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      Have you ever noticed the scandal at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark?

Jesus enters the baptismal waters, and something happens. When Jesus is pulled from the water,  God the Father’s announcement is that - this is His Son.  It’s such a familiar story that we could easily miss the larger implication. In Christian baptism, going under water means dying with Christ, and coming up from the water symbolizes our rising to the newness of life with Jesus. Basically, we are mimicking His resurrection.  Jesus, on the Jordan River, did not receive a Christian baptism but a baptism of repentance. During this ancient time, the people believed that if they turned to God, and away from sin, they could repair their relationship with God. If they were at the river, then they were self-identifying as a sinner.
      The scandal is this, Jesus was no sinner and had no need to repent like the rest of us. So why does Jesus enter the baptismal waters? To be straightforward, Jesus is identifying with the people gathered. He is not coming to those sinners by the river in anger, but in compassion. This is a powerful statement, because before we could identify with Jesus Christ in our baptism, He first identified with us in our brokenness.
      God is not coming in anger to you. In the Ancient world it was the leper, the divorced woman, and the immoral person who walked with the powerful symbol of condemnation and exclusion. One of the defining features of Jesus is how He treated all of those who identified as lesser or defective. Jesus accepted them, touched them, actively blessed them, prayed with them, and ate with them. He did this not for show, or to make a point, but because this is God’s nature.
       Today’s homeless person and people with AIDS must feel very similar to the Biblical leper and immoral person. In the modern world, those titles are a symbol of societal exclusion and condemnation. We may avoid these individuals, pretending we did not see them, but Jesus would make a point of seeing them and being with them. Jesus would be seen embracing them and serving them because it’s God’s nature.
       Reflecting on this for just a moment is all that it takes for one to realize how this applies to Christians today. If we call ourselves Christ followers, imitators, and disciples; do the modern-day lepers and immoral people know of our faith, love, service, have we even offered them our eyes, attention, time, prayers? Jesus certainly would have because that is in His nature. The questions for each of us is, do we follow Christ close enough to make it our nature too?