Intentions. When you and I have intentions to do something… it’s our aim, our plan… it’s a goal we’ve set out to accomplish. And we all have good intentions… well, maybe they’re not all good… but we do all have intentions. And I also know there’s a certain pathway that’s apparently paved with them!
Of course, even Jesus had intentions… in fact, according to our scripture, Jesus came to the Jordan River with the full intention of being baptized by John. And that’s an important part of our scripture lesson, that I think sometimes gets overlooked. It’s not like Jesus was just walking along one day… and happened to be passing by and “up and decided” to be baptized at the spur of the moment. It wasn’t an impulsive, spontaneous decision – like buying a “National Enquirer” in the checkout line at Kroger (or swinging by the drive thru at Dairy Queen for a Butterfinger Blizzard). It was Jesus’ steadfast intention to be baptized… in fact, he made his way from Galilee to the Jordan for the expressed purpose of being baptized.
Of course, Jesus was aware of his greater purpose. He knew full-well who he was, and he knew the plan! After all, like we talked about last week, because of Jesus, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The “Word” was the “mind” or “logos” (wisdom) or “thought” of God. Jesus had been in this world for 30 years, preparing and waiting for the right moment, the right time… to begin his ministry of revealing God’s Word… proclaiming the Gospel… preaching and teaching about the coming Kingdom “as one with authority” while healing and performing wonders and miracles the likes of which people had never seen before.
Jesus acknowledged the greater plan for his life… so he traveled to the Jordan with the full intention of being baptized by John. Of course, God has a plan for our lives, too!
And like John – we sometimes protest! And it’s not hard to understand why! John knew who Jesus was. John knew that Jesus was the Lamb of God who’d come to take away the sins of the world. He had just finished telling the Pharisees and Sadducees that there was One coming who was greater than him… whose sandals he wasn’t worthy to carry. John baptized with water (like regular preachers do!) but the One coming would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
John realized that Jesus was “the One” he’d been preaching about. The Messiah. The Anointed One. So he told Jesus "You should be baptizing me!" But Jesus insisted. And John complied.
And the fact is… sometimes, like John, we have trouble appreciating God's plan. We can’t imagine or conceive of how God could possibly use us… or… we don’t see anything wrong with the way we’re doing whatever it is we’re doing! Very good and needed things, most of the time! But sometimes God has other plans. And so we find our very good intentions to be in contradiction to God's better intentions. Even when we’re trying to be faithful, we occasionally find ourselves trying to “deter” God and saying, "No, that's not right. I should be going that way. I’m not good enough, or smart enough, or talented enough, or…" Well, you get the point.
That’s when God says, “listen to me… unless you let me set the terms of the relationship, you’ll never know my greater blessings.” Because, as 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” God looks within us… God sees the parts of us that others never know… and he sets His plans for us accordingly.
To struggle, from time to time, with who and Whose we are in a natural part of becoming the people God intends us to be. It’s part of finding Gods plan for us. It's no sin. Even John tried to “deter” Jesus.
But his resistance quickly gave way to obedience… as John listened and baptized Jesus… even though in his mind, it should have been the other way around.
John listened to Jesus… and because he listened… because he was obedient… he was able to witness the Glory of God on full display! The heaven’s opened… and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove. And then the voice of God confirming his faith "This is my Son with whom I am well pleased."
Of course, the fact is… you and I may never experience such a spectacular display of God’s glory… but God always rewards our faithfulness. Sometimes our intentions – even the very best of intentions – are simply not part of God’s plan. But when we listen to Jesus’ voice… and when we submit our will and ways to His… even when it doesn’t make sense to us… even when God’s Will seems to be beyond us… our faith and trust in Christ will be rewarded.
What are our intentions? What are our plans, goals… our aim and purpose? The start of a new year is always a good time to ask such a question!
God intended for his son to die for the sins of the world – it was His plan… and nothing was gonna’ stop it. Jesus intended to be baptized by John – he couldn’t be deterred. John had at first intended to stop Jesus. But in the end John, who had called others to repentance, repented himself and submitted to God’s will, and baptized Jesus. And, in so doing, he witnessed the Glory of God and heard God's voice!
So what are our intentions?
Do you and I intend to love the Lord with all our “heart, soul, mind and strength” in this new year? Do you and I intend to serve the Lord with gladness? Coming before his presence with singing? Do we intend to (as Jesus did), “preach good news to the poor? To bind-up the brokenhearted? To proclaim freedom for captives and release from darkness to the oppressed?” Do we intend to “comfort those who mourn” ~ while disturbing the comfortable?
What are our intentions? To serve God… to listen to his voice… or to stubbornly keep to our own will and ways? We can learn a lesson from the example of John. Sometimes even our best intentions can be “out of step” with God's plan. And in those moments, we need to trust that Jesus knows best.
That is not always an easy thing to do. But if we do, we will be rewarded. We will see the Glory of God revealed in our lives.
And ultimately, that should be the intent of all our hearts… the desire of our souls… to see the Glory of God revealed in our lives and in this world… and to one day hear God say, of us, as he said of Jesus, "This is my Son (my daughter) in whom I am well pleased."