Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
“At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water…” Mark 1: 9-10a (NIV)
From his view from the bank of the river the Roman soldier could see the frenetic activity of the gathering crowds. People left him alone out of fear that they would be dragged into the scene unfolding before them. Roman soldiers were normally known to be cruel, having been tempered in the coliseum in fights to the death. Those who didn’t die in the fights were thrown to the lions.
He learned to survive by any means. So no one bothered him as he watched the throngs descend into the water from the banks of the Jordan River in response to a call to repent from a strange-looking locust-eating man dressed in animal skins whom the people gathered referred to as “John the Baptizer.”
Everyone came. Merchants. Tax collectors. Religious leaders. Other soldiers. Men, women and children. Ordinary, everyday people. At least they seemed that way from outward appearances. On the inside, the Roman soldier knew things that others didn’t about them. He knew that that their lives were filled with hypocrisy, burdens, mistakes and failures. One of them was an adulterer, another was a thief, another, a religious leader was having an affair and stealing from the temple coffers to fund it, and yet another was a murderer. He had seen their lives lived out in acts of deceit and fraud, in hate, law-breaking and vengeance, and still others striving to do the best they could and still falling short in trying to get through life and what each day held for them. All of them were leaving behind a string of broken promises, broken relationships and broken lives.
Everyone came it seemed.
And everyone descended into the water. As he watched the river fill with person after person, he could almost see the water turn a cloudy grayish-brown hew before his eyes, perhaps from the burdens and junk of what they brought with them.
You wonder what the Roman soldier would see if his thoughts fast-forwarded through the years and he looked around at the world today. He might be amazed to see similar-looking people still gathering—or needing to gather—on the bank of the river. People who looked the same on the outside—ordinary, everyday people like you and like me. But inside, he would know from experience that things were much different than they appeared to be, although the burdens and junk they brought were called by many different names.
To his right he would see a neighbor he knew to be addicted for years on drugs and alcohol, born of a difficult childhood. To his left someone’s sister, lost to her family for years and wishing it weren’t so, but never sure how to bridge the span of those years of separation. Behind him he could see a man who cheated and lied at every opportunity to get ahead, and in the process left a legacy of worldly “success” colored with the debris of destroyed lives lying along the sides of the path he had chosen.
Wherever he looked he would see generations of children being exposed to violent and immoral images. He wasn’t surprised by a new reality craze sweeping the culture that encouraged them to scrap integrity and conscience for a life-style that sought to outwit and double-deal everyone to get ahead. And there was the all-too-familiar and ominous cloud of world unrest and tensions of explosive proportions. Everywhere he turned it would take him back to that scene of long ago.
Into these valleys of brokenness—then and now—the Son of God descends waist deep in the murky water of our lives, bringing a promise of forgiveness, restoration, newness and hope. He always has and always will.
By descending, He knows what He is getting Himself into. But He has always chosen to go anyway. He has been there before, on a journey that took Him all the way to the Cross for each of us. The Roman soldier remembers that moment, too.
And now He stands here again—the Son of God—wading waist deep into the water, for each one of us. Waist deep into all the crud of our lives.
After he had watched for a while, the Roman soldier finally found himself making his way down the bank and into the river to the waiting arms of the One who would change all the junk, and help him to carry all the burdens, of his life. And in the blink of that decision, he moved from a once-feared Roman soldier, to a beloved child of God.
What about you? Or someone you know?
Forgiveness, restoration, newness and hope awaits—now and for all eternity.
Just something to think about today and every day for the rest of our lives.
In His Name—Scott
Copyright 2011. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.