“One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and he was baptized by John in the Jordan River. And when Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens split open and the Holy Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came form heaven saying, ‘You are my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with you.”’ Mark 1:9-10 New Living Translation
There is no shortage of messages, comments, sermons, even speculations concerning the baptism of Jesus. Most of them focus on the reason Jesus took this somewhat extreme action, especially if we follow the traditional teaching that baptism is a public declaration that one has accepted the truth of their need for a Savior.
By receiving the ordinance of baptism, the individual is publicly declaring they recognize they have been born separated from the One who gives Life and now seek to be reconciled to Him. As we understand Jesus, He had no need to make this declaration, thus the continued discussion of why He chose to submit to the ritual of baptism.
What I have found to be of greater importance are the words spoken as Jesus came up out of the water. In the Christian tradition we understand baptism to be an entering into the death of Christ, the burial and the resurrection. In this way the participant becomes a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come to stay! We become the beloved in whom the Father takes great pleasure.
It is this reality I want to explore with you, because I believe it is integral to a dynamic understanding of God’s picture of us, how He sees us, and how He views who we are as His creations. And I am convinced this determines how we see ourselves and the rest of humanity, either with compassion or through eyes jaundiced by a need to judge.
In his book “The Life of the Beloved,” Henri Nouwen presents a compelling insight into one factor impacting our ability to accept our place as the beloved.
“These negative voices are so loud and so persistent that it is easy to believe them. That’s the great trap. It is the trap of self-rejection. Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can, indeed, present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection.” (Life of the Beloved p. 31, Henri Nouwen)
I certainly cannot speak for anyone else, but I do know my own struggles throughout my own life with self-rejection issues. The negative voices Henri Nouwen describes have been my companions for as long as I am able to remember. The only difference being I have called them my tapes, and they are well worn! So when I found myself exposed to an opportunity for a deeper understanding of those words which are so profoundly life transforming, I was ready.
From many conversations with others, I am convinced I am not the only one who lives through the nightmare of self-rejection. I know it is chronic, and I know it is curable if we are willing to hear the One whose voice of authority calls us the beloved. And here lies the challenge, who are we going to listen to? Who will we choose to believe? Will we believe God who calls us His beloved, or the enemy who desires only to destroy all God loves? There, as they say, lies the rub!
“Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence.” (ibid p.33)
How can we fulfill our calling when through our belief (or lack of belief) we call God a liar? I know asking that question is like a slap in the face, however it is also a truth. In denying the truth that we are the beloved of the Father we declare God as the One who is not telling the truth. The enemy is then validated in his lies, and it this message that confuses the world!
We talk a message of love, acceptance, grace, and then deny that same message through our self-rejection. This is manifested in the way we reject those who will not accept our version of the gospel, or any message we bring. We seem never to consider that our non-verbal witness shouts rejection on nearly every level of our lives. And there is only one way this can be healed in humanity; it as we accept the truth of God’s declaration that we, too, are His Beloved!
It’s the message of the gospel, the bible, of grace, the message of God’s love shouted from mountain ranges on the brightest of mornings and whispered gently into ears in the late hours of the sleepless night. It echoes down through the millennia from that first enquiry in the Garden of Betrayal, “Where are you?” to the Garden of Hope, “Not my will, but Yours!” The message was and is the same, “You are my Beloved, I know who you are, what you did, and I will always love you!”
This portion of the gospel led Jesus to the cross where He prayed for our forgiveness knowing we are clueless, we don’t know what it is we are doing. We have no idea what it is we are missing, what is actually occurring, and how deeply it impacts us all!
So once more I am inviting you to join me as I explore the reality of being and becoming the Beloved of God. I hope in the journey you will discover this truth for yourself. And if you already know it, then consider inviting others to join us as we continue to discover the depths of being and becoming the Beloved, as well! As always it is my goal to be as vulnerable, honest, authentic, real, transparent as is possible in communicating this profound truth of God’s Grace and Love!
“The Lord came to us from far away, saying, “I have loved you with a love that lasts forever. So I have helped you come to Me with loving-kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3 New Life Version