God’s Story, Your Story and Our Story Through the Eyes of the Gospel Writers:
Updated: Apr 15
Warm Relationships–Christ is Not Just Jesus of Nazareth: a Reflection on Isaiah 42:1-9, Acts 10:34-43 and Matthew 3:13-17
We are created in the image of God. We have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and continue that conversion process throughout the rest of our lives, becoming more like Jesus. Jesus lives his life in you and me. God has a warm relationship with us. God loves us and wants us to love others with that same warmth, affection and presence.
The good news of Jesus points us to our true identity and mission in life. Our identity is in the one who creates, redeems and sustains us, the Lord God Almighty. And our mission is God’s. We participate in God’s mission of redemption and salvation. On this Baptism of the Lord Sunday, we are invited to imitate the ministry and message of Jesus Christ.
The texts in Isaiah 42:1-9, Acts 10:34-43 and Matthew 3:13-17 demonstrate that Jesus is not just human and not just God. Jesus is fully human and fully God. Isaiah 42:1-9 describes the future engagement of God as Servant, the one who brings the Spirit of God into human experience and works for justice. The one called Servant is the one called Christ. The humanity and deity of Jesus are held together in Isaiah’s use of Servant. Acts 10:34-43 affirm that Jesus was sent by the Father for everyone. Yes, Jesus was sent for the Jews and Gentiles. We see the Church change in order to bridge the gap between cultures, Jew and Greek. The humanity and deity of Jesus are held together in the way the Church continues to change to embrace various cultures and people groups. And Matthew 3:13-17 announce that repentance is the way we prepare for God being among us and the right ongoing response to God being among us. Change in direction is the path of Christian discipleship. The humanity and deity of Jesus are held together as we repent, change directions, to be more like Jesus in his humanity and deity.
Today is Baptism of the Lord Sunday. Will things be different in your life because of your baptism? Of course. But maybe a better question is, do you expect things to be different because of your baptism? Richard Rohr, the author of The Universal Christ writes, “In God you do not include less and less; you always see and love more and more.” Trust and draw from your experience in Christ, both in identity and mission. Hear God say to you, “This is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”
Long-term change in your life as a follower of Jesus depends on two things: your sense of identity and mission. In baptism, you are affirmed as a child of God. Your identity as a child of God and your union with God in Christ through baptism anchors you in God’s mission. As a Christian, you have a new sense of self and a new sense of mission. Yes, it is difficult to reach persons different than yourself, but such is the calling of being a Christian. Warm relationships with God and others, particularly those different than yourself is key to your being an effective Christian, for us being an effective church in God’s mission of redemption and salvation. A warm relationship is characterized by listening, caring, empathy, loving, acting, speaking and living in compassion.
God’s acting in Jesus who is fully human and fully God anchors our identity in Jesus and God’s mission. Practice Christian disciplines that nurture your humanity in the things that pertain to God. Adopt spiritual practices that support and nurture your baptismal identity. Be confirmed in and transformed by Christ who is not just Jesus of Nazareth. Be confirmed in and transformed by Jesus who is both human and God.
In this textual analysis, I have benefited from the thinking of James H. Evans Jr., John C. Holbert, Stephen Harris, Matthew L. Skinner, Stanley P. Saunders and Mark Abbott in Connections, Year A, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 162-164, 164-166, 169-1170, 171-172, 173-174 and 175-176.
Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ (New York, New York: Convergent, 2019), 52.