In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
— Mark 1:9-11
We all know the story: Jesus baptized by John, a dove descending and a voice booming, “you are my son.” It is all so familiar and so inspiring — the Latin pun to be explained to any who ask. The thing of it is, who saw the dove? Who heard the voice? We have a tendency to assume that everyone saw the dove, everyone heard the voice. That isn’t exactly what the scripture says, though. Mark seems to say only Jesus “saw” the dove and “heard the voice. Luke leaves it all uncertain, simply writing that a dove descended and a voice spoke. John records that John the Baptist testifies that he saw the dove and heard the voice.
We tend to wonder how could people have “known” that a virgin gave birth, that a star shined in the night, that kings brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh and yet they forgot? We tend to think, if I had been there, if I had seen these signs — not to mention the water into wine, the leapers being healed, the lame walking — I would have known. I would have understood.
It seems to me it comes to a question of what we see and what we hear. My father loved a story about Thomas Aquinas and mystery. The story is that a student came to Thomas and asked “Father, explain the Trinity.” Thomas is said to have asked, “do you believe?” To which the student replied, “yes, Father.” Aquinas then declared, “My son, if you believe, no explanation is needed. If you do not believe, no explanation is good enough.” Believing in the signs of God is the first step to seeing the signs of God, and seeing means we need to follow.
“I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” v. 2
I want to see the brightness of God.
I want to look at Jesus.
Clear Sun of Righteousness, shine on my path,
And show me the way to the Father.
In him there is no darkness at all.
The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God.
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.
God of light, God of life, grant that your Spirit will so enlighten our spirits that we may see the brightness of your coming and hear your voice calling us into the world. In the name of the one who has come to lead us. Amen.
Pastor Tom Greener