Jesus ministry began as another person's ministry reached it's peak. Matthew tells the story this way,
Then 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?”Matthew 3:13-14 (NRSV)John the Baptist was one of kind. Not just one in a million. He was one in all human kind. He was a man on fire for God and the people in his day knew it. They could feel it in their souls. He had a word that they needed to hear. But John's message was only the beginning—the start of an even bigger move of God.
John preached a message that turned people back to God. Get ready to meet God he said. This man we call John the Baptist or John the forerunner—he preached about repentance and people wanted to hear it.
Get ready, John preached to the people out by the river there in the wilderness. His message was plain and straight forward. Leave your sinful ways behind and come down to the water for baptism. He called people to leave the old ways behind and to come home back to the one who made them. And people felt a call to come out and hear this message and to be washed in the waters of baptism. They left cities and towns and walked on down to hear John preach by the water of the Jordan River.
Jesus he came out to meet John too. He came to be baptized along with the crowds. And John tried to stop him. But Jesus had a mission. He told John plainly,
“Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Matthew 3:15 NRSVJohn knew who Jesus was and he knew who he was. It was beyond imagination that John should be the one to baptize Jesus. But John agreed. And he baptized Jesus. And in that moment Matthew writes,
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.” Matthew 3:16-17 NRSVJohn knew Jesus was someone special. And the heavens opened and a voice revealed the truth. Many people thought John was the one they had been waiting for to set them free. But John knew somebody greater was still to come. I pray every believer is blessed with John's deep humility. John was great--but he knew that he had come in service to a great God who comes to us in human form in the person of Jesus. John had deep awe and respect for Jesus. I pray I can have just a sliver of his deep humility to step out of the way that Jesus might be revealed for all the world.
May the wonder of Jesus incarnation still catch us by surprise and fill us with great hope. AMEN.