Scripture: 1 Kings 3: 1-28; Luke 2:39-3:14 and 3:21-22; 1 Timothy 4: 6-16
If you are not reading the book here is a brief summary of this chapter’s focus:
McLaren speaks of Jesus coming of age: He entered the temple at 12, the only glimpse that we have of him as an adolescent. Then again, as Jesus entered the waters of baptism under John’s ministry some 90 miles NE of Jerusalem. John’s baptism was like a protest against the temple’s cleansing pools, and called people not to just a ceremonial washing, but a change of life.
“According to John, the identity that mattered most wasn’t one you could inherit through tribe, nationality, or religion -- as descendants of Abraham, for example. The identity that mattered most was one you created through your actions...by sharing your wealth, possessions, and food with those in need, by refusing to participate in the corruption so common in government and business, by treating others fairly and respectfully, and by not being driven by greed. One word summarized John’s message: repent, which meant ‘rethink everything,’or ‘questions your assumptions,’ or ‘have a deep turnaround in your thinking and values’” (p. 88).
When Jesus arrived in John’s waters, John declared something different over him, saying he was indeed the “Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.” Jesus was the “One promised” to come after John for whom John prepared the way. This announcement was followed by a visual of a dove coming down upon Jesus and the declaration of God from Heaven: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” With this Jesus was launched into ministry.
McLaren notes the unique beauty of this declaration and visual of the dove, here was a man with a “dovelike spirit, a man with the gentleness of a lamb, a man of peace whose identity was rooted in this profound reality: God’s beloved son” (89).
This chapter is about identity, about baptism, about entering into life with our identity rooted in who God is not in who we claim to be, and more so, rooted in how we live not what we claim. “What they (the people) needed most was ...a change in orientation, a change in heart,” wrote McLaren. That’s what we need the most as well. In order to live in this life we must have a change that is inside of us, that changes how we approach and see and experience this life.
One of the experiences that most impacted me was experiencing baptism by immersion when I was a college student. I participated in an on campus group associated with Campus Crusade for Christ and in that the leader taught us with great emphasis that infant baptism didn’t cut it. That teaching unsettled me. Did my baptism as an infant not prepare me for my walk with Jesus? Was it really not enough? Was it not valid? The questions upset me enough, I went to speak to my pastor, then, Ehrhardt Lang. Ehrhardt was a wonderful man, son of German Missionaries to Japan, and had grown up in Japan. He had a deep, loving heart, an ability to lead that unified the church, and a passion for Christ that didn’t ebb. I sat in his office and told him of the teaching, my dilemma, and desired his direction. It was the best direction possible. He spoke with me about baptism, how it is something that God makes valid, so my infant baptism was valid. My faith made that baptism more effective for me, so believing and having gratitude for God’s work, was important. He then counseled me this, “Don’t be fretful about this. You can do it, or not. But I want you to be assured of this, if you go into the waters, it will be a renewal of what God has already done, it is less “rebaptism” as it is the reaffirmation of that baptism. So you do as you feel God leading, and to discern this, ask, ‘Do I have great joy in this direction?’”
I had such joy, it was a Holy Spirit direction, and affirmed my baptism under the waters in front of that Baptist church at an evening service. It was like that experience caused me to re-experience my infant baptism. I was being renewed and the Spirit moved in anew through that experience.
How might you respond to this message? What thought or idea intrigues, provokes, disturbs, or challenges, or encourages, or helps you?
Keep following Jesus…