The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Lord, 9th January 2022

Nothing is as it seems, or so it seems. In Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism there is no dialogue between Jesus and John and the revelation of who he is seems a very private matter for Jesus alone for later John sends disciples to Jesus to ask him ‘Are you the one who is to come or shall we look for another?’ John has had to wait, like everyone else perhaps, for Jesus’ healing ministry to get underway before realising that this cousin he’d baptised in the Jordan was the possible Messiah, the one Israel, and the world, had been waiting for for so long – the one who would bring peace – or was it division? For in all that we read of Jesus, and of the life he brings, there is this tension between flux and form, between change and changelessness, between an identity that persists forever and an identity that is always on the move and impossible to pin down. What I have in mind is reading about rock pools and Heraclitus and Adam Nicholson’s reflections on their ever-changing nature and yet identity still as rock pools. Heraclitus famously said, or was supposed to have said:

You cannot step into the same river twice’, since the river is so changeable that each time you dip a foot in it, it is a different river.

(p147 The Sea is not made of Water)

What he actually said was:

Upon those who step into the same rivers different and different waters flow

The point being that although the waters are different it’s the same river or, as Adam Nicholson goes on to say ‘It is a river because it changes. If it did not change it would be a lake’. We could go on at some length on this but at the risk of total confusion I’d like also to introduce the idea of stillness and peace and identity as a matter of attention even as everything changes. A moment of stillness descends on Jesus when he steps out of these flowing waters – something has changed which only he seems in Luke’s account to be aware of, something to do with the fact that he has been praying both before and after his immersion, something to do with paying attention to something, or someone, other than himself (at the risk of heresy) – and this seems very like what psychologists might describe as ‘a flow state’ – or in one description:

‘It’s when you are doing something meaningful to you, and you really get into it, and time falls away, and your ego seems to vanish and you find yourself focusing deeply and effortlessly.’  (Focus(if you still can)) 

Johann Hari, Observer 2/1/22

One loses oneself as it were, only to find oneself.

Now, hopefully to bring this all together – what we see is Jesus as a person on the move, forever changing, just like the rest of us but also, and unlike the rest of us, able to focus so totally on God that God is realised through him or just as well, that he realises his identity in God. He’s in a flow state in which the waters and fire of the Holy Spirit flow through him and reveal him as the unchanging Son of God – the logos, or principle of change on which all life depends – a principle of peace – or is it division?