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Help! (The day the heavens opened)

By Charles Qualls

They say, “Life comes at you fast!” I don’t know if you remember the series of insurance commercials that ran for years. They were part of the ad campaign that was used by one of the larger companies. The commercials showed people doing normal, everyday stuff. Then some kind of disaster would strike. They were a little light-hearted, but we all connected because we’d been there!

When was a time when life seemed to be awfully fast for you? When did life interrupt your fairly “normal” with the unforeseen? What resources did you have available to draw from? What did you do?

Maybe right now, you’re trying to do the job alone. Not asking anyone for help. Not choosing to call upon God, or for some understandable reason you may be in a season of spiritual life where you don’t feel like you can.

In Luke 3 (v21-22) and 4 (v1-2), we visit where many of us think of Jesus really started. He’s preparing for His ministry among humanity. Jesus goes out into the wilderness, or the desert, and finds John the Baptist. A lot of people were going out to seek John. Unlike today, when people are a little allergic to church, they were going out in large groups to see what John was teaching!

Of course, the centerpiece of the story is that we see Jesus get baptized. After an interlude in Luke’s gospel for some genealogical work, Jesus goes off for an extended retreat prior to what we recognize as the start of His public ministry.

“He who was sinless participated in a rite designed to point to the sin in all of us. (This was) Jesus saying, ‘I’m one of you. I share your frailty so that someday I may conquer it for you,’” says author Paris Donehoo about this episode.

Jesus had his own awareness of sin, mistakes or weakness. The possibility of sin in his own life lay ahead for Jesus, even if his life to this point had been blameless. Our Lord never thought of himself in isolation. He was to take forth for us the sin and weakness of an entire nation, even a world, and needed to be consecrated and ready. Indeed, temptation would be visited upon him while on his retreat very soon.

In writing on this episode, Dr. Paris Donehoo believes it was fairly simple: The plea was “Help!”

Oh, we don’t get that exact word in the gospels. But if we can let Jesus be who Jesus was, then most people believe this retreat was where He shaped His vision and mustered His own set of resources from God the Father.

This from the one who was the Son of God. Who healed the sick, raised the dead and modeled God’s healthiest hope for us. Jesus conquered death on Easter Sunday. Still, here he seems to have gone out on retreat to ask for help.

You know we all make commitments that we spend the next several years, perhaps a lifetime, working out the implications of. We make commitments to Christ in salvation. We commit to some aspect of ministry, marriage, work or to serve some group or affiliation. If we take these seriously, we may need help, no matter what else life may throw our way.

Scholar William Barclay suggests that in all our lives there are certain moments that are “hinges” upon which much of the rest of our lives swing. For Jesus, one was at age 12 in the Temple. The next may very well have been when the people moved toward God by flocking out into the countryside to hear John and be baptized. When He heard about this, his hour had struck.

Jesus went out to prayer and began to work out the implications of what He was about to start doing. That was where his preparations began. God’s guidance of our lives, God’s hope for who we were created to be, doesn’t always look like what we might be expecting or are even open to. God stands by, yearning for us to be honest and to share the depths of our souls. Remember, it appears that the heavens opened the day Jesus went out to ask for, “Help!”

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.