Daily Prayer :: Wind

First steps on the journey of faith and community

December 15 – The coming One

Today’s Bible reading

Read Matthew 3:16-17

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

More thoughts for meditation

Yesterday, we meditated on Jesus’ humility, his humble submission to “fulfill all righteousness.” He collects his honor from God, not from the world. That’s a theme in this chapter, in the Gospels, in the life of John the Baptist, and in the life of Jesus too. But Jesus bears fruit for his humility.

God is declaring approval of Jesus during his baptism. The heavens part, a display of God’s revelation and deliverance, but also one that might be recognizable to even a non-Jewish audience. And then the Spirit of God descends as a dove onto Jesus. This too is another image, drawing from Genesis 8, that signals the coming of a new age. And God also shows approval by delivering a voice from heaven. It is a public voice, declaring to the crowds, that indeed, Jesus is God’s son. This is declaration, not a personal revelation. This voice is broadcast to the people around Jesus, and it’s not just in his mind. The audience has heard this pronouncement.

What’s more is what God says here. Jesus is God’s beloved son, one with whom he is pleased. This connection between Jesus and God, and God’s approval of Jesus, unites the Father and Son in a way that makes separating them impossible. You cannot love God and not love Jesus. You can’t serve one and not the other. Jesus is the ultimate tool in God’s hands who will provide peace and justice, obedient even to the point of death. One writer said, “He willingly divested himself of his proper honor by identifying with his people in baptism and death.”

Suggestions for action

What does Jesus do to collect this approval and honor from God? He humbles himself, not only to be baptized by John, but also by becoming a human at all. He condescends to relate to us, and as a result receives a blessing from God, approval from God, honor from God.

This last passage wraps up the theme for the week. Receive your commission from God. Be welcomed into God’s fold. It is a gift freely given to you, the fruit of your acceptance of it is your life-altering humility. Who knows? Maybe you’ll start wearing camel, and eating honey and locusts. What a radical witness that might be.

December 14 – Then he consented

Today’s Bible reading

Read Matthew 3:13-14

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

More thoughts for meditation

In the honor and shame society of the first century Palestine, and really the entire Mediterranean region, Jesus humbles himself, getting rid of his rightful honor, to follow in God’s plan. Fit with the humility that John calls for among the Jewish leaders earlier in the chapter, Jesus humbles to John’s baptism, not taking up the honorable position that he deserves.

John recognizes Jesus’ stature and superiority, and that makes Jesus’ act of humility here even more powerful. Furthermore, it validates the story, which is recorded in every canonical Gospel. The Lord of All, the Son of Man, God with Us, is baptized by a mere mortal, humbling himself, once again, to relate to us. This is hardly how we might imagine a God to be. There is a sort of shame and embarrassment even to this upside-down way of doing things. Who is this is mysterious man? One who is greater than John, one whose sandals John is unfit to untie, yet who insists on being baptized by John? What kind of world is he bringing in? In his humble submission to John’s baptism, he continues in John’s humble approach to life.

Jesus humbles himself to “fulfill all righteousness,” which is to say obeying God and God’s plan as revealed to him through the Hebrew Scriptures. He is fulfilling all righteousness for all people. Jesus’ baptism is something we all are baptized through vicariously, not unlike his own death and resurrection. He is baptized, not because he needs to be, but for us,

Suggestions for action

Receive Jesus’ baptism today. Consider how he did it on your behalf too. He inaugurates his ministry in this moment, may our mission for Jesus be similarly inaugurated this Advent season. And also, receive Jesus’ humble example, there is no task too small for him, no role to insignificant. He collects his honor from God, and so he can receive shame from the world. Today, try to lean in on God’s love and honor for you, use that as fuel to be his humble servant. Can you “consent” to the humble position Jesus calls you to?

December 13 – The coming One

Today’s Bible reading

Read Matthew 3:11-12

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

More thoughts for meditation

John is bringing a transformative baptism of water to the people around him, but he thinks of himself and his baptism as much less significant compared to the One who is coming. John is ushering in Jesus who will bring about a new era for Israel and for the whole world. John is the forerunner to that revelation.

The strongly-worded message here, gathering the wheat and burning the chaff, is an encouragement to those who are righteously living, but a warning to those who aren’t. One who is greater than John will come and straighten us out. The big idea in this chapter is to not be so sure about whether you are wheat or chaff, and to remember that all of us will undergo transformation and we should prepare ourselves for it.

This image of burning chaff (often for fuel) is common in first century Palestine. Metaphorically, it is used to express judgment, and in this case, the harshest judgment of all. The baptism with fire may very well be this judgment. This great Judge is Jesus, John declares himself as unworthy to even be his slave. Here, John is telling his followers that the One who is coming is the Lord himself, the Messiah they’ve been waiting for. The one who will bring them home.

Suggestions for action

It might be a bit jarring to imagine a purifying fire that Jesus baptizes with, but draw on the image of flaming tongues that rained down on the community gathered in Acts 2 during Pentecost. Imagine that fire then, the one that purifies us, to be expressed in the Body of Christ, in our community. Talk to a friend today about your growth edges and where you want to be further refined. See if you can be held accountable for some agreements you make with your friend. See how you can approach being purified.

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