January 09, 2021
Why did Jesus allow John to baptize him? Jesus had no sin to be cleansed, so why baptism? Here is a true story that helps understand why Jesus allowed himself to be baptized.
Glenn was an 8-year-old boy growing up in Kansas. One of his daily chores was to go to the one room schoolhouse each morning before school and start the fire in the stove. There was an explosion one day that burned him so badly that the doctors did not expect him to live. Glenn, half conscious, heard the doctors talking of amputating both of his legs. He became so upset that his parents would not allow it. They were told that if he survived, he would probably not walk again. But Glenn was determined that he would not only walk but run. He struggled and pushed and remained positive. About a year later, at home in the front yard he threw himself from his wheelchair to the ground, pulling himself up on a fence post, over and over again. Two years after the explosion, he was able to stand. First holding on, then by himself. Gradually, still pushing, he began to walk. Then, not just to walk, but to run. He would run to and from school each day. He worked his way through college and earned his Phd. Dr. Glenn went on to compete in the Olympics as a runner. Then, in 1934, he ran the mile in less time than any other human being in history - 4 minutes and 6.8 seconds!
And he wasn't just fast, he was a really neat guy. His fellow Olympians voted him "Most Popular Athlete" on the trip to Germany in 1936.
There is even more to Glenn's story and we will get to that. But first, stopping right here, how did that happen? How did Glenn go from "likely to die" to running the fastest mile in history?
The answer lies in today's readings. An answer that should have the same impact on all of us as it did on Glenn.
From the Prophet Isaiah we just heard, "I, the LORD, have called you ... have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, ... to be a light for the nations." This is describing God appointing someone to serve. Through our baptism, you and I have been appointed by God to serve. When God chooses you, God gives you what you need to be successful.
Are you as confident as Glenn, that God will give you what we need to be successful in serving?
Glenn recognized God with him through his baptism. Recognized that God had taken him by the hand. Even during his most difficult times. Glenn's favorite Bible verse was Isaiah 40:31, it reads, "But those who wait on the Lord, [who serve] shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
Glenn's faith in God is what drove him to become all that he was created to be. But Glenn's success in running wasn't the main event in his life. It set the stage for what happened next. The real service that God called him to. He opened the Glenn Cunningham Youth Ranch in Kansas, where he and his wife helped more than10,000 needy and abused children. This was how Glenn served God. This was the main event of his life. It wasn't the Olympics. It wasn't even running the fastest mile. It was helping those children!
So, back to our original question, "Why did Jesus allow John to baptize him?" The answer is so that we would do the same. So that we would enjoy the benefits of baptism. In our Gospel, when Jesus was baptized by John, God said, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." When each of us were baptized, God said the same to us. And promised to take us by the hand ... to give us all we need to successfully serve God.
Glenn believed that and allowed it to shape his life and we saw what happened. Can you and I believe and allow our lives to be changed, and succeed in serving as we never imagined possible? Amen