The climax of our Christian year is drawing closer. Soon we will be following the final earthly moments of Jesus from his entry into Jerusalem, to his betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, death and glorious resurrection. It all seems to happen in a very short space of time with the events of Holy Week running at a fast pace over a period of about five days. In reality, the journey was much longer and to follow Jesus in his final days, we should cast our thoughts back to the beginnings of His Journey.
We do not know much about the early life of Jesus, but we do know he was born into a family faithful to God who trusted in His purpose. Both Joseph and Mary received the word of God through angels and were faithful to the path that God had given them. Their faith is unquestioning and inspirational.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral home of the house of David, and from there he and his parents fled to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod following a message from an Angel. When Herod died, they returned to Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus grew up with his parents. It was a devout household. Every year they would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of the Passover, and it was during one of these visits that Jesus went missing and was found in the temple courts. We have a glimpse of Jesus upbringing in Luke 2
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.Luke 2:49 -52
From the announcement of Jesus coming birth to reaching adulthood in Nazareth; we see the meticulous care of our Heavenly Father guiding the families around Jesus and protecting him from the rages of Herod. We see the devout care of Mary and Joseph; doubtless encouraging Jesus’ spiritual growth.
Then when Jesus is maybe 30 years old, there is a pivotal moment. The verses in Matthew 3:13-17 really grab our attention. The account is short but packed with a divine heavenly drama played out before us on earth.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. Matthew 3:13
This sentence is deceptively short. The book of Mark records that the journey started in Nazareth and so we can estimate that this journey would have been about 45 kilometres, maybe a bit more. In today’s world, this would be equivalent to a small hop from say KL Wesley to Port Klang. In Jesus day, this was a long and dangerous journey on foot; a very deliberate act of Jesus setting out on His mission.
John is surprised to see Jesus. Remember that John’s vibrant ministry is preparing the way for the Messiah by preaching a baptism of repentance. He is washing away the sins of those turning to God. When John sees Jesus, he tries to deter him from Baptism “But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”” (Matthew 3:14)
John is taken aback. When he sees Jesus, he sees the sinless Son of God. Jesus, innocent of all sin, comes to the Jordan to be baptised and cleansed of sin. Jesus insists on being baptised.
“Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” Then John consented.”(Matthew 3:15)
Whose sin is he carrying? Not His own.
It is proper, it is necessary, to fulfil all righteousness.
Jesus at this point has taken our sin upon himself and presented himself before John and before God as the carrier of our sin. This is the incredible moment at which Jesus rises to His higher purpose from son of Joseph, the carpenter, to Jesus the Son of God, Saviour by the grace of God and His own loving choice for the redemption of our sins.
Parents, do you remember the first time your children did something wonderful without being told? I remember a moment my son, when he was only three years old leaving hospital after an operation; standing on tiptoes to give the ward sister a kiss goodbye. The fearsomely efficient lady was overcome! Watching from three paces, I choked back tears; it was a heart pulling moment.
This is God our Father’s great moment. Up until now, God has been the constant, but unseen, unheard presence, speaking through his angels, and guiding his plans. Now Jesus has stepped forward as Saviour and God opens up, overflowing with joy and excitement
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:16 &17)
God opens His heavens; God sends his Spirit upon Jesus and proclaims His love as a Father. My friends, this is an awesome moment. We have the joy of seeing our Saviour stepping forward; a joy we share and a joy for which we praise God. Joy that for a time will change to deep sorrow.
Jesus has taken up our sin. This is the start of the road to Calvary.