2-1-3-The Loving Church
John Baptized Jesus
John had been explaining that Jesus’ baptism would would be much greater than his, when suddenly Jesus came to him and asked to be baptized? John felt unqualified. He wanted Jesus to baptize him.
Why did Jesus asked to be baptized?
It was not for repentance for sin because Jesus never sinned. “To fulfill all righteousness” means to accomplish God’s mission. Jesus saw his baptism as advancing God’s work. Jesus was baptized because: (1) he was confessing sin on behalf of the nation as Nehemiah, Ezra, Moses, and Daniel had done; (2) he was showing support for what John was doing; (3) he was inaugurating his public ministry; (4) he was identifying with the penitent people of God, not with the critical Pharisees who were only watching. Jesus, the perfect man, didn’t need baptism for sin, but he accepted baptism in obedient service to the Father, and God showed his approval.
Put yourself in John’s shoes. Your work is going well, people are taking notice, everything is growing. But you know that the purpose of your work is to prepare the people for Jesus (John 1:35-37). Then Jesus arrives, and his coming tests your integrity. Will you be able to turn your followers over to him? John passed the test by publicly baptizing Jesus. Soon he would say, “He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:30). Can we, like John, put our egos and profitable work aside in order to point others to Jesus? Are we willing to lose some of our status so that everyone will benefit?
The doctrine of the Trinity means that God is three persons and yet one in essence. In this passage, all three persons of the Trinity are present and active. God the Father speaks. God the Son is baptized. God the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus. God is one, yet in three persons at the same time. This is one of God’s incomprehensible mysteries.
In Mark 1:4-11 we meet John the Baptizer as a prophet – one who speaks a word for God, from God, to a nation of people desperate for a fresh, lively experience of God. He points beyond himself to the One who acts to create, recreate, redeem, and transform.
What happens out in the wilderness has never before occurred. John’s proclamation and the response of the people have stirred up quite a scene, as people from the whole Judea countryside and all the people of Jerusalem go out to him. Certainly this text contains some poetic license and preacher-counting, but the symbolism is vivid. People tired of what they have been receiving in their religious rituals and practices, as well as those who probably don’t have a religious bone in their bodies, are going to the wilderness to find hope in the preaching of a rugged man and the water of a river. God’s very presence is breaking into their lives, and their hungers and hurts find satisfaction. And it is like a new beginning for them.
Perhaps a new beginning will come for us outside the boundaries of the expected and the accepted. Perhaps as a journey to the wilderness – or at least away from the trappings of religiosity and the distractions of the culture – will open our hearts and ears to God’s word for our day. Listen.
Speaking and renewing God, stir up in me a hunger for the word that will heal and help, and direct me to the place where I will hear again your message of hope and renewal.
Why did Jesus who was with out sin come to John to be baptized? What “righteousness” did he fulfill (see Isa 53:12)?
In the context of chapters 3 and 4, what do you think verse 17 meant to Jesus? How does this set the stage for his ministry to begin?
Cattle are driven; sheep are led; and our Lord compares His people to sheep, not to cattle.
He did not and does not drive his people; rather He leads the way Himself and enables His followers to come after Him. He suffered at the hands of men and can therefore fairly ask His people to suffer as He did. While He lived on earth He went about doing good, walking in dignified poverty, and it is no injustice when He calls His followers to lives of frugality and simplicity. He lived in the bosom of the Father even while here below (John 1:18), and led the way for us so we may do the same. He bore His cross and died upon it, so the New Testament requirement of personal crucifixion for all believers is morally logical. Finally, He arose and ascended to sit in heavenly places and thus give foundation to Paul’s words in Colossians: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (3:1-3).
(From The Price of Neglect by A. W. Tozer)
God provides elders to help us lead well. The older and more experienced person often speaks with wisdom. You don’t have to be in a position of leadership to have influence. Pray that God would develop your own character.
If John’s baptism was for repentance from sin, why was Jesus baptized? While even the greatest prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekial) had to confess their sinfulness and need for repentance. Jesus didn’t need to admit sin-he was sinless. Although Jesus didn’t need forgiveness, he was baptized for the following reasons: (1) to begin his mission to bring the message of salvation to all people; (2) to show support for John’s ministry; (3) to identify with our humanes and sin; (4) to give us an example to follow. We know that John’s baptism was different from Christian baptism in the church because Paul had John’s followers baptized again (see Acts 19: 2-5).
Jesus grew up in Nazareth, where he had lived since he was a young boy. Nazareth was a small town in Galilee located about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. The city was despised and avoided by many Jesus because it had a reputation for independence. Nazareth was a crossroads for trade routes and had contact with other cultures.
The Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus, and the voice from heaven proclaimed the Father’s approval of Jesus as his divine Son. That Jesus is God’s divine Son is the foundation for all we read about Jesus in the Gospels. Here we see all three members of the Trinity together.
Mark goes straight to the point, taking little time for explanation and even less time for debate. Jesus comes and is baptized. That’s it. No word as to why Mark believes the baptism necessary; no hesitation about the symbolism of perfection coming for repentance; no insights into the amount of water John uses. As they say, timing is everything. After growing up and working around Nazareth, Jesus knows it’s now time: time to expand the boundaries and time to engage in ministry for all people. It is beginning.
A new world, a new time stretches before us. No one knows what may be ahead, but this much we know: God is preparing the way already for those who choose to follow. Some will get stuck in wondering about why Jesus went to the Jordan for this service of baptism; others will invest energy in questions that, while fascinating, miss the point. Who will listen for the voice of God in the midst of the noise of the world, the beat of the crowd’s feet?
Mark does not tell us who heard the voice (the impression is it was only Jesus). But what Mark does remind us of is that after years of laboring in his hometown with the skills and artistry of his parents, Jesus is called by the wilderness voice and the voice of God. When we hear those voices, it will be like a new beginning as we walk in new paths and into new experiences. But it will also be like an adventure in grace, for who knows where the voice will take us. We only know that as we listen, the voice of God still invites us to new beginnings and new ministry.
Inviting God, here I am. Help me hear and respond to your voice and follow in the way, wherever it takes me.
What do you think the dove and voice (vv. 10-11) meant to Jesus as he came out of the water?
Our family used to go to Cape Cod every summer. Many times when the tide was low we looked eyeball to eyeball at some little sea creature in his shell. He wasn’t a bit afraid of us, we were the ones who were afraid. But he was safe. He knew, as long as he stayed retracted in that nice, strong shell, that we couldn’t get to him.
And as far as all eternity is concerned, you’re safe in Christ.
As far as all the hassles in your life are concerned, you’re safe in Christ.
As far as all your unknowns are concerned, you’re safe.
As far as all the world, the flesh and the devil are concerned – you’re safe.
But what if that little fellow, instead of staying safe in his shell, comes right out and he’s sunning himself on our hand, totally unconcerned? Now he’s vulnerable to anything, everything.
If you refuse to learn what it means to abide in Christ; if you insist on living out there where you worry and you strive and you’re insecure and even disobedient; if you deliberately choose to live as if you were not in Christ at all – you’re totally vulnerable, and you’re in deep trouble with your self and with God.
He commands you to learn to abide in Him and stay there. He requires that you settle down and shelter yourself in Him and trust Him absolutely. He insists on your living your life in Him; with its resulting rest and joy. If you don’t, He loves you too much to neglect you. He’ll childtrain you and chastise you until you consciously come into Him.
You need the “holy habit” of saying to the Father under any circumstances, “You are my hiding Place” – saying it continually , and saying it in peace and stability and joy.
From My Sacrifice, His Fire by Anne Ortlund)
Disobedience to God brings destruction. Individuals may try to avoid his judgment, but God cannot be out-maneuvered. Explore the topic: “I am most likely to be disobedient when I ….” Then come up with what safeguards you can establish to insure obedience to God.
Read Luke 3:21-22
Luke emphasizes Jesus human nature. Jesus was born to humble parents, a birth unannounced except to shepherds and foreigners. This baptism recorded here was the first public declaration of Jesus ministry. Instead of going to Jerusalem and identifying with the established religious leaders, Jesus went to a river and identified himself with those who were repenting of sin. When Jesus, at age 12, visited the temple, he understood his mission (2:49). Eighteen years later, at his baptism, he began carrying it out. And as Jesus prayed, God spoke, and confirmed his decision to act God was breaking into human history through Jesus the Christ.
The Holy Spirit’s appearance in the form of a dove showed that God’s plan for salvation was centered in Jesus. Jesus was the perfect human who didn’t need baptism for repentance, but he was baptized anyway on our behalf.
What means the most to you about your own baptism?
The Loving Church
Jesus is constantly moving toward those from whom others are moving away, Hardly a promising toward those from whom others are moving away. Hardly a promising strategy to revolutionize the world! Love through preaching the rule of God; teaching the disciples and sometimes the multitudes; and healing and casting out demons. A love so radical that it cut through every legalism of organized religion. A love so grounded in the unmerited love of God for all people that some choose to crucify him while others chose to commit body and soul to him. A love so bound to the truth of God’s reign that every power and principality would come under its dominion for better or worse-including politicians, economists, military leaders and scientists. Jesus’ messiahship was not disinterested in the great centers of world power. Quite the contrary. In his brief time he became the Incarnation of a truth that forever judges all systems of power, a truth calling for human dignity and justice.
Whatever else the church is called to be, nothing is more central than to become a loving community of Jesus Christ. In this lesson you will focus on love for individuals through the life of the church by using the concept of care as a basic expression of love. I do this in the hope of clarifying at least one dimension of what it means to love, a much maligned yet indispensable word to the people of God in ministry
Care as the Essence of All Ministries
Caring is the glue of all Christian ministry, whether lay or clerical. Where there is no caring, there is no Christian presence or action. We would not be in the We would not be in the community of Christians had we not experienced care from others-a care that has made it possible for us to be caring toward others. Care is God’s gift through Jesus Christ and the whole biblical tradition to be shared, not a virtue to be acquired. We love and care because we have first been loved and cared about by God through Jesus Christ and because that truth has been passed on to us by human hands and hearts within the Christian community.
Christian diaconate-the helping outreach of the Christian community to individuals in distress, such a those suffering from illness, poverty, or personal crisis. This emphasizes the primary importance of unspectacular and unpretentious Christian concern for the unique individual in his or her unique needs.
Christian presence-the erection of Christian signs in the world, such as identification with suffering where other recourses of social change are not possible, as in a suppressive state. An example would be voluntarily living among the poor and sharing their suffering where no other recourse is available.
Christian dialogue-the attempt to engage the world in a conversation with the Christian faith in order to function as a facilitator of communication between parties in complex ethical situations.
The great moments and memories of ministry have to do with caring-caring for others, helping others learn to express caring and being cared about. Thomas Merton in The Seven Story Mountain as he remembers the people in a small French village during a time of his youth states it this way:
It is a great pleasure for me to remember such good and kind people…. I just remember their kindness and goodness to me, and their peacefulness and their utter simplicity. They inspired real reverence, and I think, in a way, they were certainly saints. And they were saints in that most effective and telling way: sanctified by leading ordinary lives in a completely supernatural manner, sanctified by obscurity, by unusual skills, by common tasks, by routine, but skills, tasks, routine which received a supernatural form from grace within, and from the habitual union of their souls with God in deep faith and charity.
Their farm, their family, and their Church were all that occupied these good souls; and their lives were full.
Leaders take note! Practicing pastors take note! Most laypersons already know this by experience as well as in an intellectual sense. The faithful and ongoing caring offered by many laypersons from day to day is frequently an example from which pastors can learn. Like everything else profound in life, caring has it ups and downs, its times of exhilaration and discouragement. Care is often hard work, whether for individuals or for institutions. But loving care is the name of it all. If that doesn’t turn you on, ministry will not touch you deeply.
Looking Inside Caring
On the cover of Milton Mayeroff’s book On Caring there is a penetrating insight into the meaning of caring. “in the sense in which a man can ever be said to be at home in the world, he is at home not through dominating… but through caring and being cared for.” He goes on to describe how life attains a sense of integration through caring, that is, of “being in place” or at home. Certain studies have shown the grace and power of caring in that retired widows and widowers who have pets to care for are more likely to have better health since there is a relationship that calls for caring attention.
In a short seminary course, “The Practice of Parish Ministry,” participants are asked to reflect on a profound or powerful experience of caring and being cared about that they would be willing to share with one another. As best we are able in our reflection, we are to get in touch with what made this an unusually moving occasion, what we learn about ourselves, and what we learn about the meaning of caring and being cared about. You should here lift up the recurring insights that have come from sharing, as well as an unforgettable experience of caring in your life.
Again and again participants mention thee undeserved nature of the gift of being cared about. Often the impact is overpowering and unforgettable. Sheer gift! No paternalism. No strings attached. Not because we were deserving but because someone else chose to give us the incredible gift of loving care. In the classroom sharing of these experiences, we often find it difficult to explain in words. Somehow we are in touch with the power of God’s love in Jesus Christ. When that becomes incarnate in a relational gift, we experience the deepest reality of existence. Our worth is reconfirmed in spite of all our hang-ups and our strategies to make ourselves acceptable as “somebody.”
Another recurring theme in the class’s sharing of caring experiences, closely related to the first, is our difficulty in receiving. We are so programmed by our society into justifying ourselves and protecting ourselves that we can barely stand to receive a gift. Or is it that a deep sense of unworthiness blocks our capacity to receive?
A third realization from the class on sharing was how much even a little care can mean to people who have run out of people to touch and be touched by.
The most exciting meaning in caring happens when the recipient is thereby moved to care about someone else as a consequence of being cared about.
Caring as an Expression of Love
Jesus is not recorded in the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament as having used the word “care” except in the good Samaritan story. The most important ingredients of care are reflected in the care provided by the Samaritan and in his request to the innkeeper to do likewise at the Samaritan’s expense. Time. Risk. Patience. Humility. Courage. Hope. The reward for caring is of course the act of caring itself. There is no guarantee that our care will bring about or in his or her attitude toward us. Nor is the act of caring dependent, in a Christian sense, on our opinion of the one in need.
Victor Paul Furnish touches on this point and helps us see caring in relation to the New Testament love commanded in these statements:
The love Jesus commanded, be it directed toward the “neighbor” or toward the “enemy,” is understood in just one way: as active goodwill toward the other, as my affirmation of him as a person who stands or falls quite apart from what I think of him, as my acknowledgment of our common humanity and our common dependence upon One whose judgment and mercy is over all, and as my commitment to serve him in need.
In Paul… (love) means caring for the other-not because of who he is or where he stands in relation to oneself, but just because he is, and because he is there. It means identifying with him, with his needs, his hurts, his joys, his hopes, his lostness and loneliness. It means being willing to risk taking the initiative in reconciliation, and being willing, finally, to give oneself to him in service and support for his humanity. In Christ one is a recipient of such love and thereby becomes a participant in the new creation. By love he is freed-to love; for love is the meaning of his obedience and his life.
Henri J. Nouwn underscores a biblical understanding of care: “The gospel is not a palliative to help us escape the pain of life, but the way to transform suffering into the birth pangs of something new… ministry works through pain, taking care to be with people, to love them, to share their pain.”
The sense of lostness in our generation-the boredom, the narcissism, the lack of direction-could be revolutionized through simple acts of caring about others. We have it on good authority that those who lose their lives in care for others will find themselves anew in a most remarkable way. Caring can rejuvenate or rekindlee our sense of self and a deeper sense of purpose in life.
The theme song of the people of God in ministry could well be Paul Scherer’s memorable insight into Christ-centered love: “Love is a spendthrift, never keeps score, and is always in the red.” Take some time now to meditate on great moments of caring, both giving and receiving in your life. Christians: People with “big feet” moving toward those in need. Jesus Christ, friend of sinners, sufferers, and Samaritans.
In what ways do you as a church member give and receive care in your congregation?
How does your congregation express care to persons beyond the congregation? How do you take seriously Jesus Christ, Friend of sinners, sufferers, and Samaritans?
What is done in your congregation to strengthen and deepen the ministry of lay pastoral care?
BIO:Roger Williams 1603-1684 Founder of the first Baptist church in
America. Roger Williams was born in London and raised in the Episcopal
Church, of which he was made a rector. Becoming dissatisfied with the
ritual and ceremony of his church, he became a Puri- tan. He came to
America and preached in Boston and Plymouth, Massachusetts, where he
taught separation of church and state and complete religious freedom.
He was driven from Salem, Massachusetts, because of these convictions.
He went to Narragansett Bay, where he did missionary work among the
Indians. It was there that he founded the set- tlement of Providence,
Rhode Island. At this time he became a Baptist and was immersed in
water for the first time since his conversion. He served as governor of
the new colony from 1654 to 1657, but he practiced his separation of
church and state doctrines even as a civic ruler. Under his leadership,
Rhode Island was the first col- ony in the New World to establish
complete religious liberty for all men.