The stagehand

Nicolas Poussin: The Baptism of Christ. Image credit: Wikimedia

Nicolas Poussin: The Baptism of Christ. Image credit: Wikimedia

I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The main action comes next. The main character in this drama – compared to him I’m a mere stagehand – will guide the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from inside out. . . Jesus appeared, arriving at the Jordan from Galilee, he wanted John to baptize him. John objected, “I’m the one who needs to be baptized, not you.” (Matthew 3 – The Message.)

John the Baptist was disappointed, or at least puzzled, when Jesus first hit the scene. His expectations for Messiah and the work he did in preparations for His coming could be wasted on Joseph’s son. Jesus when he was a young man was not exactly a Mr Nobody, he was a highly regarded village carpenter. But did he in any way show significant signs of a Messianic role? Instinctively we might find ourselves answering in the negative – but who knows? We know even less about John’s boyhood and youth than we do about that of Jesus from the sparse accounts of his early and formative years. What is often forgotten is that the Bible makes no claim to being a full and comprehensive history or biographical book. The measure of John’s concern was seen in his sending disciples to see Jesus, to find out if Jesus was the One for whom he was called to prepare the way.

He looked for a king. He saw a carpenter turned wandering preacher. In due course, any suspicion or fear John may have entertained was dispelled. It is to his credit that he kept an open mind and was prepared to change his opinion. He must have asked himself – can I be mistaken? And he was ready to admit he was mistaken – and to do something about it.

Are we as open in our approach to our task? Are our agendas rigid or flexible? Are we open and receptive to the guidance of the Spirit?

Jesus was arrested and condemned to death because there were those, unlike the Baptist, who stonewalled the overtures of the One who came in the name of the Lord proclaiming good news and bringing salvation to all people.

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