An Ordinary Day
Luke’s depiction of the baptism of Jesus is a very ordinary affair. By all accounts it was an oridnary day when Jesus arrived at the Jordan River for his baptism. The encounter is so ordinary, that it begs the question how often do we miss the presence of God in ordinary events?
Scripture: Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22
It was a very ordinary day. The sun was shining, nothing unusual there. Birds were chirping and the trees were swaying with the breeze. A crowd had gathered, which wasn’t unusual. John was a compelling speaker, teaching about repentance and the coming of God’s kingdom.
Many came to turn away from the values of world, values that the Romans were seeking to impose on the people. They sought to get back in touch with who God was calling them to be as a people. People would line up to be baptised in the river, to enter life anew. Meanwhile on the banks of the river family members and friends gathered and enjoyed a meal, breaking bread with one another.
It was a very ordinary day and a very ordinary baptism. Jesus was one among many that day who had gathered to receive baptism.
A very ordinary baptism. The way Luke describes the baptism is plain and mundane. Jesus was one among many who was getting baptised. Nothing special at all.
It isn’t until afterwards, while Jesus was praying, that heaven opens up and the Holy Spirit descends upon him like a dove. Then a voice from heaven was heard, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Suddenly, not such an ordinary day. Yet, Luke only attributes three sentences to the baptism of Jesus.
Before this we hear about John and how he will be arrested. Afterwards, the age of Jesus is given and his genealogy. Only three sentences are given to the baptism of the Son of God. The first two chapters of Luke’s gospel are filled with grand stories. Of Mary and Elizabeth, passages filled with song and promise. Then come shepherds and angels to visit the holy child. You can imagine the scene in Bethlehem, but then things get quiet and they stay that way for thirty years.
Nothing for thirty years from Jesus, nothing from the Messiah for thirty years. Until one day, while sitting beside the river Jordan in prayer. The sky opens up, the Holy Spirit descends and God’s voice proclaims those wonderful words. Words of love. Words which are also for us.
I wonder if Luke is telling us something about how God operates with this passage. About the simplicity of things, the sense of the ordinary that we find here? Once we get past all the grand events associated with the birth of Jesus we find that for the first thirty years of his life he lived a very ordinary existence.
He would wake each day, break bread and work. He would attend temple, he would travel to Jerusalem for Passover. I’m sure he laughed and cried, spend time with family and friends. For thirty years the son of God lived and walked among us and no one was the wiser.
Luke frames his gospel by telling us who the rulers of the day were. Yet, for all that these important rulers didn’t have a clue that the son of God, the Prince of Peace, our King was walking among them. It makes you wonder if those shepherds that night were still waiting to see if something would happen. Did they remember the events of that night? What were their expectations?
As reformed Christians we acknowledge that baptism is an outward sign of something God has already done for us. God has already called us by name and blessed us through the Holy Spirit. When we baptise with water, we are communicating to God that we understand.
The way Luke narrates the baptism of Jesus is a reminder of how Jesus operated in the world. He was with the people. There was nothing grand about his baptism, it happened the same way everyone else’s did. It’s only the part after that set him apart and that isn’t of his own choosing. Luke reminds us that Jesus was interested in the ordinary occurrences of life.
Jesus sees people that no one else does. This is an essential theme in Luke. Think of the story of the Good Samaritan, who is never called good in the story. The Samaritan is the only one who truly sees the need, whose compassion compels him to action. The priest and the Levite see, but only what their own needs are. They don’t see to the heart of the situation, they aren’t compelled to action. They don’t see how the kingdom of God is working through acts of mercy and kindness. This is one among many instances where Luke instructs on how Jesus sees the world. Jesus sees those that no one else does, those no one else wishes to see.
I know that each of you has a story of a time either when someone saw the need and hurt in you and responded with love. Or of a time when you saw someone that no one else did. A time when you were able to give of yourself, in order for another to be made whole.
Baptism is a reminder that we are called into community with God. That we are asked to live according to a set of values which are defined by God. Baptism has less to do with being recognized as a member of the church, it isn’t about the Institution, it is about living in harmony with God. To see the signs that are around us which point to the brokenness of the world and to see the other signs which lead toward healing.
Luke demonstrates all of this through a very ordinary encounter with Jesus. “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy spirit descended…”
This is how we find Jesus. On ordinary days, in ordinary circumstances, among ordinary people, doing the most ordinary of things.
Just like breaking bread. Amen.