Baptism, Identity and Mission
Jesus’ mission here on earth began with his baptism. He was around thirty years old. In his culture, he could have had a family and raised kids in the years before he went out to the Jordan River and encountered John. After all, we imagine his mother, Mary, had him when she was fourteen or so.
The rite of passage into male adulthood occurred at age 12 or 13 – just after St. Luke places Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem talking to the elders. Say he got married at 14 and raised a couple of kids for the next 16 years. Maybe tragedy took his family from him. Maybe his wife died in childbirth. Maybe none of the kids reached age 14, when they themselves got married. Or maybe they did.
Imagine he had always had inklings that he was more, a different sort of being from his fellow townspeople. But there was no one to guide him except his “crazy” mother. Imagine him trying his hand at healing and being rebuffed by the Elders. Imagine people being horrified and fearful of what he could do. Imagine him hiding his light under a barrel and teaching and healing in secret. Imagine him chafing under the tutelage of the rabbis and the town leaders. What they were saying was wrong. But maybe he got it into his head that he was the one who was wrong. Imagine him knowing that his Father was God, but recoiling, thinking himself too grandiose, too crazy. Imagine him trying to be normal, trying to fit in.
Imagine that Jesus’ trip to visit John was a sort of midlife turning point. Imagine him finally embracing his true nature there in the water, in a ritual presided over by his fiery cousin. He heard God speaking. Imagine him finally accepting, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Imagine that this revelation confirmed all that he had already suspected. Imagine it drove him into the desert, where he finally came to terms with who he really was. Imagine him finally admitting that he was the Son of God, the Messiah. Imagine him trying that on and deciding how he would bring his true being, the understandings and presence he had cultivated all his life, to the world.
It started with baptism. The descent into the water washed away all the failures and shortcomings of a life lived in an ego-centered way. A new affiliation was forged, a new relationship with the Self. The ego was in fact cracked open like an egg, making room for fresh vision, new interpretation – making room for the voice of God to descend like a dove and be heard.
None of us is the Messiah, of course. But we each are children of God, and, as such, we are more than we usually imagine ourselves to be. We were conceived before the world began to be a unique part of God’s holy plan. Do we know who we really are and what our mission is?
Remember your baptism. Descend again to that place where you died to the ways of the world to be reborn in Christ. Maybe this is something that happened when you were very young. It still has power. Imagine the death of ego needs and perspectives in the water of holy revelation. God speaks to you there. How does God name you? How does God claim you? What does God say?