Mark’s gospel goes at a breakneck speed and is pretty short on details. I thought about moving as quickly as he does but felt God say no. We are not going to rush through just because there are only a couple of verses in some sections. We are going to look just as deeply as if it we were reading a novel.
Today in our reading we join Jesus and John the Baptist on the shore, and in the middle, of the Jordan River. Here Jesus will fulfill the first requirement for the beginning of His public ministry.
When Jesus walks up to the crowd gathered by the Jordan River, John immediately recognizes Him. He has known Jesus all his life, physically and spiritually.
Jesus is John’s cousin. Their mothers are very close to one another. Mary told Elizabeth about her visit with the angel before she told anyone else. I wonder if that included Mary’s own mother. Was Mary’s mother living at the time? Why did Mary go to Elizabeth? What special bond did they have? (Sorry, got side tracked there.) Anyway, I imagine Jesus and John’s families frequently visited one another, so John was very familiar with Jesus’ earthly appearance.
John was filled with the Holy Spirit while in his mother’s womb, so we know that the Spirit within him recognized Jesus’ Spirit. Two parts of the Godhead operating together on the same plan. John was limited in the same kinds of limitations we face in our lives, but the Holy Spirit in him wasn’t the least bit blind to Who Jesus was.
As Jesus walks up, John’s heart soars! Jesus has come to see me! I am so honored by His presentence. “Here is the Man I have been telling you all about. The one who is SO far above me. The Savior of us all. Our Messiah!”
Jesus quietly waits while John finished his excited speech. Some of the people are paying attention, while others don’t even seem to care about what John is saying. The crowd is smaller today and it is near the end of John’s day. Jesus walks right up to John and greets his cousin with a hug. “I haven’t seen You in quite a while Jesus. Is there something I can help You with today?”
Jesus smiles and says, “As a matter of fact there is. I want you to baptize me.”
“What!? But I should be asking for that from You instead!”
“It needs to happen in this way first John. I know you have a few doubts still, but God will answer even those in the proper time.”
“Alright, but only because You said so.” John puts a hand on Jesus’ shoulder and both walk into the Jordan. Once they reach a spot where the water reaches their waists John begins to pray. “Lord God, I bring to You today Jesus, Your own Son. He has asked me to baptize Him. I am unworthy Lord, but He has asked me to do this anyway. He needs no forgiveness from sin, as He has committed none. But what He does need is Your covering on Him, just like every other soul brought here for baptism. Thank You for letting me be a part of His process.”
John takes hold of Jesus arm and neck and quickly submerges Him under the water. Just as quickly, John begins to raise Jesus from under the water and hold Him until He regains His footing.
As soon as Jesus emerges from the water a dove appears overhead and descends right onto Jesus. This is no ordinary dove; it is the very Spirit of God. This is accompanied by a voice emanating from Heaven. “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (verse 11).
This sights and sounds of God’s approval of Jesus nearly knock John off his feet. He was told by God that he would see a sign, but this one is awe inspiring! “Thank You Lord for clearly showing me Your relationship with Jesus; Your beloved Son. Remind me of this day any time I begin to doubt.”
Jesus hugs John one last time as the two leave the river. John invites Jesus to stay and talk with him for a while but Jesus says that He can’t. “I have a pressing in my Spirit to enter the wilderness now. I will have to take a raincheck on that dinner.”
Jesus makes His way back through the crowd and heads out into the desert. John watches Him go, wondering what wonders and enlightenment await Jesus in the same desert He recently emerged from. He knows how special it is to spend time alone with God and that the desert is an excellent place for that to happen.
Lord Jesus, You certainly surprised John by asking him to baptize You. All his time was taken up with telling everyone how special You are and how lowly he was, compared to You, yet You used him in another part of Your plan. I bet John was thankful for the advanced warning, otherwise he probably would have fallen over.
I want to be willing, just like John was, to do for You whatever it is You ask of me. John could have let his insecurity get in the way and refused to baptize You, but he trusted You instead to lead him to just where he needed to be. In the middle of Your will. That is where I want to be too.