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As You Wish

Read Matthew 3:13-17

One of my favorite novels is called The Princess Bride.  About twenty years ago, while I was a student in seminary, the book became the basis of a movie by the same title, directed by Rob Reiner.  It has been my favorite movie since it was released.  My family and I have seen this movie more times that I can count.  In fact, we have this movie in three different formats – video tape, DVD, and the 20th Anniversary Deluxe DVD Collector’s Edition.

Both the book and the screenplay were written by William Goldman who pretends he is translating the volume from a Florinese manuscript written an S. Morgenstern – a volume that set the record for the most weeks on the Florinese bestseller list.  The truth is, however, that there is no Florinese language, no country named Florin, and no author by the name S. Morgenstern.

Goldman wrote the novel in response to his two daughter’s constant and competing requests for a story about either “princesses” or “brides.”  The resulting tale, however, is also appealing to young boys thanks to the inclusion of pirates, swordplay, a giant (played in the movie by the late Andre the Giant), screaming eels, fire swamps, and ROUSs (which is an acronym for rodents of unusual size).

Both the book and the movie offers swashbuckling thrills, villainy, heroism, intrigue, romance, and loyalty, but does so without taking itself too seriously.  My family has seen this movie so many times that we have memorized large portions of the dialogue.  It is filled with some of the most enjoyable lines and dialogue of all time.

For example, there is the irritable criminal mastermind Vizzini, who confronting the hero, advises (in an extremely irritating voice):

“Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”

Then there is Inigo Montoya, a Spanish accented, revenge-driven swordsman who promises that when he finds the murderer of his father, that he will say,

“Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”

One of my favorite scenes takes place when Buttercup is being forced to marry the evil Prince Humperdink.  In fact, a few years ago I performed a wedding for a couple who both were big fans of this movie.  They liked it so much that the best man tried to get me to impersonate the impressive Archdeacon of Florin.  The Archdeacon appears on the platform of an ornate cathedral.  He is dressed in imposing robes and vestments.  As the glorious music from the organ subsides, he begins to speak, sounding almost exactly like Elmer Fudd:

“Mah-widge. Mah-widge is what bwings us together today … that dweam wiffin a dweam. …”

There are several other great lines in the movie, but one is at the heart of the story.  As the movie begins, we see Buttercup going through her chores on a farm.  Buttercup has two great joys in life.  The first is riding her horse.  The horse is named Horse, revealing that Buttercup is not a very bright or imaginative young woman.  Her other great joy was tormenting the young boy who worked at a servant on the farm.  She would order him about.

“Farm Boy, fetch me that bucket.”

“Farm Boy, get me that bowl.”

It was like all day long.

“Farm boy, fetch me this.”

“Farm Boy, fetch me that.”

His reply was always the same.  Whenever Buttercup asked him to do something for her, he would always reply:

“As you wish.”

That is all he ever said.

Then one day Buttercup asked him to fetch a pitcher that was easily within her reach.  Farm Boy, whose real name is Wesley, walked over, stares into her eyes, lifts the pitcher, and hands to her while whispering:

“As you wish.”

In that moment Buttercup realizes that every time Farm Boy said, “As you wish” that what he was really saying was “I love you.”

I have been thinking about this story while preparing for this Sunday’s sermon about Jesus submission to the baptism of John.  Could it be that when Jesus submitted to baptism, what He was really saying to God was this simple prayer?

“As you wish!”

The question as to why Jesus was baptized in a significant one in theological circles.  Each of the Gospels offers a little different perspective in answering this question.

We can understand why this is a thorny subject.  The Bible indicates that at least one reason that John baptized people was as a sign of repentance for sin.  You can see why Jesus submitting to baptism would be such a thorny subject, then, because the scriptures make it clear that Jesus was without sin.  That means he would have nothing to repent from – unlike the rest of us who have amassed a vast catalogue of sins from which we need to repent.

The crowds who came to John had all sort of reasons to submit to baptism.  They had all sorts of sins from which to repent.  The Bible teaches, however, that Jesus was without sin.  So, why was he baptized?

In a sermon about Jesus baptism, Fred Craddock makes the following observations about how the Gospel’s treated Jesus baptism.

The Gospel of John does not even mention Jesus baptism. The Baptizer is there, acting like an Old Testament prophet, talking about a coming Messiah and calling people to repent of their sins in preparation for the Messiah’s appearing.  When Jesus appears on the seen, John simply points to him and says, “This is the guy I have been talking about.”  There is nothing mentioned about Jesus being baptized.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ baptism is mentioned, but without much detail. Mark just reports the facts without interpretation or explanation.  One day, John was preaching.  Jesus showed up and John baptized him.  Then the heavens opened and God’s voice was heard.

In Luke’s Gospel, the text simply says, “When all the people came to be baptized, Jesus came too!” In that sacred hour, according to Luke’s text, it was important that Jesus identified with the people and joined them in the waters of baptism.

Matthew is the only one who gives any kind of reason for Jesus baptism! According to Matthew, John is preaching and baptizing.  John is a “no holds barred” kind of preacher.  He is rough and tough.  He tells it like it is.  He was the kind of preacher who listed names, sins, and the dates they were committed.

Despite his style, the people came.  They came because of John’s baptism.  They came to confess and repent.  They came for the refreshing grace of starting over and getting a second chance.  Despite John’s style, they came because there was something audaciously hopeful about his preaching.  The people came because John said that God was not finished with them, despite their great sinfulness.

Then Jesus came and presented himself to be baptized.  Why did he come?  He was the perfect revelation of God in human history.  Why did Jesus come to be baptized?  He was the Messiah, the one who comes to save his people, the one who John said would come and baptized not with water, but with fire and with the Holy Spirit.  Why had Jesus come to this?

Even John wondered.  Jesus approached and John said, “I am not worthy.”  Jesus came, and John said, “It is not I who should baptize you, but you who should baptize me.”  Then Jesus says, “Hush!  We have to do this to fulfill all righteousness!”

Righteousness – what comes to your mind when you hear that word?  The world meant something much different in Jesus’ day than it does today.  We think of it as some sort of absolute standard – a set of rule, rituals, regulations, and requirements to be adhered to and obeyed.  Righteousness has become something we think can be attained by living up to “righteous standards.”

The words for righteous in the Bible, however, refers to something different. It the Bible, righteousness is an expression of God’s gracious activity to save.  God’s righteousness is God’s salvation – something that is deeply rooted in the love of God.

Jesus came to baptism aware of his Father’s love.  Jesus came to baptism already in a perfect love relationship with his Father.  So, when Jesus entered the water, he came sharing his Father’s desire and intention to bring all humankind these same gifts of salvation, mercy, and the forgiveness.

In baptism, Jesus was saying, “I love you, Father.  With you and the Spirit, I love all human beings and I will do whatever is needed to bring your salvation to the world.  I love you and submit to your will and calling on my life.”

Jesus was saying, “As you wish!”

Jesus prayed that prayer several times throughout his life, but none more clearly than on the night before his crucifixion.  Jesus was in prayer.  “Father, if it be your will, let this cup pass from me!  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”

“As you wish!”

In baptism, Jesus placed himself under God’s call.  He confessed that it was his mission to advance God’s Kingdom.  Nothing was more important to Jesus than to affirm and life under the direction of God’s will.

As you wish!”

So, what does this mean for those of us who have followed Jesus in baptism?  Well, we enter the water in the realization that what Jesus has done for us is bring us into fellowship with God as one of God’s dearly loved children.  We are brought into Jesus and therefore into fellowship with God the Father, who stands over us and says, “You are my beloved children.  In you I am well pleased!”

In Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to rest on us, giving us the wisdom, courage, and strength to live as members of God’s family.  We are remade by grace into the ‘the body of Christ” (as the Bible puts is).  That means, as John Killinger has said, that we are the incarnation of Jesus just as Jesus was the incarnation of God.

Please know, however, that if we hear all this and feel in any way intimidated into thinking this to be an awesome chore and responsibility, we miss the point.

You see as a people united with Jesus, we get to approach our heavenly Father the same way Jesus did on the day of his baptism.  We get to approach God as children.  God is our Papa.  We are his sons and daughters.  We are connected to God in a love relationship.  It is not obligation, expectation, or religious duty that motivates us in this relationship.  It is all about love!  God loves us.  We are invited out of the blessings of that relationship to join Him in this message of love with all humanity.

In baptism – in life – we respond to the God who loves us with a simple and powerful prayer:  “As you wish!”

I remember the day of my baptism.  Years earlier, at age nine, while attending a church camp conducted by First Baptist Church, Ormond Beach, FL, I made a faith declaration toward Jesus Christ.   I wanted to be baptized right away, but my parents thought I was too young.

Seven years later, when I was sixteen, I engaged in an act of civil disobedience.  A baptism service was being held one morning and I was determined to be baptized.  Now you need to know some things about that day.  First, as some of you know, I was not then and am not now a fan of deep water.  Even the water in a little baptismal pool made me nervous.  You also need to know that I was already six feet tall at age sixteen, and my pastor was about five feet tall.

When he leaned me back into the water, I slipped, fell, and began to thrash about violently.  I was kicking and flailing my arms about wildly.  The entire back row of the choir were being splashed and sprinkled in the process.  Unfortunately, I had not yet been completely immersed and my pastor was determined to get the job done, so he kept pushing until I was totally under.

When it was all over, after worship, Ed Parks (who had shared the gospel of God’s love with me years earlier at church camp) came to me and said:  “Billy (they called me Billy then) this was a special day for you.  This was a day for you to tell God that you love Him and are giving your life to Him.”

I have been thinking about that all week.  I do love God.  I have given him my life.  He can do with me as he pleases.  My prayer today as I remember my baptism is simply this:  “As you wish!”

But all these years later I realize that there is something more, something better, and something so much more important.  As I remember my baptism I don’t think about things like my commitment, my emotions, my feeling, my vows toward living life a certain way.  Baptism isn’t about that.  The Gospel isn’t about that.  The Gospel is about a God who loves me more than I could even imagine.  Even as a tired, broken-down, sinful and rebellious individual, God Almighty loved with every fiber of his Triune being.  So when I remember my baptism, I think about the One who was baptized for me.  It is HIS baptism that saves.  In his baptism and at the cross the Son took all my sin and brokenness upon himself as an expression of God’s love and grace for me.

Today, that’s what I remember as I think about my baptism, cause that’s what really matters.

Though the words aren’t there in the text, I can’t help but believe they were certainly in the heart of Jesus.  Jesus took the brokenness of humanity on himself and redeemed us.  He did this because it was the will of God Almighty.

In Jesus heart, I believed he prayed: “As you wish!”

As he prayed this prayer, the Holy Spirit came and rested on Him, like a dove.

As he prayed this prayer, the voice of the Father said, “This in my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Martin Luther said we should begin every day remembering that we are baptized.  When we feel the water on our faces in the morning, it should remind us of the waters of baptism.  That’s why I did this morning when the water hit my face.  I remembered God’s love for me.

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2 Responses to “As You Wish”

  1. Good stuff! I hace come to appreciate how you approach to a subject, a new way to think about a story we know well, perhaps too well.

  2. billnieporte says:

    Thanks a bunch, Terry

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