Here is a Savior who waited in line. When he came up out of the water, God spoke. But prior to that moment, Jesus waited his turn.
God’s words from the sky in Matthew 3:17 (“This is my beloved Son”) echoed the great Old Testament coronation hymn in Psalm 2 (see verse 7, “You are my Son”). Those words were part of the liturgy at the crowning of a new king. Thus, at the Jordan River, they identified Jesus as God’s Son and Israel’s king. He was both.
And this Son of God / King of Israel had just been standing in a queue, waiting his turn to get submerged in the Jordan River in a baptism for sinners. Even in this striking demonstration of becoming “one of us”, he didn’t jump the queue. He didn’t demand his own personal baptism ceremony on a special day. He joined with the crowds, and he waited in line.
Matthew tells us that the public response to the preaching of John the Baptist was massive: “Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him” (3:5). That means thousands of people. And that means waiting in line to be baptized, possibly for hours.
My wife told me once that I was the most impatient person she’d ever met. Not surprisingly, I find waiting in a queue irritating. At a restaurant, in a movie theater, at an amusement park, in a doctor’s office, whatever.
Not so Jesus. And not only is he patient to wait his turn. He waited his turn with the crowd. Luke reinforces the point: “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too” (3:21 NIV).
Should this surprise me? No. Thirty years before his baptism, the angel of the Lord told Jesus’ earthly father Joseph that Jesus’ messianic title would be “Emmanuel – God With Us” (Matt 1:23). And at the end of his earthly mission, he promises the church, “I am with you always” (28:20).
Beginning and end, he is with us: Narrative bookends that define the meaning of his mission.
With us whenever, whatever. Like all of us he experienced exasperation (Matt 17:17). Anguish (26:39). Relational disappointment (26:40). All moments in his earthly journey, and all signs of his being with us “always.”
In the aftermath of my recent heart attack, I am spending a fair bit of time in doctor’s offices. Sitting in the aptly-named “waiting room”. Noticing the doctor is running 40 minutes late. Tired (the blood-pressure meds do that). Irritated (my impatience does that). Anxious (am I going to fully recover?)
Is he with me?
Matthew’s answer: Jesus’ coronation (“This is my Son!”) did not take place after he performed a notable miracle. It took place when he came out of the water. After throwing in his lot with sinners by being baptized. He is with us!
And after waiting in line.