The Baptism of Jesus
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
The Temptation of Jesus
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Promises! Our lives evolve around them in many ways. We have certain commitments that we make throughout our lives…commitments to family, to our country, to our spouses, to one another as a church.
There are also commitments to us, from friends, families, neighbors. That’s why it’s so great when we see those promises kept, and why it’s so hard when those promises are broken. And, it’s interesting, that in this culture, we are amazed when promises are kept…we celebrate it almost!
In our faith journey, we have times where we doubt God’s commitments to us…we forget…I know I do. These are times where my faith is “deconstructed” though, sometimes even a time of wilderness…but, it is through those times where my faith also grows. And, through it all, at different times, we see that God’s commitment to us is deeper and more intimate than we could imagine.
Our gospel, or “good news” text this morning is also about coming to a now moment of a promise fulfilled.
The Israelites had been promised a Messiah, a deliverer. Jesus, who’s very name means “salvation” comes on to the scene after John the Baptist had been announcing that the time was upon Israel for the Messiah. John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as the messiah, he baptizes him, and then the voice comes out of heaven, the voice of God proclaiming that Jesus has relationship with the Father, his son. That the relationship between God and humanity has been marked in Jesus through a shared essence with God and with humanity. Jesus is the bridge. And, he is loved by all that God is…when the voice of heaven pronounces this love, that is a message to us that God loves all of us as we share in Jesus’ humanity. When we say we love Jesus, God revels in our love because Jesus shares in God’s divinity or “otherness”.
A Hebrew word that describes Jesus is “gaol”. Or “redeemer-kinsman”. Jesus is our brother, our friend, a part of us who has saved us. He has gone out before us and has demonstrated the way we are all to live. And, in Jesus’ being, Jesus is saying that the kingdom of God, God’s promise of being with us, is now fulfilled. The now moment has come.
Yet, before that announcement, there is the hard work of refining or cultivating what it means to the Messiah. Jesus is taken to the wilderness, he is tempted, and he overcomes. Deserts are dry, lonely places. Jesus is being promised all sorts of things by the tempter, yet he doesn’t give in…although he is tempted.
It’s interesting to me that in the Gospel of Mark, the temptation of Jesus, Jesus’ going into the wilderness, comes right after this amazing moment of baptism, of commitment, and of God’s voice calling Jesus “beloved”.
Mark doesn’t go into as much detail about the temptations in the desert as the other writers of the gospels do. Mark seems to want to give us the facts without the details, the writer of Mark seems like he wants to get to the end of the book, the end of the story quickly. That makes this transition even more jarring. We go from amazing moments of intimacy, to dry places…places where we are stripped of what we know, oftentimes alone…and tempted .
We know from the other gospel accounts that Jesus was tempted to be relevant, powerful, and to solve the worlds needs. Yet, he resisted. Jesus knew who we was and that his life had more meaning, that hope for the world. In order for us, to know and love each other well, to be inclusive and work towards personal and communal wholeness and abundance, we needed to see Jesus’ life, his coming to us, his living with us, his dying because of us, and his rising from the dead, overcoming everything, Jesus had to do the hard work of confronting his doubts, his demons, and his temptations.
I think that says something to us…we are marked by God’s love…and that love, all love, doesn’t grow until it’s put into the wilderness, where temptations to move past something and get back to “civilization” or “normal” too fast prevents us from growing. Friends, as we are walking this wilderness of pandemic, and faced with temptations of different voices calling us to this conspiracy theory or some ideology or so called “leaders” with empty promises…or, even worst, acting like nothing is happening and just ignoring what’s going on around us and wanting to be comfortable, we miss the opportunity to grow and become all that God intends.
Friends, during this season of Lent, we have been given time to go to the desert with Jesus. To confront our own demons, doubts, and temptations. To see Jesus as the one who loves us and believes in us…and to mark our allegiance to God’s kingdom presence over anything or person in this world.
This is a call for us personally, and for us a church and a member of this community, this neighborhood.
Our calling as a church is to be the people who follow Jesus. To have confidence and humility in who we are as the Jesus’ body. To repent, which again, in Greek is “metanoia”, or change of heart and mind, where we need to and to grow from a time of being in the wilderness to a place of paradise and promise for the world around us.
It is hard work, yet we have a redeemer-kinsman, a friend, who is with us, in us, around us who want so reveal to us the abundance that is life with God. May we seek out this Jesus and may we know that he is waiting for us even as he pursues us.
Friends, believe in the good news. The time is now for Fleming Road UCC, and for me and for you, to live into the promise of God’s Presence in our lives, of God’s kingdom of justice, fairness, honor, deep love, of God’s friendship with us to be lived out and made real for us and for our neighbors.