or despair or long-standing sin or self-hate … run to Jesus. He will cover you. He will wash you. Because of Christ, we can know and experience the love and pleasure of God directed toward us! If you know and love Christ, God says to you, “I love you. In you I am well pleased.” Sin and death no longer rule you. Christ is your righteousness. Hallelujah.
Next post, Jesus in the wilderness and temptation. How do you fight off sin and temptation? Could you ever turn down all earthly power, riches and human worship? Let’s keep studying Jesus together to know where true life and joy are found.