Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC
Sunday, February 26, 2023 — Morning
By Laura Still
When Jesus Came to Jordan
Read: Matthew 3:13-17, 4:1-11, Mark 1:9-13, Luke 21-23, 4:1-13 John 1:29-34
“When Jesus came to Jordan, to be baptized by John
He did not come for pardon, but as the Sinless One.
He came to share repentance, with all who mourn their sins,
to speak the vital sentence with which good news begins.”
I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first encountered this hymn, but I was an adult, because I was standing in the balcony of Church Street, the one on the lectern side where I still sit to this day. The memory is very clear, because the last line of the above verse lit a spark in my head. Suddenly I wasn’t just trying to follow the tune, I paid attention to the words, and the next verse:
“He came to share temptation, our utmost woe and loss,
for us and our salvation to die upon the cross.
So when the dove descended on him the Son of Man,
the hidden years had ended, the age of grace began.”
Now the spark was a flame—Jesus begins the age of grace, his ministry, after his baptism by John. The descending dove is recorded in all four of the gospels, testifying to the vision and the voice of God. Luke tells us that Jesus was about 30 years old when this happened. In the previous chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus is only twelve and has just frightened the life out of Mary and Joseph by disappearing in Jerusalem in three days before being found in the temple. He was taken back to Nazareth by his parents and settled down to being an obedient son. The years between twelve and thirty are a mystery to us; many scholars and writers have speculated about what Jesus was doing during that time but no one really knows. Remembering what those years were like in my own life, I wonder about Jesus, facing all the challenges of adolescence and becoming an adult. He had to have handled it better than I did—the words “he grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” are enough to tell me that. Those hidden years were spent learning, gaining self-knowledge and understanding, till he felt called to go to Jordan, to begin his ministry and his journey to the cross.
The story of Jesus and his temptation in the desert shows clearly that Jesus knows who he is, has turned his life toward God, and is determined to follow God’s plan from now on. This is our decision too, and every year during Lent we are asked to renew it: to turn our lives toward our Lord, and pray for his strength and purpose to guide us on our journey. The last verse is a good prayer for Lent, or any time we want to open our hearts to God.
“Come Holy Spirit, aid us to keep the vows we make;
this very day invade us and every bondage break.
Come give our lives direction, the gift we covet most:
to share the Resurrection that leads to Pentecost.”