January 13, 2019: Baptism of the Lord
Reading: Luke 3: 15-16;21-22
The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
I googled “paintings and icons of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist” and had my pick of categories (by artist, by century, by country, by medium, etc.). Wow! I had expected many “views” because of the importance of this moment in Jesus’ life and I was not disappointed. One thought that resonated with me, as I gazed on the representations, was the realization that common folk were not generally depicted in the scenes I reviewed. As sacred art, the emphasis was on the holiness of Jesus, and in this case, on John the Baptist as the other principal figure.
I had read in today’s Gospel passage that many people were present. And I conjured up another image … Jesus standing in line with all the common folk, approaching John as they did, and stepping into the Jordan River. Jesus, fully embracing his humanity, waiting with village people, allowing John’s baptism of conversion. Followed, of course by Jesus praying, the Holy Spirit’s descending upon him and God’s response identifying the divinity of Jesus … “You are my beloved son”.
The image of Jesus sharing in the common life of simple people paints a beautiful image of how much we are loved and where Jesus is found. He seeks out everyday people in settings where they may be found and binds himself to them on their journeys. Perhaps that should be included in a “Google search”, too.
Maybe our practice this week might be to use our time “standing in line” to recall the depth of Jesus’ love for us and to open ourselves to delighting in it and in sharing it with others. And, we might recall that he is alive and present among us in the common folk like ourselves.