Mark 1:9–15 (NRSV)
The Baptism of Jesus
(Mt 3:13–17; Lk 3:21–22; Jn 1:29–34)
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
(Mt 4:1–11; Lk 4:1–13)
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
(Mt 4:12–17; Lk 4:14–15)
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.”
So many people stay away from the church because they feel they are not good enough to attend. There is a bad attitude or maybe an area within their life that they do not feel is acceptable within church circles. The sad reality is that they have that thought because somewhere along their journey through life they experienced or witnessed some sort of rejection based on these very things. I am not saying that they are right to feel those feelings, in fact they are wrong, but I am not letting the church off either because it is wrong to reject someone for being human.
That is really the issue, people do not feel they can attend worship because they are human. They feel as if they need to be some sort of saint to attend a meeting for worship and if they are not a saint that something terrible will happen. And something terrible could happen. Or something amazing might happen. They may meet with people that demand perfection or they might meet a group that is authentic and understand where they are coming from. They may be judged or they may be accepted. They may be rejected or they just might find a place that is willing to see beyond the stains of life and see person within.
When we read this passage of scripture most people will get hung up on the baptism of Jesus and start theorizing about the dogmatic of this sacrament. But I want us to look beyond the mere actions in the passage and see deeper within the passage. I want us to see the humanity of our God. The personhood of Jesus.
Too often we can focus solely on the divinity of Christ that we sometimes forget that he is also human. Fully saturated with the desires, needs, and problems that each of us as humans face. We rarely think that Jesus required the occasional bath, or the possibility that he might have body odor. We forget that he required food, but we are reminded that he did rest. Jesus is and will always be fully human.
Does this diminish the power of Jesus in our eyes? Does this reduce the value and dignity of God? Does this fact cause any one of us to question the authenticity of our faith in comparison to the faiths of other major religions? I think not. The humanity of Christ is all the difference. The humanity of Christ is what give our faith more power than every other faith around. Because our God knows who we are and what we struggle with.
Jesus went to be baptized. Often we see this as the rite of passage into a faith community we see that Jesus was baptized so we too ought to be baptized…unless you are a Quaker because we dry clean. But what this action is showing is that Jesus was fully human. Jesus went to John to be baptized because that is what the community was doing. Jesus had to be baptized, not to promote a new religious rite of passage but to meet the community where they were. Jesus began his ministry by joining into the cultural conversation with those around John. Jesus entered the waters to become and engage the community in which he lived.
Imagine for a moment what would have happened if Jesus would not have entered the waters with John? If Jesus would have just walked into the community and began to teach there would have been a division among the people. Immediately the Gospel would have been divided. There would be disciples of John and disciples of Jesus. These disciples would then engage in debates over who was right and who was wrong. Though both John and Jesus were working toward the same goal, humanity would have been split. It was the baptism of Jesus that united and tied the message of John to that of Jesus. What John taught was that all have sinned, not one person is righteous enough to enter into the promised-land on their own merit, and they should repent and be cleansed of their sinfulness before they can enter the holy land promised to their ancestors. This is a crazy message especially when you consider this is coming from a son of a temple priest. John was just the beginning, John said that you need to repent, Jesus then showed us which direction to walk. Jesus united the ministries and became part of the community. Jesus identified with his humanity and this is what pleased the Father. This is why the voice spoke from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” The Father is pleased because Jesus became a member of the community. He is pleased because Jesus was able to bridge the gap between the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of man. He did this by identifying with the struggles of humanity.
“Immediately Jesus was lead out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.” Jesus joins into the conversation with the community but that was not enough. Jesus was sinless, it is difficult to identify with people if you are perfect, or even if you are perceived to be perfect. There is a reason that every gospel writer includes the temptations of Jesus within their text, because it is through the struggle that people identify with others. It is the struggle that gives our lives depth and begin to shape our character, it is the struggles that we overcome that give our story power to inspire others to take steps of faith toward God. It is this struggle that Jesus faced out in the wild lands that allowed the people in the community to listen.
All too often we do not want to mention the struggles in our lives, because we perceive them to be signs of weakness. Why would a righteous person ever want to admit that they may struggle with issues of purity? If we are unable to admit that we struggle we live a lie, and people see through the lies. They see us as fake inauthentic hypocrites. The self-righteous always drive people away. They have driven people away from the dawn of time, but authentic people attract. Jesus was authentic. He admitted that he struggled with temptation, yet he did not sin.
It is not wrong to be tempted. In fact if we are not tempted there might be a problem. Because when we are able to identify that there is a struggle in our lives that means that we are at least engaged enough to recognize that we are making choices between right and wrong, good or evil. If we are never tempted that can only mean that we are living a life consumed by our own desires. Temptation is a sign of spiritual health, not sinfulness. Jesus was tempted, in the other gospels we are given a synopsis of what those temptations Jesus had to overcome. The first was the temptation to use his power to turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger. The second he was taken to the top of the temple and asked to jump off because the angels would not allow him to be harmed. And during the third he was taken to a great height to see all the kingdoms of the world and was offered dominion of all he could see if only he would submit to Satan. The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are tempted but did not sin. Which causes me to wonder, because I have never been tempted with world domination so how can Jesus really understand my personal plight?
To understand Jesus’ temptation we must first know what temptation really is. Temptation, according to Webster’s dictionary, is a strong urge or desire to have or to do something. This does not quite cover everything though, if all temptation was is a strong urge or desire then why would there be such a negative connotation to the word? Temptation more fully is defined as a strong personal urge or desire to have or do something at the expense of others. Temptation is the desire of self-gratification with the cost of damaging relationships with others. So yes Jesus was tempted in every way that I have been tempted and more. He was tempted because his desires were greater than the desires that I have. His influence is greater than the influence I have.
He was tempted to use his abilities satisfy his needs. Every day we are all faced with needs. We need to eat, we need shelter, and we need clean air and water. At times, we may not be able to afford to satisfy all those needs to our desires. This is where temptation comes into play. For example I work in a store that is filled with food, and there are times where I do not have a pocket full of money. I am willing to admit that there have been times where I have been tempted to just take food and eat it. It is well within my abilities to carry a handful of food into my office and eat. But to do so has a cost. I could lose my job, if I were to just take the food I could cause others to lose their jobs, and I would ultimate limit the ability of my store to provide a jobs in the community. Yet I have the ability, I have a need, why should I limit myself to only eating what I can afford? Jesus was tempted to satisfy his needs.
Jesus was also tempted to take unwise risks. Jump from the top of a building God will save you. I can honestly say I have never been tempted to jump off anything other than the top of the stairs in superman pajamas. But I have been tempted to take risks. Our culture thrives on risk takers. We have casinos preying on people willing to take a risk. Risk can be a temptation, but it becomes sin if we enter into a risk without wisdom. Yes I have risked a lot, and yes at times I have made sinful risks where I have shaken my fists at God demanding that he would not let it fail, many of those risks have been made with the greatest of intentions. But why are we taking the risk? Is it for personal gain, or is it for the greater good of our community? I am not saying it is wrong to take a risk to start a business because every business has potential to provide for the community, but if we are only starting the business to make a lot of money for ourselves I will begin to question the intentions of the risk. Jesus was tempted not only to test God, but to gain the trust of the community through signs of power. If he were to jump from the temple and land unharmed everyone would flock to him, but where is the relationship? Risk for profit and not community.
The third was world domination. If only Jesus would worship the deceiver he could have all the kingdoms of the world. He could have control of everything without having to sacrifice anything. I say that I have never been tempted with world domination but yes I have been tempted to gain something without sacrifice. Every single one of us have been tempted with this. It is the draw of pornography, it is the hope of the lottery, or the desire of masses. To get something for nothing. Yes Jesus was tempted in every way that we are tempted. Jesus was tempted because he is fully human.
This is important because he knows where we are he knows our struggle yet he did not sin. He is fully human yet fully God. He came to us to be saturated in our humanness so that He could lift us up to his righteousness. Jesus our God knows what it is like to be human. So we through Jesus have the power over our temptations. We have the power to use our desire for something other than selfish gratification to benefit and grow the kingdom of God. We have power over the world because our God gives us that power, he showed us how to use it, and where to focus it.
The world is powerless in the face of God because all the world has is fear, hate, and death. With Christ we have something greater faith, hope, and love and beyond that resurrection and life. Perfect love cast out fear, faith overcomes hate, and hope resurrection and life conquers death. Why then do we fear? We have the power to overcome the greatest powers the world can use against us, with the power of Christ. Yet so often we ourselves live bound by the powers of the world. We leave the people standing out in the darkness because we ourselves are too afraid to let God empower us. So we demand perfection instead of loving the person. We judge the sin instead of encouraging humanity. We like the world wish to divide and conquer but we are powerless. Until we repent and believe. Unless we embrace and love.
The Kingdom of God is all around us. It is right here in this building, at our jobs, in our neighborhoods. And God is ready to let us see just how vast His kingdom is if we are only willing to turn from ourselves and let Him work through us. If we are willing to believe enough to entrust all we have and risk our lives to his care, which really is not much of a risk since we know that he can conquer the greatest tool and weapon the world has against us, death. We harness this power when we gather to worship, withdraw to prayer, and go out in service. We harness the power that can raise the dead if we commit our lives to loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, living the love of Christ with others. There is nothing that can over-come that power, but are we willing to let it flow through us?