“The people were filled with expectation.” Luke 3:15 Expectation! Anticipation!
The dictionary definition of both words is “a belief that something is going to happen or that something should be a certain way.“ “Great Expectations” is a novel written by Charles Dickens in 1861. It is the story of an orphan, Pip, living with his sister and her blacksmith husband, Joe. He has his mind set upon becoming a wealthy gentleman to win the hand of well-bred Estella. These goals turn out to be just so much straw for him, but our own “great expectations” are completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
During the season of Advent, the Church gave us many readings from the prophet Isaiah (8th century BC), who of all the prophets offered the most significant teaching on the Messiah. The expectations of Advent were only partially fulfilled with the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. So, the waiting has not ended.
In our gospel today from Luke 3, the crowd is wondering if John the Baptist might be the Christ, the Messiah. Tax collectors, prostitutes and soldiers have repented and been baptized by John. He challenges them to share their food and clothes with the poor, to refrain from violence and extortion, and to bear fruit reflecting their repentance. All of these people were waiting to see the salvation of God. John told them “No I am not He. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’’ (Luke 3:16) “Now when all the people had been baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form, as a dove and a voice came from heaven, ‘you are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:21-22)
Like A Dove
But the crowd missed it all. They did not expect that the Messiah would be receiving the baptism of repentance. As St. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:8: “And being found in human form He humbled himself.” His abasement continued all the way to death on a cross. Jesus loved sinners. Already He had rubbed shoulders with those coming to the Jordan to be baptized by John and He received the anointing of the Holy Spirit for His mission: to fulfill all that was spoken of Him by the prophets. (Isaiah 53) The scribes and the Pharisees, “the brood of vipers“ also missed Him. BUT JOHN DID NOT MISS HIM! John saw the Spirit descending like a dove and the very next day pointed at Jesus and said, “behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.“
(John 1:29, 32- 34)
Bearing good Fruit
God‘s ways are not man’s ways. Jesus Christ came not to be served but to serve. He came healing the sick and was called the Great Physician. As the Good Shepherd, He sought out the straying sheep like Matthew and Zacchaeus, tax collectors. He saw in them so much more potential for a holy life than they could ever see in themselves. One became an apostle who wrote the gospel “Matthew” before he was martyred. The other, a “son of Abraham“ repented and gave half his wealth to the poor and paid back fourfold any person that he had defrauded. Jesus’ expectation for those whom He called to repentance was that they would further the Kingdom of God by their fruitful belief in Him.
What does all of this have to do with you and me? God the Father sees in us what we could never see in our sinful selves. After our baptism by water and the Holy Spirit, He sees us as His sons and daughters. We are adopted brothers and sisters of His Son Jesus Christ. Now these are “great expectations” for us on this feast of the baptism of the LORD. The shoot from the stump of Jesse has blossomed … and upon Him the Spirit of the LORD has rested.
(Is 11:1-2) The expectations of the prophet Isaiah are being fulfilled. Jesus has begun His walk toward Calvary. Anointed by the same Holy Spirit, we are called to take up our cross daily and follow in His footsteps.