Whether it’s a champion boxer entering the ring, a modern-day politician on the campaign trail or a bride arriving for her wedding, people do like to make an entrance. And if it’s a hero, a champion or simply a crowd favourite, it’s not unusual to have music blaring, lights beaming and photographers snapping pictures all the way along the red carpeted route.
After the build-up that John the Baptist gives at the start of Matthew 3 we might have expected nothing less than a 1st century red-carpet equivalent for the arrival of the Messiah. But that’s not what happens. The fire and judgement John spoke about aren’t anywhere in sight. Instead we see a humble man walk silently into the water. There are signs that Jesus is special: the sky parts and the heavens open; something like a dove flutters down and lands on his head; and a voice calls out from Heaven: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well-pleased.” But almost as soon as it began the drama is over and all is calm and back to normal.
But we mustn’t imagine that John’s words were a lot of hot air. Jesus had not been overhyped nor his power and authority exaggerated. This quiet entrance is strikingly similar to the way Jesus entered the world: quietly, calmly but with a heavenly voice (that time by angels) announcing his arrival.
But when Jesus returns it will not be so subtle. On that day, every eye will see him and every knee will bow before him. On that day, the judgement that John spoke about, and which Jesus spoke about, will finally happen, and Jesus will reign in all his glory, for ever, with those who have put their trust in him alone.
Ascension Day (Thursday) reminds us that one day Jesus will return in glory as King and judge. But since we don’t know when that will be, we need to get ready, and help others to get ready, to meet him now as Lord and Saviour, before it’s too late.