Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Having Jesus In Your Heart 6

The next in a series of articles based on the Gospel of Matthew intended to equip us better to be followers of Jesus Christ.

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ Matthew 3:13-17


Last we heard of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, He was a toddler in Nazareth. (The well-known story of His arguing with he priests in the Temple is not told in Matthew). It is generally believed that He was about 30 years old now. We know He has siblings, and His mother is still alive. We know nothing about Joseph. We do know that He is the Son of God, borne by Mary, but without a mortal father. So we know that something special is going to happen.

Perhaps you have already experienced a relationship with someone you anticipated was special. Hopefully, if you are married, your spouse gives you this feeling. Have you ever noticed the difference that makes for the two of you? Perhaps you can compare it to what you expect in an interaction with someone you have a conflict with. Is it not he case that you are on your guard? And you prepare your defenses. You want to be able to counter anything your opponent may toss at you. So, a loving relationship is the opposite. When you are about to interact with someone who is special, your heart opens up. You anticipate words of welcome, encouragement, healing and joy. You expect the loved person to nourish our soul. And you can hardly stand the wait until you get to give that person the gift of your love, approval, unconditional regard, and friendship.

John knows his mission is to prepare for the wonderful reception of the Messiah. He knows that a great healing is going to happen, and he knows it is his job to announce it to the world. Perhaps he is always on the lookout for the “one who is mightier than I.” Perhaps he is looking over his shoulder, so to speak. Perhaps he is motivated to be assertive, pushing himself day after day, reaching out to the reluctant and even the opposition. He has to make his message clear and loud so that it reaches all those who will welcome the Messiah. I can imagine he is always wondering if the Messiah would show up this day, or this afternoon, or this hour. He is opening his heart and the hearts of the people to anticipate the special and healing love that is coming.

And the day comes! Suddenly, Jesus appears on the banks of the Jordan where John is preaching and baptizing. John recognizes Jesus even as He enters the water of the river. Perhaps the Holy Spirit that inspired John inspired his knowing, and he saw the Divine aura surrounding Jesus. John is surprised when Jesus indicates that He wants to be baptized by John. What a huge moment in John’s whole life! That Jesus thought John could baptize Him was too much! John rejected the notion immediately and instead sees this as his chance to fulfill his heart’s greatest desire and be baptized by Jesus, the prophesied High Priest who could wash him of all his sins!

But Jesus insisted that all the rules applied to Him just as to anyone else. This declaration instantly transforms John’s whole attitude, indeed his whole mission, his life. He has found a special relationship, and it is not what he expected. He has found a Savior, who gives John a part to play, a role, a work to do. For John the Baptist, from here on out, nothing of this world, even the threat of death, could deter him from the path of righteousness. John sees his mission in a new light, with a new understanding. He hears a new voice to guide him, urge him on, and strengthen him. He is this first person to have such a relationship with Jesus Christ, and it produces a new life for John.

So this is our first glimpse of our Savior, with whom we must have a relationship of love if we are to be saved. Let us not be sidetracked by what is, on its face, oddly confusing in the story. The “heavens” open to Him (so only Jesus is seeing and hearing this), and Matthew reports (perhaps what Jesus later told him) that the Spirit of God appears “like” a dove, flying gently to Jesus and resting on Him – likely His shoulder, it seems to me. Did anyone else see the dove? It doesn’t matter because we are not told. Then a voice, again “from heaven,” speaks, calling Jesus “My beloved Son.” So where is this “heaven” that Jesus could hear voices from it? And who there is speaking? And what does this say about Jesus’ mission?

There is an appearance here of a trine in God: The Son, Jesus, standing in the water; the Holy Spirit, fluttering and landing on Jesus, like a bird; and the invisible Father, whose voice is audible. This trine describes my Savior in a clear and accessible way. It makes it possible for me to have a relationship with my Savior. I know, hear, obey, and love, one God who is love itself, who is divine AND human.

The New Church teaches that God is one in Essence and Person. This is the only way God can be love itself, indeed pure and infinite love. Yet that Divine Love flows into creation and so looks differently in different circumstances. So it never matters what the situation is in your life at any moment, the Lord comes into your heart and mind according the rules of creation, which He designed. He must obey them. So Jesus had to obey them as He made Himself Divine, symbolized by His being baptized by John.

Let us rejoice the appearing of our Savior in our lives. Let us revel for this time that He is present. Let us anticipate something special. This is how we prepare a way for Him to come into our hearts. We know trial and tribulation are coming. But for now, let us simply be pleased!