Read Luke 3:1-38
When we consider that God incarnate would submit Himself to be baptized by a mere human, it is powerful. The opening of the Heavens and the Spirit descending as a dove (Luke 3:23) are moments where Jesus hits a newly recognizable level;
However, there is a verse in Luke chapter 3 that is set apart as a defining moment in this account. It reads as:
“Even tax collectors came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’
The value of society’s collective hate for the ancient tax collector cannot be understood in full by our present-day culture. It is hard to conceptualize the contempt for the ancient tax collector when Americans reap the value benefit of tax breaks that we get when we give to church and charity. I am not saying that any of us like paying taxes or that we don’t see deep flaws and live frustration among the political landscape and the IRS code. However, our current tax brackets, write offs and refunds pale in comparison in generating the hate that the ancient world tax collector felt. The ancient world collector was a cheat and liar who capitalized fortune off of common people while exploiting the poor. But, in this defining moment, even the tax collector was baptized and (don’t lose sight of this), was baptized chronologically before Jesus the Messiah.
Luke chapter three is clear; John’s words were powerful, cutting and convicting. He was bold and different. Who else had so boldly stood up for justice while calling for the repentance of sin (verses 3-9) among all people? He even had the tenacity to call out Herod, the tetrarch, on a godless marriage and “all the other evil things he had done” (verses 18-19). This led to people thinking in their hearts that he must have been the Messiah (verse 15). Yet, the one who was greater, the true Messiah, Jesus seeks baptism from John…just like the tax collector did!
This defining moment strengthens the reality of incarnation: God among sinful people.
Ancient religions throughout the world carry a similar theme: Powerful god/gods/goddesses existing in realms of superiority where the acceptance of the human race is contingent on approval measured by efforts, ceremony and ritual. However, the one that stands defined, set apart exclusively, is the one where the incarnate walks in the footsteps of the tax collector and brings God to live among the level of those who need Him most.
Do you ever feel that what you have done holds you back from the full life you have in Christ? This defining moment is so powerful because even the most hated in that culture was responding to the good news of Jesus and finding new life in Him…even before His ministry started!
Who you were and what you have done doesn’t disqualify you from the hope of Jesus. In Jesus, you have forgiveness and a new life!
In what way have you discovered the glory of your new life in Christ? What impact has His forgiveness made in your life and in the lives of those around you?