“And he [John] went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”‘” (Luke 3:3-6 ESV)
This devotion pairs with this weekend’s Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
I was a young lieutenant in the Air Force. The colonel, my boss’s boss, chose me for a special project. It was a great honor, and I threw myself into it. I labored like a young man with something to prove. The morning of the presentation, I faced the colonel to regale him with my recommendation. He was unimpressed. “This isn’t what I wanted,” he said. Silently, I agreed with him. It wasn’t exactly what he’d asked for—it was better! I tried to convince him of that. But he cut me off, dismissed me, and told me to start over again. It felt like he had pulled the paper clip from my work and flung it into my face, sending my misguided efforts haplessly fluttering to the floor.
When John called God’s people to be baptized, his message was clear: “God has rejected your work. You were chosen for this project. You labored like a people with something to prove. But this isn’t what God wanted.” God had rescued them from slavery and sustained them through the wilderness. He singled them out for a great honor—a mission to rescue the world from death and sin. But now He was rejecting their misguided efforts. That’s the significance of this Baptism. The Jordan River formed the eastern border of the Promised Land, the starting point for Israel’s rescue mission for the sake of the world. But John told them to vacate the land, return to the wilderness, and re-enter by passing through the river, and start all over again.
The most shocking thing about this is not that God’s people faced rejection. No, the most shocking thing is that Jesus, the Messiah, the sinless Son of God, joined them in it. He stood beside them in their rejection, just as He stands beside you and me. He was baptized for us. And we are baptized into Him, into His crucifixion and resurrection. This means that every day—multiple times per day—you can start over with Jesus because He makes your failures His and His successes yours.
When the colonel rejected my work, I didn’t know what to do. I had given my best and had fallen on my face. But my boss, the lieutenant colonel, was in the room when it happened, and he made my problem his problem. From his perspective, since I was under his authority, it wasn’t just my failure, it was his failure. So, he gathered up my misguided efforts, and together we started over. And I invite you, maybe for the first time, maybe for the millionth time, to begin again with Jesus.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for starting over with me. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved
1. When was a time you faced rejection, whether at school or work or in a relationship?
2. What helped you get through it?
3. Read Luke 3:10-14. As you start over with Jesus today, what might he have you do?