The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
January 13, 2019 – The Baptism of the Lord - Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
It’s not often that we have a record of God speaking. So, when we do, it’s a very good idea to take seriously what God says. So, put yourself back to the time when Jesus submitted to the baptism of John the Baptist. Luke’s Gospel notes that there were others being baptized at the same time. After Jesus came out of the water, he sought some quiet time for prayer. Much like we would do after an important personal activity. Quiet time helps the power of that event to enter us more deeply. When we have gone though a major event, we often say to ourselves, “Let me think about that a while” or “Give me some quiet time.” Especially if we want that moment to touch us more deeply.
Once alone, Luke describes the scene: The heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus. In other words, a powerful connection was being made between God and the human Jesus. And what was said to Jesus? It was brief, but extremely important. “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” Are there any more important words ever “said” by God? I don’t think so. They confirmed for Jesus in his humanity that, as a human like us, Jesus was loved by God.
Biblical scholars debate whether Jesus learned something new at that moment. The best argument in favour of his learning something new was simply that this encounter with God happened! If Jesus already knew he was loved by God, then why “say” it again? Perhaps Jesus was uncertain about how God related to him. Just like we can be.
I think it’s best to take this scene at face value. God lovingly communicated with words to Jesus and from that moment on, Jesus was intent on following the direction of God’s Spirit for the rest of his life. All the way to the culmination of his life, his painful crucifixion and his wondrous resurrection. God would always be loving him. God would be with him.
This event also underscores the need we all have for knowing God’s love for us in a personal way. Not simply as an idea. Not as something we might read about in a book. But a specific experience of knowing we are loved by God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Being aware of God’s love is a grace and gift. We can ask God to help us be more aware of this. We can also be an instrument that God uses to communicate divine love to others. God’s love is often expressed through the generous love of others for us. This can happen in your family and in other moments of your interpersonal life. So, be alert to God inviting you, as St. Francis of Assisi once prayed “to be an instrument of God’s peace and love.”
©David M. Thomas, PhD