THIS WEEK WE BEGIN A NEW CHURCH YEAR.  AND WE DO IT, AS WE DO IT EVERY YEAR, WITH THE BAPTISM OF JESUS AT THE JORDAN.  THE GOSPEL WRITERS USE THIS EVENT TO INTRODUCE JESUS.  TO TELL WHO HE IS.  WHAT HE DID.  AND WHY HE DID IT.

THE DESCRIPRTIONS OF WHO HE IS, AND WHAT HE DID ARE PRESENTED IN TWO WAYS.  THERE IS THE WHO.  AND THE ‘WHO’ IS PRESENTED IN VERY ANCIENT-ROOTED , HEBRAIC IMAGES.  THESE IMAGES COME FROM AN ANCIENT  CULTURE THAT IS REALLY A CLOSED BOOK TO US. THE WORDS WE CAN UNDERSTAND.  BECAUSE WE USE MODERN WORDS IN THE GOSPELS. BUT CULTURAL REALITIES THEY REFER TO – THE HEBRAIC SENSES OF RELIGION ESPECIALLY THAT PHRASE “THE LAMB OF GOD” – THEY ARE VERY DISTANT FROM US.  SO TODAY I WANT TO PUT THAT PHRASE ASIDE.  I WILL GO BACK TO IT.  IT IS ESSENTIAL TO UNDERSTAND THAT PHRASE – THE LAMB OF GOD – IF WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND JESUS AS MESSIAH.  I WILL GO BACK TO IT A NUMBER OF TIMES DURING THE YEAR.

SO I’M GOING TO JUMP TO THE SECOND PART OF THIS GOSPEL STORY.  THE DESCRIPTIONS OF WHAT JESUS DID RIGHT AFTER THE BAPTISM.  AND IT IS EASY TO KNOW WHAT HE DID BECAUSE THE GOSPEL WRITERS [- ALL OF THEM – TELL US – OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

THEY TELL US THAT JESUS WENT OUT PREACHING FROM PLACE TO PLACE.  AND IN EVERY STORY THE WRITERS GIVE US THEY HAVE JESUS DOING THE SAME THING.  HE HEALS PEOPLE. HE WILL START OUT HEALING PEOPLE, OR HE WILL FINISH HIS TALK BY HEALING. SO OFTEN WE READ, AND AT THE END THEY BROUGHT TO HIM THEIR LAME AND POSSESED AND BLIND AND HE HEALED THEM.

THEY DESCRIBE JESUS GOING FROM VILLAGE TO VILLAGE HEALING PEOPLE.   SO IMPORTANT.  SO OVERLOOKED.  THE ONE COMMON THEME IN HIS ACTIONS AS THEY DESCRIBE IT IS HEALING.  IT IS DESCRIBED WITH A REAL SIMPLICITY OF WORDS – THEY BRING HIM SUFFERING PEOPLE AND HE HEALED THEM.

AS I MENTIONED EARLIER THE GOSPELS BEGIN WITH TELLING US WHO HE WAS, AND WHAT HE DID.  AND WHAT HE DID – THE ONE COMMON THEME AT THE START IS HEALING. THEY PRESENT HIM AS A HEALER.  IN A WORLD WHERE POWER AND AUTHORITY HAD THEIR CONCRETE PRESENCE IN RAW POWER – THE POWER TO JUDGE, THME POWER TO CON

COULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING VERY DIFFERENT. IN THEIR WORLD WHEN YOU INTRODUCED SOMEONE YOU TALKED ABUT HIS POWER, HIS AUTHORITY, HIS GREAT PROMISE.  HOW DOES CAESAR START HIS OWN INTRODUCTION TO THE ROMAN PEOPLE WHEN HE CAME HOME FROM THE WARS IN GAUL.   I CAME.  I SAW.  I CONQUERED.

THAT IS N OT JESUS IN THE GOSPELS.  HE IS PRESENTED AS A HEALER. AND THE PEOPLE HE HEALS RUN FROM THE POOREST CRIPPLES ON THE STREET TO THE SERVANTS OF THE RICH AND POWERFUL.  IT HAD TO BE THE SERVANTS.  IF THE RICH AND POWERFUL GOT SICK AND NEEDED HELP THEY WERE GONE IN 24 HOURS.

THE FIRST PART OF THE GOSPEL WRITERS INTRODUCTION THAT I MENTIONED –  THE  LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD – WHAT THIS MEANS IS VERY FAR FROM OUR WORLD, BUT IT IS ESSENTIAL TO THE LIFE AND TEACHING OF JESUS. THE HEART OF TMHE CHURCH’S ENTIRE YEAR IS A PRESENTATION OF WHAT THAT MEANS.  IT IS WHAT HEBREW RELIGION AND WORSHIP, AND WHAT THE CRUCIFIXION IS ABOUT. WE WILL GO BACK TO THAT.

BUT HERE AT THE START OF THE CHURCH’S YEAR, AND AT THE START OF OUR READINGS OF THE GOSPELS, WE RECALL THAT JESUS IS DESCRIBED – OVER AND OVER – AS A HEALER.  NOT A JUDGE.  NOT A RULER.  A HEALER.