Growing into a man

In a country as small as Palestine it was inevitable that the news of John should come to Nazareth. Here is a biblical map of Palestine.

It was from there Luke tells us, that Jesus came to be baptized by John in the Jordan.  He must have felt that John was a man who realized as did he himself, the deadening effects of ritualism, of Pharisaism man who was eager to bring release from the shackles of the law.  A conviction had been growing in Jesus’ mind that the Jewish religion made such demands upon its followers that no mortal could hope to keep all its requirements.  Instead of bringing joy, which any true religion ought to bring, Judaism, as the Pharisees interpreted it, brought only disappointment and futility.

The boldness, the moral earnestness and the breath of John’s message drew Jesus to him.  According to Matthew, Jesus went to hear John for the expressed purpose of being baptized by him.

There stood Jesus before John-a clear-eyed, poised, self-confident youth-not one of the Pharisaic group who most needed to repent.  Many would agree, as probably you do to that Jesus had less need for baptism than any other.  It was surely not as a penitent that he presented himself.  His baptism had other significance.  It was his vicarious sharing in the responsibility for their national and social sins.  It may have been a gesture of human insufficiency to achieve that perfection he had set as his goal.   In such a spirit he soughtbaptism as a moral tonic, a consecration to a higher life.  In the act he also placed his seal upon the necessity of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Kingdom of God.

His baptism was of utmost significance in Jesus’ developing religious experience.  Whether John intended it or not, he proved to be a herald to Jesus of his peculiar relation to God.  The journey from Nazareth to the Jordan, therefore, proved to be momentous, not only in the life of Jesus,  but in the religious history of the world.  It was a definite stage in the long process by which Jesus came to recognise unquestionably his mission as the divinely chosen instrument for the establishment of the kingdom of God.

Another reason for Jesus desire for baptism was that he might identify himself, in the presence of a large assembly of people, with the movement John had begun.  It was equivalent to saying that he had realised what John had begun and had sympathy with it.  His actions testified that he agreed with John in regard to the nature of the kingdom of God and the requirements for citizenship therein,  and that his own work was to be devoted to that idea.

Jesus baptism marks a turning point in his life. it represents not the decision of the moment, but the cumulation of his previous thought and training. He had lived in closest touch with the people of Nazareth and recognised their deep need for a spiritual guide who could lead them to their heavenly Father and reveal to them the forgiveness and inspiration of God was eager to give.  The clear persuasion that nothing would satisfy the needs of the people short of personal knowledge of God and his will, which he himself had achieved, impelled him to his lifework.  When he left his shop in Nazareth and placed himself beside John, who was courageously addressing himself to those moral and spiritual needs, Jesus publicly acknowledged his new calling.

The conviction that he had been called by God to do a specific work was Jesus’ own secret hidden within himself.  The voice which had spoken from heaven had not spoken to the bystanders, but to Jesus alone, and the secret of sonship which came in that moment of illumination was known only to himself.

He had been baptized,Jesus had identified himself with the interpretation of the kingdom of God which John was preaching. and had become convinced of his own great mission, but something still remained to be done.  He was the Messiah, but what kind of Messiah was he to be, and what did being messiah mean?  To answer these questions the evangelist record the story of Jesus’ temptations.  As he made his way back home, many questions thronged his mind.  In order to work out the answers,  Jesus went into the wilderness, led by the Spirit, and he was in the wilderness for forty days.

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