The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,‘”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
~ Mark 1:1 - 11
I would have loved to have gone to one of Jesus' family reunions. Seriously, think about it. You have Mary and Elizabeth, raising two boys that are about to go into Biblical history. Mary and Elizabeth's husbands, both of whom God has had to spend some extra time with, helping them to understand the young men that would grow up in their homes. And then you have the two boys themselves, Jesus and John (later known as John the Baptist).
In my family, the family reunion was just as much about food as it was family. The long table that would be laid out before us, with clothes pins generally holding the corners of the table cloth down, so that the wind would not catch the fabric and risk it folding over on top of a piece of cake, even in a closed room!
The salads would be followed by meats and sides that would lead to the largest portion of the table... sweet and tasty desserts!
Imagine two mothers, holding the plates of their sons. Asking what they would like on their plates. John, of course, turning his nose up at everything. Jesus looking over some of his favorites, wishing that there were more, and mysteriously, another platter containing fish appears! (Okay, I'm just having some Biblical fun here, but you get the idea.)
At the end of the day, the two boys and their families return to their homes and life goes on until one day when John is out in the wilderness, telling people that they must repent, and wearing his own designer clothes and eating nothing but locusts and honey meets up with his cousin.
This time it is not around a table of family favorites. It is in the water, and John realizes that the Kingdom of God is truly at hand, as he takes the hand of Jesus and leads him into the water.
While the Gospel writers share that John doesn't feel worthy of what is about to happen, I can almost sense Jesus telling him, it's okay. We are family. I have to believe it is an emotional moment as well. Two cousins uniting in a common bond that brings faith into the present, and the sacred into perspective.
Jesus enters the water, with John looking into his face. I have often wondered as the waters rippled as they encircled the face of Jesus that day, did it reflect the clouds that floated above, and perhaps, a doorway to heaven. Did Jesus shut his eyes as he peered through the water, looking towards the home he left, and held his breath, understanding that the breath he breathed in was indeed the breath of God that had first touched the lungs of Adam in the garden.
The skies opened up and there were words from above, sharing of the importance and significant pleasure of the Creator as these two both were standing, embracing, and then continuing on their own journeys.
The fullness of what it means to be family and the reality that the Kingdom of God comes to full fruition and the declaration that Jesus is the Son of God happens in minutes.
For us today, these two cousins provide for us a window into what it means to be family while also providing an understanding of what it means to follow our hearts. The faith of God and God's kingdom come together in the story of these two men, and is our story today. We are part of this legacy as well.
I'm looking forward to the table in heaven where our family gathers and the Kingdom of God is realized.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2017
Dear Lord, what a day that will be when we gather for the great family reunion! Help me to remain faithful through each day of my life. Amen.
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.