As I write this, the prayers of millions are focused on a young football player, Damar Hamlin, who collapsed on the field last Monday night. By all accounts, Damar is a Jesus follower and a man of character. He’s also an elite athlete. Last Monday, millions watched in shock and sadness, and for a moment at least, were left to contemplate what’s important in life.
This Sunday, as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, we again contemplate what’s important in life.
When couples bring their child to be baptized, I remind them there will be moments when they will be terrified for their child’s health: A little one struggles to breathe in the middle of the night; her fever spikes, prompting a panicked rush to the ER.
In those moments of terror, we remember our Baptism.
We remember that we are not our own. Our children are not our own. We belong to an eternal God who first gave himself to us.
John the Baptist had said that Jesus would come to baptize people with fire. Instead, Jesus showed up asking to be baptized by John. There was no fire and John was horrified. He said, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
New Testament scholar Dale Bruner said this was the first miracle of Jesus: the miracle of his humility. The miracle that God was willing to go down with the whole human race into the waters of repentance and baptism.
Jesus began his life as a baby in the manger, but he began his ministry in a river with sinners.
His life ended with prayers for us on a cross between sinners.
His entire ministry was down at our level; identifying with us; one with us in our humanity.
In life and in death, we’re his.
That’s what’s important in life.