Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11Titus 2: 11-14, 3: 4-7Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22
Sometimes a story is so familiar that it is easy to overlook its real significance. Such might be the case with the account of the Baptism of the Lord. An unusual aspect of this event in the life of Jesus is that all four Evangelists make reference to it. We may not realize that this is not all that common.
It helps, however, to give some thought to the context. John the Baptist had been preaching for some time. It is clear that he had attracted a following. Some even thought he may be the Christ, the promised Messiah. On the other hand, at that point, Jesus was pretty much an unknown commodity. We heard John, today, deny that he was the Christ. He also said that a more significant person would come. Other accounts of this event tell us that John names Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” What this moment presents is the acceptance by Jesus of his mission as well as the beginning of his ministry. We hear: “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” Thus begins the ministry of Jesus. All that follows in his ministry flows from this designation as the “Beloved Son.”
The ministry of the “Beloved Son” marks a new development in the history of the world. He is God’s chosen means of being revealed, being known. In the person of Jesus Christ, God comes into the midst of the world in order to restore and renew creation, to restore and renew us. He comes to begin to root out the effects of sinfulness, the rejection of God, so that what was intended from the beginning can now be achieved.
The Baptism of the Lord conveys a spirit of hope and adventure. It conveys the spirit of a new way by which things were to be done. It is an adventure that was begun in the ministry of Jesus and then continued by the body of believers Jesus establishes with his followers. It has the potential of renewing the world and renewing us. This is the hopeful challenge which begins with the Baptism of the Lord.
This same challenge is given to us in our baptism when we became children of our loving God. It was then that we were anointed for doing God’s work. It is in that spirit that we hear from Isaiah and Saint Paul what we are and what we are to do. It is the living of our faith that brings comfort. It is in the living out of our faith that the hills and valleys that hinder our lives are overcome. It is in the living out of our faith that allows us freely and willingly to reject godless ways and to live in ways that are balanced, just and devout.
The Baptism of the Lord marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It is that ministry that now continues in us as we seek to take advantage of the possibilities of what we might be. We are to allow the message of his ministry to pierce the very depths of our minds and hearts and so reveal a loving relationship with our good and gracious God.