Oh to be a fly on the wall…or should I say locust in the wild honey!…on the day John the Baptist witnessed the baptism of Jesus.
The character of John the Baptist is one of the most prominent in the New Testament and, arguably the WILDEST!!
We’re told as a young man he was called to an extraordinary mission: to head out to the wilderness — the wildest of terrains where it was believed demons freely roamed and God as well — and there announce to sophisticated city dwellers who came to hear him that the Messiah — the Savior of Israel, Lord of the Universe and answer to generations of prayer — was soon on his way.
A wild message for sure!
And to prepare for this wild event the people were to repent. But it’s more than that. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, he said they were to fill valleys and level mountains and make crooked roads straight. That’s a ridiculously tall order, unless you’re wholly availing yourself as a vessel for God, who is so able as to create the universe in but a few simple words.
And if the people don’t repent and think their bloodline as Children of Abraham is enough to win the Messiah’s favor? It’s the Messiah’s axe for them! He’s coming to chop down their family tree and smash the roots. Wild-eyed, no doubt.
And AND John keeps reiterating that he’s not even worthy of tying the coming One’s sandals. Plus, he’ll be arriving with a messianic pitchfork ready to scoop the good wheat into the granary, and the the wheat that isn’t good… it’s getting throwing into the eternal FIRE! Doubly wild-eyed!!
Jesus shows up. Minimally dressed, wading in the water, asking to be baptized. Not to repent of sins but to re-signify water baptism as being born into a new family. Not one based on bloodline of any sort but rather one based on heart and the inner presence of the Spirit drawing fellow Spirit-filled folk together. We don’t know it now in the story, but soon we will learn that this means the Messiah, Savior of Israel, Lord of the Universe and answer to generations of prayer, is creating a family filled with prostitutes, tax-collectors, peasants, prisoners, sinners of all sorts…us….a motley and rag-tag crew.
And then from above a heavenly object appears, one indicating ultimate Divine approval of who Jesus is and what he is up to.
Is it an axe? No.
A pitchfork? No.
A magnificent steed to carry Jesus off on his mission to the people? No.
A jeweled crown since indeed he’s to be our King? No.
What comes down from heaven is a dove. A dove.
In other words, a pigeon. As I once read, “a pigeon with good PR.”
Not an imposing bird by any means. Nor wild.
Known to coo. Coo all the time. It can be super relaxing, their gentle call. (If you’re not in the mood, however, it can drive you crazy.)
And, because they are pigeons, doves are also known to do what they’re told to the nth degree. They are incredibly faithful. That’s why it’s a dove that comes through for Noah when he’s sent to find dry land. The raven flaked.
Humble, gentle, faithful. These would seem to be the qualities we’re first and fore mostly to seek and find in Jesus. And in ourselves as baptized members of Jesus’ Messianic family.
Faithful…and when we have trouble being faithful (which we always will), Jesus, as a fully inaugurated member of the baptized community, will nevertheless be fully faithful to us….
And last, but not least….
Pigeons with good PR.
When you remember your baptism, remember THAT! :)