Tuesday, 24 February 2015

You are my beloved child

For the first thirty years of his life no-one has a clue what Jesus was doing. One can assume certain things. As Joseph is never mentioned outside of the birth stories we can assume that he has died by now and Jesus as the eldest son would presumably have taken over the running of the family business.
We can assume a conventional Jewish religious upbringing as Jesus knew the scriptures well. But because he had travelled out to where John the Baptist was operating we also know that he had a radical edge to his religious faith.
You didn’t just arrive at John the Baptist by chance. Jesus lived in Nazareth and John was baptising in the river Jordan somewhere near the Dead Sea. That was an awfully long way from Nazareth. It was a long intentional journey not a chance encounter.
 John was a rough and ready character, reckoned a prophet by many but a thorn in the flesh of the religious hierarchy in Jerusalem with a particular emphasis on repentence – a turning away from wickedness and a return to the path of righteousness.
That Jesus travelled to John to be baptised I think is a significant thing in itself.
But it was what happened when he was baptised that is the truly significant thing. Something happened. A religious experience. An experience of the living God.
In this experience Father, Son and Holy Spirit are revealed. The Father, the creator, the sourceless source of all things, the Holy Spirit of God who came down from heaven, and the pronouncement  “You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased”.
As children of God ourselves that is our status in God’s eyes too – beloved.
You might want to ask why Jesus went to the wilderness for forty days. Well he was sent, He was compelled by the Holy Spirit. Verse 12 says “And the Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness”.
He needed time to assimilate and discern the meaning of those words and after a long time of prayer, contemplation and fasting. Mark’s version is the earliest and the most terse. It is Matthew and Luke who flesh out the temptations by the devil.
What this time in the wilderness tell us is that sometimes you need to retreat first in order to go forward. Just as an athlete has to prepare physically so Jesus had to prepare spiritually and so do we. And this time Jesus spent in prolonged prayer and fasting was the preparation he needed to propel himself into his ministry.
After his time of testing and discernment  He returned to Galilee with a renewed and bold sense of purpose and destiny, proclaiming the good news of God and saying “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe the good news”
That is the same proclamation, the same challenge that Jesus confronts every generation with. It is the same challenge we are faced with today and every day. Rather than a once for all event repentance is a daily challenge.
Repent and believe the good news. After the example of Jesus we too have set aside a time to discern and contemplate those same words that God says to each and every one of us. What will you do with these words. How will you respond. How will you let them work in your life?

“You are my beloved child. With you I am well pleased”   

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