On a stage. Actors, a crowd, are scatted here and there. It is noisy, and chaotic. It is like the wilderness, like a waste land, like Israel without king, there is no center, no hero, to lead them. They are in darkness, in chaos. It is the time when things go wrong. It is the place where things go wrong. They need someone who leads them to a new world. They need a central figure who they follow. The things go wrong. There is not the center of the stage. Each of them has own center, and each of them goes where they want to, and does what they think right. It is chaotic.
“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:1-3)
All of a sudden, a man appears, and is coming to them, and stand in the midst of them, and saying, “Repent, you are wrong. You are bad actor who has not followed the direction, and lost the center and the hero among you. But the new drama, the new stage, has come near” (Matthew 3:2). Then, they are coming to him, confessing their sins that they did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). They have gone wrong, they have done wrong. They think, he is the one who they have waited for. He is the one who knows the whole drama, and the end of it. However, he is not. He says, “I am not the center of the stage, I am not the hero whom you have waited for. I am not the one who will lead you. Like you, I am just a supporting actor. However, the one will come. I just have come to prepare the way of the one who will come after me. He will come.” Then, he says, “I am baptizing with the baptism of repentance, because you did what was right in our own eyes, but you have done wrong in God’s eyes. God is the director, the only one who knows the drama and made this stage. You have done wrong, but he does not want to let down a curtain. Instead, he will send the one. He will reposition the center, restore the stage.”
He chooses to come to us where things have gone wrong, when things have gone wrong. Because he loves this stage and loves us all.
Then, all of a sudden, from the corner, a man is coming. He looks like one of them. He does not look like a hero. He looks like one of them. He comes to be baptized by him. But the one should not be one of us, one of them, should not be a sinner, like them. But, all of a sudden, a voice comes from above, “He is the one who makes what is wrong right. And he will be the center of the stage. Whatever he does, wherever he goes, follow him, because he will lead you and save you, according to my will. Follow him.” The baby Jesus in a manger we met before, did not look like the Messiah, the Savior. A baby in a stable, among all kinds of noise and smell. It was not such a silent night, and it did not look like such a holy place. Surrounded by animals, and shepherds in the fields, and three wise men from a foreign country, and the crowd in the small town coming to resister. Baby crying, the sounds of animals, the smell of stale sweat. Disturbing noise of the crowd. Yes, it was a kind of chaotic place and world. And now, the Jesus comes and stands among the same crowd. Yes, he does not look like the Messiah, the Savior.
However, a voice comes from heaven, “You are my Son, with you I am well pleased.” The Messiah comes into the place where things have gone wrong, and comes to the people who have done wrong just like our cross on the wall, in order to make what was wrong right, to give an order in chaos. Creation is God’s graciousness and also his delight. Creation is the revelation of his love and graciousness, and it becomes his delight and rejoicing. And now the new creation is his graciousness and delight.
Jesus has not come to deny our vulnerability as human being, but to restore us to the wholeness of whom we were meant to be in the beginning. Jesus has not come to cancel what he said after creation, “it was good,” but, come to reaffirm his saying and his blessing, in restoring and recreating us. God wants us to know that we were walking with him in the Garden. The voice of God in Jesus’ baptism is not just for his Son, Jesus Christ, but also for us. Mark wants us to hear the voice of God at Jesus’ baptism. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” It is the good news of God to the people whose lives are chaotic. The people who baptized with the Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ become his mother and brothers. Later, when a crowd is sitting around Jesus, and they say to Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” He replies, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And he looks at those who sit around him, and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God …. is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:31-35). And Apostle John also says, “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12).
In Jesus, we become God’s children. God wants us to call him “Abba Father,” because it is his delight and rejoicing just as he created us, and blessed us, saying, “it was good.” “You are my beloved children, I am pleased with you all.”
To stand before the Jordan River and to stand before the baptismal font, is to stand at the end of our little hopes, and our broken will. It is stand at the end of our hopeless, and to stand at the end of the way which we have walked according to our will, not according to God’s will. However, it is also to stand before the starting point of the journey of re-creation with Jesus Christ. And it is to stand at the beginning of God’s hope, and God’s will and purpose, saying, “Abba Father, here are we who wandered around to find our hope and now finally has come to stand at the end of the wilderness. Abba Father, we lift up our heads, open our hands, kneeling our knees before You, God the Father, as a child waiting for mom and dad, and as a sheep waiting for its shepherd.”
Baptism is to immerse ourselves in God, confessing God is our God, and letting God be God in our lives. Baptism is not just a baptism of forgiveness of sins. Before entering into Jerusalem, Jesus says to his disciples, “Can you drink the cup of suffering that I must drink? Can you be baptized in the way I must be baptized?” (Mark 10:38). Yes, his baptism is a baptism of suffering and death, and also resurrection, and his baptism is the beginning of a new beginning, a new reality, that we are called to participate in, through the baptism with his Spirit. Christ, having passed from death to life, belongs in God’s eternity. And we are called now to come to belong in God’s eternity. That is what the baptism is about.
Baptism is not just individualistic being-sorry for wrong-doings, and it does not mean that we do not need to worry about our wrong-doings any more. But, it is about a new reality, a new world that we belong in now. Before the baptismal font, we are called to begin afresh always, as if we have never experienced the church and never heard about the gospel. We are called to begin again and again the journey of faith, the journey of love and justice with Jesus, as if we have never walked the way before, as if we have never loved him before, as if we have never practiced his justice before.
After resurrection, Jesus comes to Peter in Galilee and asks him, saying, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Do you love me?” (John 21).
Now God says us standing before the font today, “You are my sons and daughters. I love you.” “Do you love me?” “Then, Follow me.”