Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

From the wilderness he came – Zechariah’s son John and cousin of Jesus traveled up and down the Jordan River in Israel preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Word had spread about his ministry and crowds began to show up. People were excited that there was a new prophet in town. The last recognized prophet in Israel had died 400 years ago and ever since it seemed that the heavens had been closed shut. God appeared to be silent. Within a short period of time John had become the attraction of the day and had risen to superstar status, something he was very wary of.

John stood in the Jordan River and looked at the people standing in line to be baptized. He had to find out for himself who really wanted to repent and who was there just for show. And so he turned to the crowds, determined to sift the wheat from the chaff (Luke 3:7-9):

“John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him,’You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.’”

As expected, the mood of the crowd changed instantly and they began to question him. Then out of the blue a man stepped into the water and approached him. John looked Him in the eye and recognized his cousin Jesus. He hadn’t seen Him in years but he knew from his mother that they were about the same age. She had told him the story of his aunt Mary coming for a visit while she was pregnant with Jesus and the miraculous circumstances of her pregnancy. Now here they were 30 years later and John knew in his heart that he was in the presence of the Son of God the minute he laid eyes on Him. He was stunned.

“Who am I to baptize you?” John said to his cousin. “You should be the One baptizing me.” Jesus shook His head and said: “This is how it’s supposed to be. We should do whatever God says is right.”

So John went ahead and baptized Him. As soon as Jesus stepped out of the water He saw the Spirit of God descending on Him like a dove and a voice from Heaven said (Luke 3:22):

“You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” *New Living Translation

It is both touching and inspiring that the Heavenly Father tells His Son He brings Him great joy. This happened publically after Jesus had been baptized along with other people in the Jordan River.  Something stirred the Almighty to trigger this affirmation of love at this precise moment – maybe because Jesus fully identified with the human cause and didn’t think He was better than us. Surely He didn’t need to be baptized. He hadn’t done anything wrong and no sin to repent of. His cousin John felt it was inappropriate to baptize Him. But Jesus followed His Father’s directions.

I believe if God is pleased with His Son so is He pleased with His followers. And if God finds joy in His children, then maybe His children find joy in the Lord. Joy in the Lord is a two-way-street and it’s a beautiful thing. It has no negative side effects. We don’t wake up the morning after with a big headache. It’s not a feeling that comes and goes, based on fortunate events. The joy in the Lord is what I call “great joy” because it stays with us. Knowing that the Father in heaven is pleased with His children makes His children happy.

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