For now, we’ve focused on the “why-not-ness?” of Spirit-initiated ideas. However, in conjunction with this, let me switch gears just a bit in order to provide possible answers for a similar question asked from a different perspective.
Why act on tremendous Spirit-initated, Kingdom-advancing, life-altering ideas? Why join God in his mission through risky endeavors that are going to cost you something for sure?
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented. 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. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'” (Matthew 3:13-17, NIV)
Jesus. Water. Spirit. Voice. Remember one of the last times these four got together?
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.'” (Genesis 1:1-3, NIV)
I wonder if part of what Matthew is attempting to say at the end of Chapter 3 takes his initial audience back to the frayed, well-worn pages of Genesis. Israel, formless, empty, and dark like Earth was at one time. And yet. Something is stirring. Something is building. Something is coming, or should I say someONE is here announcing that the old has gone and the new has come. Jesus, full of grace and truth, is back…back from the future (Maybe I’ll explain that comment in a future post).
Walk with me through three important scenes from this passage.
First, at Jesus’ insistence, John relents and agrees to baptize him. In Jewish rabbinical culture, rabbis received blessing and/or shmikah (authority) from two sources. By participating in his baptism, John serves as one source in this story. However, who else pronounces shmikah (authority) over Jesus? According to Ray Vanderlaan, this passage confirms Jesus as the only Jewish Rabbi in history to receive shmikah (authority) from God himself. Oftentimes, the religious leaders would ask Jesus where he received the authority to teach, heal, and midrash the Scriptures as he does. John and God himself.
Second, as Jesus emerges from the watery grave, Spirit lands on him. Echoes of Genesis 1? Definitely. Heaven is ripped open, and Spirit’s hovering over the waters; and in this case, choosing to land upon and fill Jesus. As NT Wright states in Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, “Jesus…is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.” Jesus, filled with the Spirit, is the New Temple, the collision of heaven and earth for the sake of the world.
Third, the voice. No, not Adam, Blake, Usher, and Shakira. The (REAL) Voice. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Wow…lots going on here!:
“No way! You baptize me.”
Into the water. Out of the water.
Falling upon Him.
And then, the Voice.
Surely there was someone on the shoreline yelling, “Squirrel!”
Speaking of squirrels, back to The Voice. The Voice pronounces blessing, peace, and shalom.
First, you are my Son. Second, I love you. Third, I am well pleased with you.
Why does The Voice say these things about Jesus? “Well, he’s Jesus!” would not be a full-enough answer. Journey into this question with me. Up to this point, he has not healed anyone. No amazing, crowd-stunning sermons. No passing the bread basket to 5,000 people. No mud in the blind man’s eyes. No clearing the Temple. No saving and freeing the woman caught in adultery. No making disciples. No missional living. No cross. No resurrection.
And yet. The Voice thunders, “You are mine. I love you. You please me…greatly.” Jesus has nothing to boast about, nothing to prove himself with, and nothing to point to in the hopes of appeasing The Voice. He can only receive. He can only receive the blessing that The Voice is so eager and excited to give.
Do you hear The Voice? I think he’s talking to (and about) you, too: “You are mine. I love you. You please me…greatly.”
Performance, productivity, and perception (our own or that of others) do not define our identity. In other words, how we behave does not define us. Ultimately, The Voice that spoke the universe into existence and announced blessing over the Son, speaks the same words of identity over and about us: “You are mine. I love you. You please me…greatly.”
“But, Chris…you do not know what I’ve done. You do not know what I’ve thought. You do not know how broken, incomplete, and burned out I am.”
Yup…me, too. However, is the love of God not enough for us?
What if God is actually on our side? What if God is actually…for us? What if God isn’t scarce with his love? What if, instead, God is abundant with his love? What if God’s loving identity and words of blessing are our starting points with him?
Could that really be true, because that sounds like good news to me?!
Why? Why should we embrace the risks of acting on Spirit-filled, Christ-like, Kingdom-of-God-advancing ideas of all shapes and sizes? Identity.
Our identity does not change, and it is not tied to the outcomes of our ministry ideas. In fact, because our identity begins (and ends) with God, we are free to risk it all in pursuit of the King and the proclamation of his Kingdom.
So, why are you sitting on your duff reading this post? Let’s go!
You and your community just start, act, launch, go, jump, begin, commence, create, inaugurate, originate, establish, break ground, initiate, embark on, get after it, plunge into, move, pursue, and go get em!