The following was written by Joshua for his collection of stories, Telling the Stories that Matter.
In the time when a corrupt governor ruled like there was no other power in the world, a little boy named Jesus was born in a backwater town. Powerful and important people–the kind who didn’t spend much time with illegitimate children in backwater towns–came looking for him.They went to the big city nearby because they assumed he had to be there and asked the governor where they could find the one who was going to take his place. “We heard that this one is going to be really special,” they said, “and we want to take the time to offer our respects to this one.” When the governor heard that, he was wounded at the thought that he wasn’t important enough and he got scared. “What if it’s true?” he asked himself when nobody was around.So, he asked the men to wait a moment while he talked to his advisers about it.
His advisers checked their books and said, “Oh! They must mean this little passage. I guess it kind of suggests that it will be in Bethlehem.” “But surely, no ruler can be better than you,” they lied to save their necks. So, the governor called for those dignitaries and pumped them for information before telling them to go and look in Bethlehem.
“And if you find him,” he remarked coyly as if he had just now thought of it, “why don’t you come on back and tell me where he is so I can offer my respects, too.” So, the men left the governor’s mansion and went to the little town without a stoplight. They followed the signs that had led them this far and were glad to see the leading coming to an end and the finding finally starting. They arrived at the little shack and wiped their expensive shoes on the rag that passed for a welcome-mat before entering in to find a teenage girl with her child. Somehow–perhaps it had something to do with the long journey–they knew this was the one and they stood in shocked silence before a little boy. Something amazing had been revealed to them–the birth of God in human flesh–and they could not take it in. So, they offered gifts to express their worship and respect: stock options, a bible with his name embossed on the cover, and–perhaps most shocking to his mother–a cemetery plot near the city. As they were leaving, they felt compelled not to return to the governor and so they caught the early flight out.
As they often do, years passed and things changed. The boy grew into a man and grew into his calling.
Jesus’ cousin John had been spending time out in the woods preaching to anybody who would come near enough to hear his frantic yelling. He preached: “Y’all need to get right cause the kingdom of heaven is right around the corner.” He was forever talking about his cousin and how people should pay more attention to Jesus and less to John. John truly was a voice crying in the wilderness: “Get ready for something new from God! Prepare yourselves for God’s appearance.” Of course, it’s no big surprise that people couldn’t stop looking at John. He wore clothes that he had stitched himself that had been made out of fur. He ate bugs and honey (when he could find it). So, he was an oddity and got lots of attention. With the attentive crowds came some people who were listening and were preparing themselves for God’s big thing–God’s Great Revealing.
But attentive crowds aren’t always attentive because they like you or agree with you. Often, John would see some of the members of the local ministerial council hanging out in the crowd and would greet them in his own special way:
“You sons of snakes! Who gave you a clue and told you about the storm that’s brewing–I know you didn’t see it for yourselves. You came out to hear me? Well, get to changing yourself because your name and your reputation aren’t going to do anything for you. Your titles and influence are worthless here. Even now, the chainsaw is gassed up and waiting to be picked up to cut down the trees that don’t produce good fruit. And what do you do with bad wood? You burn it up because it’s useless. I’m out here baptizing with water because of repentance but there’s one coming after me who can do you a sight better–shoot, I’m not even worthy to shine his shoes–and he’ll baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire. Oh, and don’t kid yourselves…God’s judgment is right around the corner. He’s going to sort out the good from the bad real quick.”
One day, Jesus came to John to be baptized in the creek where John preached. When Jesus took off his shoes and waded in, John shook his head and said, “If anybody should be doing the baptizing it ought to be you and not me.You should baptize me, Jesus.”
But, Jesus smiled and said, “No, John, you’re doing right. This is the way it’s supposed to start. This is the way God’s great revelation begins.” So, John agreed begrudgingly and baptized Jesus in the creek. When Jesus came up out of the water, he looked up and the skies were torn apart before him. The barriers between God and humans had been broken and cast aside and the Spirit of God came down and a voice was heard saying, “This is my boy. I love him and I’m proud of him.”
It was on those two days–the revelation of God to the wise men and at Jesus’ baptism–that we see God choosing to self-reveal to the world. The obstacles have been dismissed and the way has been paved. The paths are being made straight. The Kingdom of God has arrived and is arriving.