As a Christian believer, I’ve given up the idea of “luck”, “circumstances”, and “coincidence”, or at least I’m trying to give it up. I didn’t reach this point all at once; it’s difficult to give up the idea that events “just happen”. However, as difficult as it is to stop thinking in terms of “luck”, it’s also difficult to embrace “trust” and “faith” in God’s timing. However, I’ve come to believe that God’s plans overarch every plan made by man. Things that seem to happen by accident are woven into His plans. It’s easier to see God’s timing when extraordinary things happen like they were “meant” to be, but even when bad things happen to good people, God uses those circumstances to bring about His will.
The transition from John the Baptist to Jesus is an example of God’s timing.
John the Baptist came preaching to the people of Judah and baptizing them in the Jordan River. Spiritual fervor was at all-time high because –finally!–the people had someone whom they recognized as a prophet after 400 years of silence from God, without prophets. The Jews were firmly under the thumb of their Roman overlords, chafing at Roman interference and control over Jewish internal affairs.
And then, along comes John, an authoritative speaker, a man who had a very different lifestyle and appearance, known to abstain from wine, proclaiming that the day of the Lord was at hand, and baptizing for the repentance of sins. People flocked to him in the wilderness. He even had disciples, men dedicated to following him and learning from him. After a while, the leaders of the Jews felt compelled to send men to ask John, “Who are you?”
John explained that he wasn’t the Christ or Elijah, and he wasn’t The Prophet. In essence, he told them, “I’m not the man you’re looking for.” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
He’s coming. He’s coming. Get ready. Repent. I’m not the one, but He’s coming. Cleanse yourselves. Wait for it. Wait for it…
The next day, Jesus came by while John was teaching, and John gave his famous speech:
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” John 1:29-34
Was the appearance of Jesus at that time a coincidence? Never! God’s timing was perfect in every way. By the time Jesus walked by, John’s disciples were prepared. John the Baptist was ready. John, the man who was never drunk, never full of “spirits”, was empowered by the Spirit to proclaim the presence of the one “who takes away the sins of the world!”
You may ask yourself why John the Baptist didn’t begin pointing to Jesus as the Christ immediately after he saw the Spirit descending, but if you’ll remember, Matthew tells us that Jesus was led into the wilderness for forty days right after he was baptized.
The baptism of Jesus, with the Spirit of God descending upon him, marked a new beginning for Jesus. He didn’t need to repent, but he submitted to baptism in order to fulfill what John had been told would happen. The time was right for Jesus’ ministry to begin.
Before Jesus was baptized, Jesus probably lived at home with his mother and siblings, helping to support the family as a carpenter. We have no reason to think otherwise. After his baptism, Jesus was tested in the wilderness, he left his home behind, and he began making disciples. We’re told that his mother and his brothers had problems (at first) accepting Jesus in his role as the Savior of the world.
Before Jesus was baptized, we have no record of signs and miracles. Afterward, he was accused of being in league with Satan, so great and wonderful were the miracles he performed.
For thirty years before his baptism, Jesus lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. After his baptism, Jesus lived three, short years on this earth and changed the world forever.
Baptism, when water and Spirit combine, marks a new beginning for us, too. As Paul tells us:
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4 ESV
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