Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | February 17, 2013

2013.02.17 – The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus, Baptism and Temptation

Central United Methodist Church

The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus

Baptism and Temptation

Pastor David L. Haley

Mark 1: 9 – 13

February 17th, 2013


At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.”

At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.” – Mark 1: 9 – 13

Today we begin our Lenten series, The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus.

Lent (not lint) – for those unfamiliar with the term – is the forty-day season of reflection and spiritual discipline that precedes Easter. It began last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, and continues for 40 days, not counting Sundays. If the number forty sounds familiar, that’s an important number in the Bible, the number of days Jesus spent in the wilderness, being tested and tempted, immediately following his baptism.  Indeed, those are the first stops in our series.

This series has been produced by Adam Hamilton, pastor of the 19,000 member United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City. The congregation began in 1990 in a funeral home (thus the name), with about the same number of people here this morning.

I first met Adam Hamilton and visited Church of the Resurrection about 10 years ago, when I took part in our conference’s Institute for Congregational Growth; their Leadership Institute was one of our field trips.

If I feel like I know Adam Hamilton, (even though I don’t), it is because of this: one of the services offered that weekend was a service of anointing, for us wounded healers. Being the introvert that I am, I sat up in a far corner of the balcony, where only a few were seated.  When it came to the actual anointing, at first, there was no one in my section to do the anointing; I thought, “Well, looks like I missed out.” Then, who should step out, up in that remote corner of the balcony, than Adam Hamilton, who anointed me and the few others seated there.

In an unexpected twist, when my son, Chris, graduated from the University of Illinois in 2005, he got a job in Kansas City, met his wife and got married there, and they became members of Church of the Resurrection, giving me opportunity to return and visit numerous times.

As a church with almost unlimited resources, Church of the Resurrection has been able to do some amazing things, not only for themselves, but for the United Methodist Church at large.

One of those things is this series. Over the years, as Adam Hamilton visited the Holy Land, he wanted to share his experiences with his congregation, and other congregations. The Holy Land is often called “the Fifth Gospel” because visiting there changes how you read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, with the land serving as a living commentary on the gospels.

So Hamilton began a trilogy of books that would take readers through the life of Jesus, in light of biblical archaeology, geography, and the latest in biblical scholarship. The first of those was The Journey, which unpacked the stories surrounding Jesus’ birth. The last was 24 Hours That Changed the World, focusing upon Jesus’ death and resurrection, which – as many of you will remember – we did in 2010.  Now, just made available, The Way completes the trilogy by exploring Jesus’ three-year public ministry. It explores the places Jesus traveled, the main themes of his ministry, and the people to whom he ministered.  Of the series, Adam Hamilton says:

“In preparing to write these books I returned to the Holy Land three times meeting with archaeologists, Galilean fishermen, a Samaritan priest, as well as scholars and guides who have spent their lives in the land. I sought to retrace the stories in the gospels in a way a typical tour group does not. I walked portions of the journey Mary and Joseph walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem. I spent days backpacking alone across Galilee exploring the places Jesus ministered. I retraced the footsteps of Jesus during the final day of Jesus’ life. The insights gained from these experiences are all included in the books.”

Today, we begin the series, where Jesus’ ministry begins in the Gospel: at his baptism at the River Jordan, and immediately following that, his temptation in the Judean wilderness.

Because these were defining experiences in Jesus’ life, now, as we seek to follow him, they become defining experiences for us also, for three important reasons.

First, they were particular experiences in Jesus’ life. Long before baptism was a Christian ritual or temptation was about a horned creature in red tights carrying a pitchfork, baptism and temptation were actual experiences in the Jesus’ life, at a particular place and particular time. Today, we will go there, and see those places, which help us understand what Jesus experienced.

At the same time, as we imagine what Jesus experienced, we also find that those experiences are also what we call universal experiences, things we experience. Though not at the River Jordan, perhaps not even at our baptism, at some point each of us had a “God experience,” which became a defining point in our lives, has shaped our life since, and may be the reason we are sitting here this morning.

In the same way – perhaps even immediately following that “God experience” – we encountered testing and temptation, which came not in the form of a horned creature in red tights carrying a pitchfork, but in that quiet whisper we all know: to do something we should not do, or not to do something we should do. It personifies the struggle all of who seek to be faithful face, every day. We too know what the wilderness is, we’ve been there; spiritually, if not geographically. And as for temptation, as the 19th Chicago evangelist Dwight Moody once said, “I believe Satan exists for two reasons: first, the Bible says so; and second, I’ve done business with him.”

But here is perhaps the most amazing thing of all: not only was Jesus’ experience particular and universal, it was also vicarious, for all who went before, and for all who would come after. At his baptism, as he waded in the water, he did not say, “Oh, this is not for me, it’s for you.” He identified with us, in every way.  In the wilderness, as the Second Adam, it was a real test, with real choices. As he chose the right thing, in the right way, it was not only for himself, but for the work he would do, and for all those for whom he would do it. As Cecil Alexander (1818-1895) once wrote in his hymn about the crucifixion, There is a Green Hill Far Away, “We may not know, we cannot tell, what pains he had to bear, but we believe it was for us, he hung and suffered there.”  So also was Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.

Now, with Adam Hamilton as our guide, let’s go there, first to the River Jordan and then to the Judean wilderness.

[Note: In worship, I used the 10 minute excerpt contained on The Way DVD.  For the reader, I recommend you use the link below to view Adam Hamilton’s longer version, as originally delivered to his congregation on February 26, 2013, which may be viewed here:]


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