A Loved Identity
Luke 3:1-22, 7:18-35
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
Happy New Year! Are you making any resolutions? Some people take advantage of the calendar’s rollover to evaluate where they are in life and to set new goals. New year, new you, the saying goes. Before we jump into our 2020 resolutions, however, we would be wise to apply some 20/20 hindsight to last year’s goals: how successful were we, and where did we fall short? The goals we set and their likelihood of success depend primarily on who we believe we are and secondarily on who others believe us to be. So if we didn’t keep all our resolutions, was that because we didn’t make them with our true selves in mind? How well do we really know ourselves, anyway? Who are you?
Jesus got that a lot. During his time on earth, whenever he performed some miracle people would ask, who is this man? After he calmed a storm at sea from the deck of a fishing boat, his followers asked, who is this man, that even the winds and waves obey him? After he healed a paralyzed man, the Pharisees asked, who is this man who speaks blasphemy? After he forgave the sinful woman who anointed him with expensive perfume, the guests around the dinner table asked, who is this man who even forgives sins? When asked, “Who are you?” he replied, “Who do people say I am? Who do you say I am?” But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
You would think that John, the forerunner of Jesus, would have known what to expect. After all, he had spent his entire life studying the prophecies, watching for the Messiah, and preparing people for his arrival. He preached judgment and the wrath of God. He promised redemption through the forgiveness of sins when the Messiah came. Some people even suspected that John himself was the Christ, but John knew his place, and it wasn’t on the throne next to God. As far as we know, he met Jesus personally only once, at the Jordan River where Jesus came to be baptized, but he recognized him immediately: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” Later, when Jesus was not accomplishing the goals John had imagined he would, John, now imprisoned by Herod, sent two followers to ask Jesus: “Are you the One, or should we look for another?”
John was not alone in his mistaken expectations of the Messiah. Perhaps we could blame a selective understanding of prophecy, but many people were relying on a champion, someone who would deliver them from their oppressors and ensure justice for everyone. The fact that they didn’t really know Jesus or his mission meant that in their minds, he might have fallen short in the success of his goals. But Jesus knew exactly who he was, and his identity was sealed when he emerged from the baptismal waters of the Jordan and heard from his Father the ultimate atta boy: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Even before his very first miraculous act, before an act of any kind, Jesus was acknowledged by God as the beloved Son, his Father’s pride and joy.
Who are you? Do you know? Who do you believe you are? Who do other people think you are? Your goals and their likelihood of success hinge on the answers to those questions. In these initial days of a new year, when we are making our plans, shouldn’t we first establish who we are, before we even entertain the idea of what we expect to accomplish in 2020? Here’s help: the God of the universe, the God who created every created thing and who sustains and redeems all, created you. Created all of us. And we are all his beloved children. He knew us before we were even born, and he loved us. Before we took our first breath, much less accomplished any of the work he planned for us to do, he knew us and he loved us. Loves us. Beloved child of God, in your search for identity, begin here.
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (Children’s Worship and nursery care available), then stay afterward for Discovery Hour (all ages).