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.
We see The Holy Spirit come upon Jesus as he is baptized by John to fortify him for his mission of redemption. We hear the voice of the Father acknowledging Jesus as his beloved Son and endorsing his ministry. Jesus came down to the Jordan as a humble candidate for baptism and leaves as the heaven-proclaimed Son of God. As both God and man, Jesus initiates his public life, and is immediately driven into the wilderness to test his identity as the beloved Son of God.
I recall as a teenager when I began dating, my dad always said two things to me before I left the house on a date. One was what time I was expected to come home. The other was, “Remember who you are, you’re a McDonald.” Many years have past since I was a teenager, but I never forgot that last reminder. It probably did not sink in too deeply at first, but later I began to see that it was my name, no our name that was important to our family and to the community.
As we contemplate Jesus baptism and our own baptisms, it is important to recognize that we have been named and claimed by God in our baptism just as Jesus was for whatever came next, especially the wilderness. We are children of God, God’s beloved family, and our name as a child of God is important. Remembering daily who we are and whose we are will help us face our wilderness testing that will surely come. In many ways Jesus’ wilderness experience did not end when the devil left him that day. His whole ministry was in the wilderness.
So, if we take Jesus’ baptism seriously, what does it mean to be led into the wilderness as a child of God? It means that being baptized is about living out our faith in community as a child of God. The wilderness is always present. Whose we are as a child of God is not just for ourselves, but for others.
Our wilderness experiences are not always about us but about those to whom God sends us. Jesus’ time in the wilderness verifies his sense of self for the sake of who God needs him to be for the world God seeks to save. Yes, whose we are as a child of God is not just for us alone but also for others to come to know and believe in God. The Israelites were not in the wilderness alone. God was with them and they had each other. Jesus was not in the wilderness alone. He had the Spirit and the promise of God’s declaration. We are never in the wilderness alone either. Our baptism propels us into community and the Holy Spirit is our partner in all of those wilderness experiences, along with the church community who walks with us.
Help us O God, remember that as a child of God, we have the Holy Spirit as a partner, and a guide and we have each other as Christians in the midst of our wildernesses. Help us remember to tell others about your love, for each time we share your love with others we are reminded of whose we are.
How often do you think about who you are as a child of God, reborn, not of the flesh but of God’s Holy Spirit?
What wilderness experiences do you face? And how do you rely on your relationship to God in those experiences?
Who is God sending you to in order to share the gifts of his love, his Spirit, his Grace?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.