Thursday, 9 January 2014

A life more ordinary

GospelMatthew 3:13-17 

Jesus appeared: he came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. John tried to dissuade him. ‘It is I who need baptism from you’ he said ‘and yet you come to me!’ But Jesus replied, ‘Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that righteousness demands.’ At this, John gave in to him.

  As soon as Jesus was baptised he came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice spoke from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.’

We had the first part of this chapter in Advent as John tells us of the Messiah  who is to come after him. In this the description of John and the work that the Holy Spirit had given him is richly described, embellished from the core account given by Mark in his Gospel.  Yet in this pivotal moment he is almost as sparse with the details as Mark; just a small conversation to set the scene. 

We know that the New Testament is not about the life of Jesus; it is an account of his ministry and his continuing presence after the Resurrection - it is three years-ish of anecdotes; of memories; of teachings. But what about the life of Jesus? When you come to love somebody you want to know where they came from; how they became that person.  

Luke gives us the story of the child staying behind in the Temple; the precocious 'almost teenager' telling us that Jesus is a little more than he seems. He also tells us of John, a witness and prophet even before his birth; driven into the desert to be filled with the Holy Spirit; driven again to call people out of Jerusalem itself with the promise of redemption.  Acknowledged, by Jesus himself, as the greatest prophet there had ever been. 

In Matthew, Jesus appears from nowhere. Certainly, coming from the Galilee, nowhere special. We have no idea what has come before; how he prepared for this moment; if he prepared for this moment.

Maybe he 'prepared' by living the life 'more' ordinary?

Living and remembering the experiences of the outcast child; knowing that there were always those who were considered 'other' through no fault of their own;  who were being turned away by the teachers who would not 'suffer little children'. 

The experiences of a loving son seeing his mother  living through her 'reputation' with humility;  seeing her as the widow, scorned for the paltry gift she offered to the Temple.

The experiences of a man needing to provide for his family; taking the work he could find; working the docks; spending nights on the hills watching the sheep at shearing time; standing in the market square waiting for the overseers to come in from the country estates to find labourers for the harvest of grain and grape; seeing men argue and bow their heads over their worth; seeing other men exploit them as so much property; caring for friends crippled through exploitation and need.

We imagine that we don't know the ordinary life of Jesus. Perhaps we do; we just need to listen to what is already there - in what Jesus gives to us in the three years of his ministry; an ordinary life made extraordinary through Love.


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