What was happening when nothing was happening?
Isaiah 42: 1-9 Matthew 3: 13-17
There is nothing worse that coming halfway into a conversation and you have missed the important part that makes sense of the rest of the conversation.
Or worse, people presume that you know stuff when you don’t.
Maybe because they have imagined that conversation so many times in their head that they believe that they have had the conversation.
My wife has those conversations with me all the time.
I will come into the house and she will say, ’Don’t forget that we are out tonight at that party.’
And I will say, ‘What party?’
And she will say, ‘Fred’s party. You know the guy that you think is obnoxious. His wife invited us to his birthday party two months ago.’
And I will say, ‘This is the first I have heard of it. Why would I agree to go to a party of someone I think is obnoxious?’
And she will say, ‘We’ve already had this conversation.’
I will check my memory.
I will check my diary.
And I will see no sign that we had that conversation.
I try to tell my wife that if I am asleep when she is having the conversation then the conversation doesn’t count.
I try to tell my wife that if she has imagined the conversation with me then that doesn’t count as actually having a conversation with me.
But for some reason, known only to my wife, that counts.
I am just supposed to KNOW.
Just like when we come in halfway through a conversation, we are just supposed to know what has been spoken before hand and catch up.
To a certain degree that is what is happening here.
A couple of weeks ago we were celebrating the birth of Christ.
And now Jesus is an adult and starting his ministry fully fledged.
Jesus has travelled from Nazareth down to Galilee to begin his journey that will lead to Jerusalem and the cross.
John the Baptist sees him and even at the start recognises that Christ’s ministry will far outdo his own.
Roughly 30 years have taken place between the birth and the baptism.
What happened in all that time?
When supposedly nothing was happening in Jesus’ life, what was happening?
This is important.
It is important because the Bible sees what Jesus did in the last three years of his life as significant to the kingdom of God. But what happened beforehand wasn’t significant, or not significant enough for any of it to be recorded.
What did Jesus do before he did anything that was significant?
Now that is important to us because we know we have a ministry.
There are times in our life when we will say something or do something that is important to the kingdom work.
There are times in our life when we will say something or do something that will bring a piece of heaven’s kingdom down to earth.
We will encourage someone just at the moment they are thinking of giving up.
We will support someone when they are having dark, destructive thoughts.
We will try to bring reconciliation to a couple whose relationship is falling apart.
We will inspire someone to do something good that helps others.
We will bring hope or joy or peace to someone and remind them that they are a child of God.
We will bring a moment of light into a place of shadow and in doing so chase the darkness away.
There are moments in our life that are significant.
There are moments in our life that we do good.
But what do we do before that moment?
What do we do while we are waiting for those moments of significance?
Well we can work out some of what Jesus did while he waited 30 odd years to do anything significant.
What can we work out?
We know that he would have been educated in the synagogue and learnt off by heart the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and possibly the whole of what we call the Old Testament. We know that because every male was taught to recite the Torah for their Bar Mitzvah.
And we know from the way he quoted scripture and used those quotes when he was in discussion with the Pharisees and the Scribes that he knew these passages well.
We know that he was a carpenter. We know that because every first-born male would have been taught the family trade from their father and Jesus’ father was Joseph, a carpenter.
We also know that he lived with his mother, brothers and sisters until he started his ministry. We know that because the Bible tells us that at one point his mother and family come to see him and someone says to him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside wanting to see you.’
That also tells us something. It tells us that Joseph at that point had died. We know that because if Joseph had been alive it would have been his responsibility as head of the family to seek out Jesus and sort him out.
And that may explain why Jesus waited until he was 30 before he started this phase of his ministry. If Joseph had died then it would have been Jesus’ responsibility to look after his mother and brothers until they were able to look after themselves.
So Jesus would have waited until one of his other brothers was old enough and able enough to take on the responsibility as head of the family.
Funnily enough, though we don’t think about it, something similar must have happened to John the Baptist.
We read in the passages today that John the Baptist had just started his ministry of baptism in the Jordan.
Now we know that John’s mother Elizabeth and Jesus’ mother Mary were pregnant at roughly the same time. So by logic they would have been roughly the same age.
So if John didn’t start his ministry until he would roughly 30 odds as well, we can fairly surmise that he was looking after his parents until that responsibility wasn’t needed.
My gut feeling is that John looked after Elizabeth and Zechariah until they died and then started his ministry preaching and baptising.
Over those 30 years it is fair to surmise that Mary and Elizabeth kept contact. The first person Mary went to when she was told she was going to be pregnant was Elizabeth. So it is safe to presume that Mary saw Elizabeth as a confident, someone to go to in times of worry; like when her husband died.
And if Mary is going to see Elizabeth then the kids are coming along too.
So John and Jesus would have met a lot, talked a lot, discussed a lot over those years.
Now this is where things start to make sense.
And gives us the importance of what was happening when, according to the Bible, nothing was happening.
Because although the Bible by implication is telling us that nothing important is happening worth recording, the truth is that the most important thing is happening...Jesus is doing life with God.
Jesus may not have done anything that the Bible thinks is important.
He may not have been teaching or healing or doing miracles.
But that doesn’t mean that he was just sitting in a corner twiddling his thumbs waiting for this moment.
Jesus was doing life with God.
How would God want him to read scripture?
How would God want him to be a big brother?
How would God want him to be a son?
How would God want him to do business transactions when he was negotiating the price of a wardrobe he was making?
How would God want him to fix the neighbours door?
How would God want him to barter for the price of the food for the family?
How would God want him to be a good neighbour?
How would God want him to be a good friend?
How would God want him to cope with the death of his father?
How would God want him to live every part of his life?
For nearly 30 years Jesus reflected on how God would want him to live his life and sought to live that life the way God would want.
And John would see that every time Mary and Jesus and the rest of the family visited.
That is what makes sense of today’s passage, But John tried to make him change his mind. “I ought to be baptised by you and yet you come to me.”
John wasn’t talking to a stranger that he hardly knew but somehow God had mysteriously given him this insight that Jesus was the son of God. John had watched Jesus throughout his life and seen how he lived a life close to God.
All those years of watching Jesus grow and watching Jesus show God’s care through his life that was what inspired John to say what he said.
But that’s also our insight.
What should we do between those moments of significance?
What do we do with our life when nothing important seems to be happening?
We do the most important thing; we live the life that God would want us to live.
How do we buy food the way God would want us to?
How do we treat those who serve us in the shops the way God would want us to?
How do we treat the bus drivers and the postmen the way God would want us to?
How do we treat our neighbours, our friends, our family the way God would want us to?
How do we treat those who annoy us and infuriate us the way God would want us to?
How do we spend our money the way God would want us to?
How do we treat the environment the way God would want us to?
How do we drive our cars the way God would want us to?
Now this may seem really silly. But every aspect of our life either brings us and others closer to God or further away from God.
How would God want me to play squash?
I could play in a way that the only thing that matters is winning.
I could be ruthless and heartless and I could cheat and lie and manipulate the rules to get every point available. But what would that do to those I play against, would that bring them closer or further way to God?
Or if I am unsure if I got a shot I could be honest about that, I could give the other person the benefit of the doubt if they think they got the shot and I thought they didn’t.
I could chat to them after the match to see how they are getting on and how their families are getting on. Would that bring them closer or further away from God?
And if that is the case with something as unimportant as a squash game, how much more important is it in our daily interactions with those we meet a lot, those we love and care for?
I know this is really obvious, but sometimes we need to be reminded of the obvious.
Jesus didn’t wait until he was 30 and was baptised before he started being a good guy. There was 30 years of preparing himself being the good guy, so that when the opportunity came, people were willing to listen.
The bit before we do important stuff, the bit we call life, that is just as important, because that is when we learn to trust in God, learn to lean into God to do the right thing, so that when the important moments come,
trusting is easy,
doing the right thing, and doing it God’s way, is easy.