When John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing for the repentance of sins, he knew ahead of time that he was merely preparing the way for someone greater: God. This is the first lesson in approaching the next words of Jesus: John knew his ministry was not from himself or for himself.
“I baptize you in water for repentance, but the one who comes after me is more powerful than I and I am not fit to carry his sandals: he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” -Matthew 3: 11
Too often we tie our daily ministry to our own self interests. The better a person I am, the more people will like me. The more I help people, the more they’ll help me. The more devout a Christian, the boss will notice and give me a raise. Ultimately, we are designed to desire a relationship with God. As we find God, we like to stay there and just be fed and taken care of. But once God has our attention, he calls ALL of his people to be living testimonies to those around, and has a specific call toward daily ministry in your everyday life.
“But, WHAT IS my ministry?!” you may shout to God, like I did a few days before studying and preaching on this scripture. Yes, I’m a preacher, and I still asked it – so I expect even if you’re not in traditional ministry you have probably wondered the same.
Jesus came up to John the Baptist to be baptized. “It is I who need baptism from you,” John reacted, “yet you come to me!” -Matthew 3: 14
Jesus didn’t need to be baptized for repentance of sins, so why did Jesus reply as he did? “Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that uprightness demands.” -Matthew 3: 15
The common answer is: to set an example so that we are to be baptized as well. It’s a good answer, and I’m good for following his example. But baptism would still be practiced and preached even if Jesus didn’t subject himself to John. And isn’t that problematic, the idea of Jesus submitting himself to us?
Could it do with the fact that John was baptizing in the Jordan River, the highly symbolic place that Joshua and the priests led the Israelites out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land? Well, sure! This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, which has many symbolic parallels with the claiming of the promised kingdom in Joshua. But the Israelites crossed on dry land – quite the opposite of intentionally getting fully wet.
It was my original shout “But, WHAT IS my ministry?!” that led to a satisfactory application of Jesus’ words and actions. Our ministry is Jesus Christ. Without him, it is just our ministry, and it might very well point back to how great we think we are rather than making it evident how great God is.
John the Baptist had a close relationship with God. He was aware of his calling, and answered with faithful action. He recognized when Jesus was near, and acknowledged Jesus’ higher status. Jesus was baptized into John’s ministry in the way a giant would crouch to get into your house. And what happened to John’s ministry? It became Jesus’ ministry.
In the same way, it is highly appropriate for us to serve God in every manner we can. But it is incomplete without also baptize Jesus himself INTO our service to God. Then, whose ministry does it become? We don’t have the power to really change people, but Jesus does. We don’t have the wisdom of how to answer all things, but Jesus does. We don’t have the foreknowledge of where we’re supposed to be and when we’re supposed to be there, but Jesus does. We don’t have the holiness to be the light, but we are equipped to hold it.
God works in beautiful ways, and how wonderful it is that as we long to serve God, we can do so simply by letting him into our service. Today, recognize Jesus’ divine status and baptize Jesus into your own ministry, “it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all things that uprightness demands.”
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for today and for the relationship we have. Thank you for providing and for your presence. As my needs are met to do your will, help me understand my calling. I desire to serve you, help me to. Lord, I purposefully baptize Jesus and welcome him into my ministry. Help me to allow it to be his, to be yours. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Sean King is the Pastor for First Christian Church of Cisco.