So a couple months ago, the faucet broke on our kitchen sink. We have one of those faucets that is also the sprayer, and the thing just broke off. I told my wife and daughter not to use it until it could be replaced, because it’ll spray them in the face.
During dinner that night, Sally needed to wash something off and walked over to the sink. I looked at Audrey, and motioned for her to not say a word and just see how wet mom would get. Sally turned on the water, and a steady stream of water shot from our kitchen, across the dining room, and sprayed a picture on the living room wall. The picture is of Jesus…
Sally was shocked to see the water shot across our house, and shot it off quickly. Somehow, she escaped without getting wet. But I did point out that my wife baptized Jesus.
With the humorous scene replaying in my mind long after the rest of the family went to bed, I grabbed my Bible to read the biblical account of the Baptism of Jesus. (Not surprisingly, it is a very different account of my wife baptizing Jesus). You can read the account in Mathew 3:3-17.
So John the Baptist baptized many people who were looking for the Messiah. Some even thought that perhaps John was the Messiah, but he quickly pointed out that he was only preparing the way for the long-awaited Savior. One day, John’s cousin Jesus shows up to be baptized, and John is humbled in front of his followers, acknowledging that Jesus is the promised One.
I wondered how that music have felt for John. As a fetus, John recognized that Jesus was different. We read earlier in Matthew that he leapt within his mother’s womb when Mary showed up, pregnant with Jesus. Yet John seems to be taken aback that Jesus is the Messiah at the baptismal scene in Mathew 3. John knew before he was born, but then life happened. Did the older cousin grow up without seeing Jesus for who he was? Did he forget? Or maybe there were things that made John doubt the deity of his cousin. He’s supposed to save the world, but he let uncle Joseph die? Some Messiah that is…
Even after John realized Jesus as the Messiah at the baptism, John still has his doubts. In Matthew 11,, from prison, he sends Jesus a message. “Are you sure you’re the Messiah? ‘Casue I was your hype-man, preparing the crowds for you; and now you’re out there and I am in prison here waiting for execution. I’m starting to wonder if you are who you say you are. I’m starting to think I’ve wasted the last few years of my life. This isn’t worth it, Jesus. Maybe we should wait for someone else to save us…”
Jesus replies by telling the messengers this: “Tell John what you’ve seen and heard – the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. Oh, and remind him that ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’” Jesus was quoting Isaiah 42. People would have recognized this; it’s a passage that had huge ramifications as Jesus was making a very public declaration that He was indeed the promised Messiah.
But Jesus left out part of Isaiah 42. The part that would have been most important to John the Baptist. Jesus left out the part that talks about the Messiah who “Sets the captives free.” Had I been John, those would have been the words I wanted to hear most! That Jesus was gonna put the smack down and get me out if this cell! But Jesus give John a Good News – bad news message: “Yes John, I am the Messiah. I’m doing a lot of great things… But you won’t be able to see it all.” That’s the message Jesus sends to John.
Matthew 11 picks up the story this way. “As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. ‘What kind of man did you go to in the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. John is the man to whom Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way before you.’”
Jesus pretty much gives John an early eulogy here. Often, I hear the reference to “a weak reed blowing in the wind” in a bad light. That we should be more strong than a reed. But I think a reed blowing in the wind is a strong thing. Jesus actually asks if John was a weak reed. Growing up in Iowa, I’ve seen the difference between a week stalk of corn and a strong one. Weak ones are blown around and uprooted. But a strong reed can withstand a tornado better than an oak tree. The tree is uprooted; a strong reed blows around but often is the only sign of life after the storm passes. A strong reed can withstand ice or snow better than an oak tree. An oaks branches will crumble under the weight; a strong reed may be forced to the ground but it isn’t broken.
That resilience is what makes John a pillar of faith. Not his skills in water submersion, but his stalwart faith in tough times, even when he has questions.
We don’t plan on baptizing Jesus anymore in our house. We have the faucet fixed now. But I pray that we are all like John the Baptist, not letting life keep us from seeing Jesus for who He really is.