John was preaching a baptism of repentance. But the confusion is what has it to do with Jesus? Was he sinful? Was there a need for repentance for Jesus? To get to that answer, we need to look at a few interesting paradoxes.
Jesus is the son of Joseph, wait, not the son of Joseph. Right? Joseph is the stepfather. Jesus’ genealogy starts with Adam, father of Seth, whom tradition considers the son of Abel, who was killed by Cain. Then we have King David, who was messed up in many ways. Then there is no serious mention of women of importance in Jesus’ story or at least the church hasn’t paid much attention to it for centuries or given much importance to them.
Luke does not include any women in his listing of Jesus’ genealogy. There are men there who were flawed, but with great courage, competing interests, and fragile ego, heroism, etc seen as the ancestors of Jesus.
All of these confusing, unrelated things is to tell you, that Jesus sure walked into a messed up world and was part of a dysfunctional family system.
As I said to the congregation in Boliver a few weeks ago, “Just because your father rode on an elephant does not mean you have calluses on your ass.”
Let us apply that to Jesus. He is not messed up, because we are messed up, just as much as if our parents were messed up, we are not messed up. We don’t have to be. Just because we all messed up doesn’t mean Jesus is messed up in any way. He is not, though, outside the brokenness of humankind.
Jesus was like us in everything, except sin, as we read in Hebrews.
Well, that doesn’t prove why Jesus had to be baptized by John. The answer to this is clearly written in Luke 3: 21 “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened.”
Jesus was born into a world of systemic sin. When he moves along with the rest of the world to be cleansed of such failure, he was telling us that we can make a difference in the world we live in by joining hands with those who walks to a different destiny.
His baptism says to the world that he understands the full implication of systemic sin in our world. He is not simply identifying himself as a human being, but rather he is showing total solidarity with the human world when he joins all people in Baptism.
Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland, and the leader of the Solidarity movement said, “I must tell you that the supply of words on the world market is plentiful, but the demand is falling.”
That’s exactly what Jesus did. He was not about plentiful words to change lives but living it. He was all about action, which means something to people. There is no fluff in anything he did. He knew just words mean nothing to people, you have to show what solidarity with the suffering means, and living with broken human beings means, even to the point of elevating himself to human standards.
Yes, I said elevating himself to our standards. He found enough reason to put himself into our standards!
We are often told how lost and pathetic we are. But Jesus found us worthy to stand with, be baptized together, and fight for.
Jesus was acknowledging that the tragic structure and struggle of our world is forever, but, He will not abandon us to fight it alone. There are no choices that are innocent, or perfect or unambiguous. There are no sinless choices in this world.
All choices must be made carefully and painfully to build, change, and rebuild a new world. He did it.
Our justice system, political ideologies, men and women in power, are all flawed and broken.
Last day Ahmaud Arbery murder trial found all three men guilty of their crime and a few days ago sentenced to life in prison. We all have to reflect that the crime committed against this black man is not an isolated event. We are part of such systemic failure and we need to acknowledge the failure towards that young man was not just the only fault of three men who were convicted.
It’s all of us. We are part of such a system that needs complete rework!
Until and unless, we wholeheartedly do something to baptize and remove evil out of such systems, like Jesus himself did by being baptized with all people who were getting baptized, who were changing their course of life, we are doing nothing to change the world we live in. If Jesus found no reason to stand aside, we don’t have enough reason to do it either.
Jesus was not a party to such things and therefore, he decided to take part in an event that changed the dignity of humankind. He did not point fingers at those who failed but became part of their change process by even taking up such a bold step of lowering himself if that is what makes us comfortable to see Him, to our standards and raising us to His status.
So, the original sin is not this willy nilly idea of Adam and Eve eating some apple from a tree in an imaginary garden and being washed away by sprinkling fountains or dunking booths.
It is about intentionally coming out of a systemically sinful world. Jesus did not commit a sin of omission by being an observer. Jesus removes the dualism of human nature. He makes us truly one of divine nature and asks us to embrace it wholeheartedly.
And then the world around us will change. And God will call us out from the sky, “You are my Son, you are my daughter, the Beloved; with you, I am well pleased.”
I tell told you over and again, and now, you are the best. You are my beloved, says the Lord. Embrace it and all will be well in this world once again. When you embrace you are the best, you will act like you are the beloved of God. That’s the power of Baptism in Christ.