Sunday we celebrate the Lord’s baptism. I have read a number of theologians, some of whom are Catholic, who argue that Jesus was a member of the Essenes, like John the Baptist. I am always struck by questions – so why did he seek John the Baptist out to get Baptized? It would have been a small community. John would have known him in a different way. Would Jesus might not be doing the same as a member of that community and perhaps be baptized already. It just doesn’t make sense.
Now, anyone who reads this blog knows that I am praying for dissenters but I don’t see the above as dissent. So I don’t want the leap to go there tonight. The above is an interesting question and interesting conjecture. It is unknown and perhaps unknowable. But it doesn’t make sense to me at all. But the whole Baptism idea is a mystery to me. Why be baptized back then? Was it a “new” thing. We know that women had to go through ritual purification in water – was it seen as the same thing? I don’t know any of the answers to these questions just like I don’t know the answer to the academic question of was Jesus an Essene?
I think they are interesting questions but my faith doesn’t depend upon the answers to those questions. That is my focus tonight! In so many ways, people use those questions to deconstruct the faith. If you can knock out some of the pegs, the whole will fall. Yet, it still doesn’t fall, does it? When I doubt the virgin birth, I do doubt the whole. But, that doubt usually leads to other thoughts about the whole. And when I think of the whole, I don’t doubt the virgin birth. So on Sunday, my questions and doubts won’t matter. I remember that these stories were being told when witnesses were still alive. Someone would have said – yes that happened- I was there. God did say “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (from here)
Generation after generation, we tell the tales – tell what the witnesses heard and saw. We have faith because they had faith. We have faith because the whole is reasonable even when others and we ourselves doubt and deconstruct the parts. That’s faith and that is why we celebrate it. We celebrate God coming into the world as one of us. It happened, rejoice. God was well pleased.