Tony's Reflection 27 

 

 He made his debut in 1992, became a household name in 1996, but by 1998 he was being burnt in effigy. By 2002 he was at the top of his profession once more.

Who am I talking about?

The answer is in the footnote.[1]

That young man had to live through the most outrageous highs and lows. From national hero, to national villain and back again, all in the space of six years.

This week, we see the curtain raising on Jesus himself, in Mark's biography. No detail about childhood or early years, but straight into his public life. That was the way with biography back then. A biography wasn't a complete chronology of someone's life. You just gave key incidents, with as much accuracy as you possibly could, to show the sort of person your character was.

Mark never wastes his words. Each little story is in there, not to satisfy curiosity, but to tell us something precious about Jesus his good news.

We have two pithy little episodes, this week. One a real high. The other a low.

We heard about John the Baptist last week. He was the one getting people ready, to receive God's unique representative. To be ready, to receive Jesus and his good news into their lives, they had to turn away from their sins. As a sign of this turning away, John baptised them.

Surprise, surprise, Jesus comes to get baptised by John. That was the “high”.

Jesus is God's unique representative. Why does he get baptised? Does he have skeletons in his cupboard, secret sins he needs to repent of?

Jesus was sinless. The only human being who never did anything wrong. Even his enemies, when given the chance, couldn't pin anything on him. He had never failed to love God or his neighbour.

Of course, Jesus had no need to get into that river and be baptised. He could simply have stood at the edge and watched other people going under the water (that was how you got baptised, back then). He might have wagged his finger at some, for the sins they were repenting of. He could have tut-tutted at the misdeeds being brought into the open. When the notorious sinners went under, he could have been on the edge of the water telling them it was about time they sorted their lives out.

Jesus wasn't stood on the edge of the riverbank watching those repenting. For some, this would have been a painful experience, owning up to the wrongs they had done and taking responsibility for them before God. For others, it would have been a joyful release, with the freedom of knowing they had been forgiven.

Some in that river were sorrowing. Others were rejoicing. Where was Jesus? He was in there with them. He was having the same baptism they were. He was right in the thick of it. Up close with people when it hurt and when it was good.

Jesus is God's special representative. When he acts, God acts. When he comes close, God comes close. What we see him doing back then, he still does today. He never changes.

Where is Jesus, where is God, when your life hurts? Where is he when you are guilty or ashamed? Where is he when life is on the up?

Ups or downs, he is there with you in both.

When life goes wrong and it hurts, some people ask, "Where is God?" He is right there with you, in the thick of it. Ready to come alongside. Ready to understand. Ready to help.

Jesus himself had a remarkable "high" when he was baptised. The heavens opened, he saw straight into God's palace and he heard God's voice saying, "You are my son. I love you.” The Holy Spirit (another person of God – remember, God is three persons in one) came down upon him in person.

What a high that must have been. Jesus must have felt ready to take on the world, with God with him, in him and upon him in such an amazing way.

What does the Holy Spirit do next? He sends Jesus out into the wilderness to take on Satan, his archenemy. Jesus was "just" a man and Satan was an angelic being, turned bad. This was not going to be easy…

Straight after the high of baptism, comes the low of having a serious fight on his hands. Satan couldn't wait to have a go at this "Messiah" and see what he was made of. And the same God who gave him the wonderful “high” at baptism, brought him into this harrowing “low” of conflict.

Have you sometimes had a "high" with God, only to find that it is followed by a crunching low? A low which seems to contest and undermine what you have just enjoyed with God?

A mountaintop high with God, then straight into a bone-juddering low. That's what happened to Jesus. Does it happen to you sometimes? You are in good company…
signed Tony

[1] This is David Beckham.
He made his senior debut for Manchester United on 1992 and hit the headlines in 1996 when scored a sensational goal from the half way line.
After being sent off in the World Cup last 16 game against Argentina he was sent off for kicking Diego Simeone. He was vilified in the Press and the Sun even printed a picture of his face for use as a dart board.
He fought his way back and was made captain of England in 2002.