Tuesday, 14 January 2020


In Checkov’s short one act comedy The Proposal, Lomov comes to propose to Natalya his neighbour’s daughter. After a short introductory scene explaining his purpose it is time to bring Natalya on stage. The question for director and actress is how to do that, how to start. Lomov waits in his evening dress centre stage, nervous, uncertain, bumbling while Natalya ia told by her father that “A merchant is come by claim his goods.”  You need to set her character from this moment - the proposal by the way will not go well and within a few paragraphs they are arguing so as she arrives on stage in her working clothes and apron it has to be clear from her tone of voice and gesture what sort of a person she is. This beginning more than anything in my view is what will make the one act play will work.

Beginnings are important and here this morning as we hear about the start of Jesus’ ministry he comes on stage and he comes to tell us who he is. Our first question might be “Why does Jesus need or want to be baptised?”surely as John the Baptist points out this is upside down. There immediately is a signpost for Jesus’ earthly ministry: He will throughout his time, in his preaching and teaching turn established ideas, particularly those of of the religious leaders, on their heads.  Notice too that Jesus immediately exerts and shows his authority, John consented. We know that Jesus is strong, quiet, persuasive;  we will see him calling the disciples Andrew and John from their fishing boats, Matthew from his tax collecting and they will follow him they will consent.

Jesus comes to fulfil the words of the prophets and returning to our reading from Isaiah we hear:

“Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delights, I have put my spirit upon him. Thus says the Lord God, the lord who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it - who gives breath to the people.” Isaiah reminding us so beautifully who God is, the creator of all, tells us that he is sending his servant, his chosen one.

Jesus comes to us as man and God - in this first action, he shows it is never going to be only about words and this first gesture shows that he is one of us that he is identifying totally as a person just as all those others who have come to be  baptised by John he submits to be baptised but notice Jesus’ first steps on the stage are not made alone.

“And when Jesus had been baptised he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove. And a voice from heaven said “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

So as Jesus comes in from the wings we are straight away introduced to the Trinity, there are Father, Son and Holy Spirit on this occasion and to my reckoning only on this occasion manifested to us all at the same time. Jesus the Son rising from the water, the Holy Spirit as a dove and the words of the Father coming from heaven. Now good theologians and Christians that you all are you doubtless thinking “But the three persons of the Trinity are always with us always together what is Steve on about?” This is the only time that we do see them all at once and I emphasise again this is the beginning, the people on the bank of the Jordan do not yet know that Jesus will promise us the Holy Spirit, the advocate, the counsellor, they do not know who Jesus is -even the disciples will not know until almost the end of the Gospel, yet it is all here at this first entrance.

Jesus comes to turn things upside down, to be authoritative,to fulfill the words of the prophets, to show us he is incarnate and to tell us and show us the love of the Trinity. In these four verses is the perfect beginning.


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