Why did Jesus begin his career as Savior of the world in such a humble and meek manner?

Tom Bartolomeo
Baptism of the Lord C 2013
Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11; Titus 2: 11-14, 3: 4-7;
Psalm 103:1-4,24-25,27-30; Luke 3: 15-16, 221-22
Reproduced with Permission

Do you recall Jesus' first meeting with John the Baptist when Mary went "in haste" to assist her cousin Elizabeth who was with child, who bore a son who would become John the Baptist? Excitedly, Elizabeth exclaimed, "How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me" (Luke 1, 43). At their meeting John " leaped for joy" in Elizabeth's womb on recognizing Jesus in Mary's womb. Some 30 years later in today's gospel John, again, acknowledged Jesus, "Behold, the Lamb of God", whom John pointed out to Andrew and John, two of his disciples, who then followed Jesus as he began his ministry (John 1, 29ff).

More interesting, perhaps, is the gospel's report of a "feeling of expectancy . . . among the people who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ." Was that because of the large crowds he drew---this curious figure in the desert living among wild animals and surviving on locusts and wild honey? And there, too, was Jesus just another penitent whom John baptized although John knew better.

Why did Jesus begin his career as Savior of the world in such a humble and meek manner? Only John saw the dove descend upon Jesus and heard his Father say, "This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3,13-17). Later when Jesus multiplied more than enough bread to feed 4,000 and then 5,000 hungry men and their families 'the people' recognized Jesus' power and tried to make him king, perhaps, another great king like King David or Solomon. Jesus as the Son of God as a man eluded them. They knew only the Almighty, All-knowing, transcendental God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who appeared to them speaking from a burning bush.

The people and the Apostles couldn't relate to Jesus beyond his extraordinary power which frightened them. Their hearts were closed to the gentleness and mercy of the man-God--even though Jesus spoke to them in terms they should have understood. "Beware", he told them of the influence ("of the yeast") "of the Pharisees and Sadducees. [But] they said to one another (rather comically when you consider their response): 'It is because we have brought no bread,' to which "Jesus said, 'You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?'" (Matthew 16, 7-11). Jesus performed the miracle out of compassion for the people some of whom had not eaten for days, not to impress them with his power. The Apostles' "hearts were", we are told, "hardened just as the multitude of people who had tried to make Jesus their king. They couldn't imagine God could be so humane. Maybe we can not understand how man can be so godlike, saints essentially.

How many of us are mere spectators in the drama of our own salvation? I am here at this lectern speaking to you for Christ. You are out there in the congregation as spectators listening to Jesus' words, perhaps. You should also be worshipers when Christ will soon be at his altar sacrificing himself and telling us, "Do this in memory of me." Do what he does . . . in his name. Why we are called 'Christian', Christ-like. You may ask, How is that possible? I know myself too well, and you are probably right in one way. Jesus actually said as much about himself. "Truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise (John 5:19).

None of us can enter the kingdom of heaven empty-handed, however. We must be contributors to God's glory in heaven. Heaven is not a welfare state of being, a state where we simply consume happiness. We have to lay up a treasure of good works in heaven to draw from before He receives us. The gospel and the Bible is our play-book and our play- script to be followed which I hope we all have in our homes and consult regularly. Without reading its stage directions and performing our assigned parts we will have no place in the company. Actors call it "method acting", literally living the character you have been cast for by the director. Imagine a method actor carrying his role home with him. Not uncommon. Imagine his wife and children asking, What role are you playing now, Dad. Let life imitate art, and art will imitate the life of God in you. Take your Director's instructions from Father to Son and from me to you, as Jesus, for example, said:

Love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.
Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High;
for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Now that is acting, may get you an Academy Award. Not some bit part, like "love those who love you, what credit is that to you? [said Jesus]. . . . If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? (Luke 6, 34-35).

(Anyone can play that part).

None of this has anything to do with feelings. Your pets have feelings, but they are not deliberative, thinking beings who can choose to endure evil for the love of others and God. (Parents do that nearly everyday or they should). Jesus did not clothe himself in humanity to enjoy himself. His feelings were also offended but not his determination. Do well in your roles and you may move on to more challenging roles, perhaps saints' roles, as Jesus taught and practiced, be kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. . . . Do not judge . . . do not condemn [another]. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back" . . . in heaven (Luke 6, 37-38).

The audience in heaven will applaud your performance here and celebrate it in heaven. Don't be a spectator. Be an actor. The crowds who came to see John the Baptist afterwards left, and there was John . . . alone again in the desert. The people, who lined the streets of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to see Jesus the miracle worker, left. And there was Jesus five days later on the Cross with just his mother and the Apostle John near him.

Don't be the typical self-absorbed consumers of this world looking for one more indulgence or entertainment. There's more to salvation than 'getting by', 'looking on', and just coming to Church. You'll receive no playbill credits for just watching Survivor Man on cable or simply 'admiring' Christ on the cross. It doesn't work that way. It can not be done without studying the gospel, knowing your lines and acting your parts. You think I'm cryptic? Listen to Jesus question the crowds about John the Baptist, especially what he left unsaid.

What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out! To see a man clothed in fine clothes? Behold, those who wear fine clothes live in palaces. What did you go out to see." (Matthew 11, 7-9).

Why did you come here to Church?