Grace: For an intimate knowledge of Jesus, who for me was baptized in order that I may be saved.
Text: Matthew 3:13-17
Reflection: There came a point in Jesus’ life when He made the decision to leave His home in order to fulfill His saving mission. Since His public ministry lasted about three years, and He died around the age of thirty-three, it is likely that Jesus stayed home until His late twenties or early thirties. As Luke says after Jesus decided to return to Nazareth with His parents instead of staying in the temple at twelve years old, “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Lk 2:52).
It is generally thought that by this time Joseph had passed away. Mary and Jesus had to fend for themselves. How hard it must have been for Jesus to depart! How much trust and faith He must have had in His Father! When we think of Jesus’ prayer leading up to this point, we can see how His determination to fulfill His mission must have grown with each moment. Jesus’ perfect unity with the Father through the Spirit led Him to this crucial decision: to leave Nazareth and set out for Jordan, where John was baptizing.
In the Baptism we see Jesus get in the line of the sinners who were listening to John’s exhortation, “Repent and be baptized!” He doesn’t skip the line to be first, He doesn’t stand apart from the sinners in order not to be sullied. Indeed, why must He be baptized if He knew no sin? This act is part of the complete descending movement of the Incarnation. Jesus not only became human—He stood in the place of sinners.
We can imagine how Jesus sees the crowds that flock to John. They are in search for salvation, hungry for God’s life, hoping against hope that God would forgive their sins if they but repent and prepare for the Messiah. These are the poor who don’t have the luxury of trusting in riches, vanity, or power for their security. They have nothing but their sins. And these they hope to rid themselves of through John’s baptism.
John’s baptism in the river Jordan was spectacular. It is thought that he would grab the person to be baptized and ask them if they repented of their sins. Upon receiving an affirmative answer, John would dunk them into the water and hold them there—to demonstrate how sins suffocate the soul. Jesus’ being plunged into the water of the Jordan embodies and symbolizes His descent into the murkiness and suffocating reality of our sins which would eventually kill Him. His baptism foreshadows His eventual descent into hell and His resurrection. Jesus’ baptism is the inauguration of His public ministry, His declaration to the world, to heaven, and to hell of His intentions: He comes to save the world.
As Jesus emerges from the water, the Spirit descends upon Him and a voice is heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I well pleased.” How much we hope to hear those words someday!
Questions: What was it like for Jesus to leave Nazareth and set out for the Jordan? What kind of thoughts were running through His mind? How does Jesus see the crowds on the banks of the Jordan preparing for their baptism? What kinds of things are they saying? What kinds of things are they doing? As Jesus is plunged into the water, what does He think? How does He feel? How does Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan make me feel?