February 7, 2024 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Matthew 3:16-17 (NRSV)
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Did Jesus have to go back to these deep waters of baptism and submerge himself in the waters of God’s love whenever he questioned his own leadership abilities? Did he ever feel discouraged about them?
What’s true in the light is still true in the dark.
Before Jesus does anything right or anything wrong, God the Father affirms the Son fully and faithfully. It is not an act of performance-based love. It is not an award for best sales or best customer service representative. It is not in response to words of critique by others about Jesus nor words of encouragement from others about Jesus. Jesus had just come up from the waters of the Jordan, fully immersed in the waters of the Father’s deep love that covered him from the top of his head to the tip of his toes. If this is the ritual moment that will be the public service announcement that propels Jesus into leadership, maybe I would have expected a resume to convince me of why in the world we think he is qualified to lead. But there is no resume with his ministry experience or what training Jesus received for the last thirty years. The only credentials that God offers are: “son” qualified by the adjective “beloved” and topped off with “in whom I am well pleased.” That is all.
Often I wonder in hindsight, if this is the deep place where Jesus has to return to over and over again. We know that the rest of the story includes those who do not believe in his identity nor follow his authority. We know the times he was almost stoned or thrown off a cliff. We know the angry interactions that he had with the religious leaders and authorities of the time. We know the confrontational moments with political authorities. As if that wasn’t enough in his leadership trajectory, we know that he experienced the sting of betrayal from those close to him: yes, friends and colleagues in leadership.
Did Jesus have to go back to these deep waters and submerge himself in the waters of God’s love whenever he questioned his own leadership abilities? Did he ever feel discouraged about them? He was going about in power, doing signs and wonders in ministry, yet at the same time growing a group of enemies. Whenever he would retreat to an alone place to pray, did he return to this scene to be reminded of his belovedness? Was he tired of leading others? Did he want to quit? Did God the Father know what the Son needed for those times that he may have wanted to quit?
These words of God the Father before Jesus is propelled into leadership seem to contain a beautiful mystery and are central to Jesus’ leadership groundedness. I come to them over and over again when I enter into those dry places of my leadership. My fellow co-pastor and colleague in the ministry, Bobby Harrison, says it like this: “The pleasure of God precedes the ministry of Christ. And the pleasure of God precedes the work of our hands, too.”
When you think of God, what kind of words or phrases does God say about you? Is it positive language?
When you think about yourself, what kind of words or phrases do you say to describe yourself or refer to your leadership abilities? Is it positive or negative language?
How does the affirmation of God impact your identity? Does it have any effect in how you go about leading?
Write yourself a letter from God. Find a comfortable spot. Sit with the verse we read. Begin writing the words that you need to hear from God.
God of all love and of self-giving love, remind us today that we are daughters and sons. In the midst of schedules, tasks, to-do lists, meetings, conversations, help us rise up from those busy waters as your loving and affirming voice breaks the busy-sound barrier. Rend the heavens and rend our hearts. We want to hear your voice. We need to hear that you love us, once again. Speak to us in a language that we can understand. May our belovedness inform us every minute with every breath we take. May we be submerged as leaders securely in the deep waters of your infinite love. May we be firmly planted in the soil of your love so that others would experience their own belovedness because we are certain of ours. Grant us peace. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Jesus Calls the Disciples (Matthew 3-4).
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