I noticed something in my reading time this morning that has presumably been staring me in the face through many readings of the passage. In fact, this is the 14th morning in a row that I’ve read this as part of this week’s lectionary, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity. The passage is Matthew 3:13-17, and specifically verse 15.
But suddenly as I was thinking about just why it was that Jesus should get baptized it occurred to me first that if it was his Father’s will that he get baptized, even though he had no sin in need of forgiveness, and then didn’t get baptized, well, obviously that would have been sin. But I thought that was just a tricky way of stating what was obvious from the start.
Then I thought. “appropriate for us.” Who is “us?” John and Jesus? Jesus and the crowd around who didn’t participate? What about everybody, us, including me? In the sense that we are all called to be baptized, surely that’s true. But then it occurred to me that Jesus is here identifying himself with us in our baptism. When we are then baptized, we identify with him in ours. He’s so much a part of us that he does everything that we’re doing.
It struck me that one of the difficulties I see in intercessory prayer on behalf of a congregation is that often our 21st century psyches don’t really identify with the congregation. We do “identificational repentance” without really identifying with the ones we pray for. When Daniel prays for Israel in Daniel 9, it is clear that he is part of Israel, and repents for sins for which he feels the guilt as part of his people. When we pray for our churches or nations, it is often with a sense of praying for their sins, because we haven’t (in our view) contributed.
It was there all the time, but this morning I received a new blessing of feeling just how much Jesus identifies with us lowly folk way down here. At the same time I was challenged to identify more with my brothers and sisters in prayer, thought, and action.