The Wild Places Bible Guide – 21
April 8, 2019
Monday, April 8
The Jesus tradition teaches that in Jesus, God became flesh and lived – and still lives – among us. One fancy word for how Jesus did this is kenosis – the emptying of God’s status and power that was part of Jesus being fully human, just like us. Jesus, divested of all his privilege, went again and again to the wild places of our lives. This week we meet Jesus in the literal wilderness, and in the wild places of hunger, temptation, fear, chaos, illness, and death.
Matthew 3:1-17 (CEB)
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing, 2 “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” 3 He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said:
The voice of one shouting in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.”
4 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey.
5 People from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and all around the Jordan River came to him. 6 As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. 7 Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized by John. He said to them, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? 8 Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. 9 And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire. 11 I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.”
13 At that time Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River so that John would baptize him. 14 John tried to stop him and said, “I need to be baptized by you, yet you come to me?”
15 Jesus answered, “Allow me to be baptized now. This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.”
So John agreed to baptize Jesus. 16 When Jesus was baptized, he immediately came up out of the water. Heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on him.17 A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.”
Points of Interest
• In business, a disruptive innovation is an innovation that changes the status quo and creates new opportunities. John the Baptist is a human force of disruptive innovation. Conventional religion thought God was at work in the temple, in the center of religious life in Jerusalem. It said the glory days of God’s work are in the past and that some people are God’s favorites more than others. And it kisses up to the in crowd, comforting and assuring them while judging others. Conventional religion still does stuff like this. John does the opposite – says God is at work in the wilderness, the glory days of God’s work are ahead of us, all people can find God, and all people need to change to make room for God. It’s radical, it’s disruptive, and it is somehow making room for the life and work of Jesus.
• And surprise, surprise, Jesus shows up, not first to lead but to participate. Baptism likely has its roots in the Jewish mikvah – a ritual bath that cleanses you from sin or impurity, represents conversion into God’s family, or prepares your dead body for burial. Jesus – sinless, Jewish, and very much alive – needs none of this. John is as surprised as we are.
• Yet Jesus begins his public life as he would continue it daily, by identifying with us in all things, even in the most bewildering parts of being alive – our sin, our alienation from God, and our death. Through his actions, Jesus says: every way you’ve screwed up and are not good enough, even in your dying body, I’m with you there.
• In Jesus’ humble identification with us all, he is touched by the Spirit of God, flooded with a mystical, deeply felt experience of God’s love and delight. This is uniquely Jesus’ experience in some ways, but also part of the God-with-us experience for us all.
• As a side note, baptism rocks! If you’ve never been baptized but consider yourself a follower of Jesus, talk to a pastor about it. It’s a beautiful way to identify with Jesus and experience God.
A Direction for Prayer
Pray that your city would experience disruptive innovations in its religious life – that radically new and good things would happen in many faith communities, reshaping the experience of God in your city.
Spiritual Exercise of the Week
God with Me Mediation – We take a few minutes of quiet and welcome Jesus to be God with us. Ask Jesus, how are you with me right now? How do you see and know me? How are you present with me in all my strengths and weaknesses, in all my joys and stresses and sorrows? After a few moments of imaginative prayer, welcoming Jesus’ presence with you, close by praying this excerpt from the ancient prayer, The Breastplate of Saint Patrick:
Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.