Matthew 3:13-17 Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
Reflection Maybe he wasn’t really thinking about where he was going, or maybe he had a plan from the start. It was a full day’s walk from Nazareth of Galilee to the river Jordan. I wonder if the psalmist’s song, “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters... the voice of the Lord splits the flames of fire...” echoed in Jesus’ heart as he crossed the desert and finally ascended the rocky ridge from which he caught his first glimpse of his cousin John and the people, oh so many people, some wet and resting in the sun, some standing at the river’s edge waiting for their time with the prophet? I wonder how many baptisms Jesus watched before he left his lookout, wound his way among the waiting crowd to the river bank?
The warm water of the Jordan must have felt fantastic on his dust encrusted feet. I wonder if the psalmist’s song, “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters....” rose in Jesus’ heart as he approached his cousin John? I wonder how Jesus felt as he yielded his weight to John’s outstretched arms? as he caught his breath and surrendered to the watery grave? I wonder if the psalmists’ song “The voice fo the Lord is upon the waters...” was bursting in his chest as he “came up from the water, (and) suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. I wonder how fast his heart was pounding as he caught his breath and heard “.. a voice from heaven (say) “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased?”
I wonder, how would it be if this tree breaking, wilderness shaking, fire splitting altered state experience happened to you.. or to me? I hate to admit it but I must. If this happened to me there is every chance it would go straight to my head and I would sizzle, “Aren’t I special!” Heaven was torn open to me! A dove flew down from heaven and landed on me! I am afraid I would be tempted to make the experience of the Spirit of God all about me.
Perhaps that’s why the prophet John warned that the one who came after him would baptize by the Spirit and fire. Maybe the fire John the baptizer mentions has to do with tempering the Spirit? Maybe baptism by fire has to do with seperating the wheat from the chaff, breaking the shell and getting rid of the hard edges of our human minds and personalities. Maybe the fire is about refining the haughty bits of our human condition which tempt us to think of our selves as special, as god?
With that in mind it makes sense that immediately following his baptism, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matt 4.1) where we will meet Jesus in next week's gospel text. Stay tuned.
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