February 12, 2019
Luke 3:15-22 (vv.23-38)
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Shakespeare wrote, “All the World’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
John is an actor, or player, on this stage. He is a critical plot device in the Divine drama and his sole job is to point to someone else who is to come, “One who is more powerful than I.” John clearly expects this coming one to be a power-house, a deliverer, a kick-butt-and-take-names kind of savior. John expects something along the lines of an “Alexander the Great meets General George Patton” kind of guy.
He expects someone who will deliver their “home” from Rome, throw the low-life clan of Herods out of office, rebuke and rebuff the sell-out high priests, and usher in the “Kingdom of God.”
And he’s exactly right. All of this will happen. But John, while being right, looks to be completely wrong too. It will happen, just not as he imagines. John is looking for a demonstration of overwhelming power. What he gets is an expression of overpowering love.
Just as Isaiah prophesied so many years before, as if on cue, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!” As Jesus comes to be baptized by John, the heavens were torn open and the Holy Spirit “came down” in the form of a dove. Overwhelming power. The stage is set for a coronation, an anointing, the announcement of a savior for the occupied nation. The setting is perfect for a new David, one who will take on the Goliath of Rome.
We do get a coronation and an anointing; only the announcement is not about a military savior but a beloved Son. He is crowned with the gift of belovedness; anointed with the pleasure of a Father. The revelation points not so much to a sovereign ruler as to a sacred relationship; the relationship between the Father and the Son in the bond of the Holy Spirit. Sovereignty can no longer be understood as the demonstration of raw power. True sovereignty looks like revolutionary love. Sovereignty as the love of power is over. Sovereignty as the power of Divine Love is on. Deliverance from an occupied nation is way too small. This means freedom for the whole World.
Yes, the Word of God is the stage of World history. The Word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah, in the wilderness, but the Word of God came to Jesus, the son of God, the God of the Word, in the river.
“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
This Word is the crown, the anointing, and the announcement that changed everything. At the center of the center of all that is and was and ever shall be is a sacred relationship of Holy Love between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The good news? This is the Word into which we are baptized, the relationship into which we are re-born, the river that makes glad the city of God, the world without end. Amen.
You, a daughter, . . . Me, a son . . . Beloved . . . from the start. . . . . before we could do anything to deserve it or be denied it . . . but can we accept this . . . lay aside any claim we think we have to it . . . renounce our love of power . . . receive the power of love.
As we will soon see on this journey to Transfiguration Mountain, every temptation in the world designs to reverse this reality, making us slaves to power when we were created to be the sons and daughters of Holy Love.
For the Awakening,