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What is John the Baptist's problem?


  • 6-9 year olds

We are coming to the end of the Christmas season. Most people think Christmas ends on December 26th, or maybe the season lasts for 12 days, but the Church celebrates God becoming human like us for 3 Sundays. The Baptism of the Lord is the last of the three Sundays of the feast of Christmas. After hearing about Jesus as a baby for two Sundays, now we hear about Jesus as a grown man. He comes to be baptized in the river Jordan.

John the Baptist didn't baptize in a church the way it is done today. He stood in the Jordan river and people waded out to him. They would be plunged under the water and then would stand up again, baptized!

When Jesus wades into the river, John the Baptist sees him coming and is concerned.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

What is the matter here? Why is John the Baptist troubled? John the Baptist realizes who Jesus is. He had been telling the people, "I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." John the Baptist knows that Jesus is greater than he is. John wants for himself the kind of baptism that only Jesus can give.

John the Baptist wants to stop this. It feels wrong to him. Jesus is greater than he is. How can John baptize someone who is greater? He doesn't feel that this is right. He doesn't feel good enough.

There are many times when we feel this way--not good enough to do something. The teacher asks who would like to read the Word of God at a school Mass, and we start to raise our hand, but remember that we are not a very good reader so we don't volunteer. We have an idea how to raise money to help the poor, but we decide not to share it because it probably wouldn't work anyway. This kind of thinking can happen a lot and we don't even notice. Once, working on a play for Good Friday, I was asked to be Jesus, and I said, "How can I play Jesus? Who is good enough to play Jesus? Besides, I'm a girl. Won't that just be weird for everyone?" It can seem like there is always someone better for the job.

But Jesus insists. He wants John the Baptist to do this for him. It is the right thing to do. Jesus makes it right.

So what happens when John the Baptist agrees to baptize Jesus?

just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

John the Baptist had said that the Kingdom of God was near. I wonder if he had realized that God was near?! This is huge!

The crowd hears the voice of God the Father, speaking about God the Son standing dripping in the river--loving him, anointing him, covering him with God the Holy Spirit. For a moment we can see God in 3 ways. We call this the Trinity.

God is One. God is always in motion, and it is difficult to catch sight of God-3-ways. Like a hummingbird's wings that move so fast they are almost invisible, so is our God. Like running water, individual drops cannot be seen.

Photo by Imani on Unsplash

But, if someone uses a camera that can take photos fast enough, it is like time freezes:

Photo by Mukesh Sharma on Unsplash

Now we can see the source, the flow, and the drop.

At Jesus's baptism we can hear the Lover (the Father) pouring out Love (the Holy Spirit) upon the Beloved (Jesus).

Because John the Baptist does what he doesn't feel good enough to do, because he chooses to participate in the Plan of God, because he says yes to Jesus--time stops for a moment. The whole world, anyone who chooses, can see God who is Love.

What glorious things are done when someone says yes to God!

What about us? What if we just don't feel good enough? Looks to me like Jesus' goodness is enough to make up for whatever John the Baptist doesn't have. Jesus has more than enough goodness for all of us. (Abundance 😉) Jesus makes it right. If we say yes to God, if we choose to help build the kingdom, what glorious things will be done through us?

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