Christmas season ends with the Baptism of the Lord. Christmas told us God became one of us. Last weekend we celebrated Epiphany, the revelation of the Lord to all nations. This weekend again we celebrate God the Father who reveals his Son at baptism. We can see here all three persons of God were present. Jesus Christ, the second person of God, standing at the Jordan River. We hear the voice of the Father from heaven and the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove. The Baptism of the Lord tells us that Jesus is not just having human nature, he has Divine nature.
We know the Exodus story from the Old Testament, a journey from slavery to the Promised Land. In that journey, the Israelites crossed two rivers. We all know the story of crossing the Red Sea. It was the beginning of the Exodus story. At the end of the Exodus story is crossing the Jordan River and entering the Promised Land.
In the New Testament, at the Baptism of the Lord, begins the new Exodus story. John the Baptist at the Jordan River is giving the baptism of repentance. In the Book of Malachi 3:1 says, “Now I am sending my messenger- he will prepare the way before me.” Jews believed that Elijah will come to prepare the way of the Lord (3:23). John invited them for the baptism. Washing or a purification ceremony was common for Jewish people. It is called Mikveh, the pool they went to for the washing ceremony. In the Gospel, John talks about the one who is coming and inviting people to receive the baptism of repentance at the Jordan River in order to prepare the way.
Even though Jesus is sinless, and no need of repentance, Jesus chooses to be baptized to identify himself with his people, sinners, as part of the Father’s plan to save them. St. Gregory of Nazianzus says, “Perhaps he comes to sanctify his baptizer; certainly he comes to bury sinful humanity in the waters… Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with him.”
In the Gospel reading, we see the fulfillment of the promise. A voice…with you I am well pleased: God’s acknowledgment of Jesus as his unique Son, the divinity of Christ. The presence of the Trinity at this baptism reveals Jesus' true identity and mission of Jesus. Father’s approval of Jesus is the assurance that Jesus will fulfill his messianic mission of salvation.
“This is my beloved Son” the Father’s announcement echoes several Old Testament passages. In the first reading from the book of Isaiah 42:1, 6&7, we see prophesy that the coming of God’s pleasing servant, who will rescue Israel, and he will be the light of the nation. Jesus fulfills this role as a suffering servant and light of the world (John8:12). Psalm 2:17 portrays King David as the anointed son of God. Jesus is here from the house of David, anointed by the Spirit and Father revealing Jesus' identity, “This is my beloved Son.”
The Baptism of the Lord was the inauguration of the new Exodus. Then began his ministry of the miracle at Cana, opening the eyes of the blind, healing the sick, bringing out prisoners from confinement, feeding the five thousand, instituting the Eucharist to remain with us forever, and offering on the cross, poured out blood to give us new baptism, to wash away our sins. Through his passion, death, and resurrection, he gave us the Sacraments to prepare us to go out and bring the same ministry he did.
When we walk into the Church, we used to dip the fingers of our right hands into the holy water font and bless ourselves when we came into the church. Because of the pandemic, we don’t have that opportunity. This blessing is supposed to remind us of our baptism. And so when we bless ourself with holy water, we should be thinking of the fact that we are a child of God; that we have been redeemed by the Cross of Christ; that we have been made a member of God’s family, and that we have been washed, forgiven, cleansed and purified by the blood of the Lamb and we have been sent out to bring the Good News by serving one another.