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Jesus Bore the Nametags of the World

Can I propose that Jesus began his public ministry the same way he ended it? He ended his ministry being crucified, covered with the sins of the world. He began his ministry being baptized, identifying volitionally with the sins of the world.

Would you allow me a couple of minutes of silliness? Let me give you a vision of what could have happened that day. It expresses, as I see it, the implications of what is going on here. We're standing around there, and we understand that big things like this have to be organized. We make a plan. One of us says, "When you decide to come and repent, folks, we want you to register. We'll get your name down on a mailing list, and we'll give you a name tag so that the baptizers can be more personal with you. Just step forward, and tell us your first name and your most awful sin."

Up to this table steps Bob. "Name?"


"What's your most awful sin, Bob?"

"I stole some money from my boss once." The person takes a marker and writes, BOB: EMBEZZLER.

Next person: "Name?"


"Mary, what's your most awful sin?"

"I slandered some people. I said things that weren't true. I just didn't like them. So the person writes, MARY: SLANDERER.



"What's your most awful sin?"

"I've been coveting my neighbor's Corvette." GEORGE: COVETER.


"Gordon. "

"Gordon, your most awful sin?"


And the person writing, with some degree of gloating, slaps the name tag on the chest of each person. Then all these people, with their name tags and their most awful sins, line up by the river, waiting to be baptized in repentance.

Up to the table comes Jesus. Jesus' most awful sin? Well, there aren't any. So Jesus starts walking down the line. He steps up to Bob and says, "Bob, give me your name tag," and he puts it on himself. "Mary, give me your name tag." He puts it on himself. "George, give me your name tag." It goes on himself. "Gordon, give me your name tag."

Soon the Son of God is covered with name tags and awful sins. Someone comes up and gently says to Jesus, "It's a nice thing you're doing. If you must do this, couldn't you take off a few of the worst ones? If you're going to spawn a messianic movement, you've got to be above reproach. Why don't you take off the tag that says, MURDERER. Take the adulterer tag off, too. Those are too despicable. We're talking about nines and tens here."

Jesus says, "You don't realize that I am the Son of David. David had to wear those name tags, and I will not write him off, for I have forgiven him."

In my vision, I see Jesus going to the water to present himself to John. The Savior is baptized. At the risk of being trite, in my vision, the people who had the markers didn't buy indelible ink. When Jesus comes up, all of the ink has been washed away and is going down the river. And I recall the words, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."

That's what repentance does. And that's what Jesus' ministry is all about. Without him, you and I are stuck.

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