Craig Barnes claims Jesus identified with the human anxious condition. That was the point of his lecture “Preaching in the Age of Anxiety.” He admits to being in the subtext, but states that is where preachers belong. Barnes wants us to look at Matthew 4 and what he calls the three great anxieties but he realizes that in order to get there we must travel through chapter three.
Lurking in chapter three is John the Baptist. Barnes wants to like John but feels like John is another judgmental preacher. A preacher who preaches what Barnes calls the “bad dog” sermon. And he preaches it over and over. We are there also. We are on the shores of the Jordan when John looks at the crowds and says “bad dog” then points to Jesus and says “this is who I’ve warned you about.” Yet, Jesus does not come with a winnowing fork and he does not call for fire from heaven. Instead, he applies for baptism. Jesus identifies with the human condition and God is pleased. We know God is pleased because of the announcement “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
Onto chapter four where Barnes reframes the three temptations as the “three great anxieties.” Here Jesus identifies with the human condition, which is the human anxious condition. First, we are all hungry for all sorts of things. We are wired for hunger and created to desire. We will move all sorts of furniture trying to find our own fulfillment. We will blame others for our lack of fulfillment. Our hunger makes us anxious because we doubt what Jesus knows to be true, “we are the beloved of God.”
In fact, Barnes says, all our anxieties are because we doubt we are loved. That is why it is important for Jesus to take the incarnational route, he identifies with our anxieties. We would all like some level of certainty. Yet, faith does not promise certainty. But even when we cannot claim certainty, we can proclaim we are the beloved of God. Fear does not leave by being certain, but by being loved.
Anxiety is created by the desire to be necessary. But being necessary is a sure way to rob oneself of being loved. Someone who is necessary becomes a utility, a tool, a necessary item. You are too important to be necessary. Being necessary will only cause anxiety. Barnes goes on, do not settle for necessary. The current climate is already full of this – instead, recognize this, you are cherished by God.