This feast is part of the epiphany cycle of feasts ….
It reveals further the meaning of the Incarnation of the Son of God, that is. our God entering our world and becoming flesh and blood.
God sent is only Son to become one with us.
What better way to do this than to show acceptance of the human condition by being baptized for the forgiveness of sin.
Jesus has no personal sin. Yet he lined up with hundreds of pilgrims to be baptized by the prophet John in the Jordan.
In this we see Jesus’ humility. He is willing to accept ALL of the human condition. He willingly presents himself for baptism.
There he is: John in his camel-hair shirt at the edge of the desert, wading out into the waters of the Jordan River.
A crowd has gathered on the banks. Jesus is among them. He is unknown at this time because he has yet to begin his ministry. He has chosen this meeting with the Prophet to inaugurate his own mission.
Jesus waits patiently amidst the crowd. There’s a line of people eagerly waiting to meet individually with John and to receive his baptism of repentance.
It’s almost Jesus’ turn. John catches his eye as he talks with the young woman ahead of Jesus. (They’re cousins, you may remember.)
As Jesus walks up to John, his cousin objects, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’
I wonder why John said, “I NEED to be baptized by you.”
There’s a crowd around but a bit of an intimate conversation between cousins takes place.
I wonder when the last time they talked.
I wonder how close they were.
Did they ever have “guy” talk?
But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented.
John probably admired his cousin a lot and found it difficult to play this role of “holier than thou,” so to speak. Consenting, he probably did reluctantly.
But if I were John, I would have doused my cousin GOOD!
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’
I have a strawberry conditioner I put on my non-hair as a reminder of my anointing at confirmation. It’s a ritual I do every time I shower to remind me of my baptism.
These days I very much feel a beloved son, with whom my heavenly Father and my Lord are pleased.
Why? Because they know I try my best to pray well and to be faithful, as odd as that may seem as I walk this very unconventional path.
You see, Jesus fulfills ALL of the proscriptions of a penitent. He does everything that he is supposed to do. He does not ask for special favors. He does not expect any courtesies or privileges.
(I can learn a lesson here. In the days that there were special privileges for priests ~ not any more ~ I sometimes relished being whisked to the head of the line or getting a “clergy discount.”)
But back to our story. An astonishing thing happened; the two of them were privileged to a vision. The sky opened up and John saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus like a dove and hover over him.
With that, a voice from the heavens said,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
In our immersion into the waters of baptism, we are consecrated, set apart and made holy. In Jesus’ immersion in the baptismal waters of the Jordan, the opposite becomes true. Jesus consecrates, sets apart and makes holy the waters of baptism. Jesus as Man consecrates the movement of divine grace that flows just as rivers flow.
Sometimes the river has abundant waters that give life to all living things that share its banks. But sometimes the waters dry up and become like a desert.
So, too, with grace. Grace flows like a river bringing wonderful fruit to all who drink and are immersed in it. But sometimes grace seemingly dries up and we live in a desert for awhile. But the river is still there ~ unseen; it just moves below the surface.
So we have to be willing to be immersed. To be immersed in divine grace. To be immersed in God. To be immersed in love.
But that precisely is the problem. We are scared of being immersed in love. We are scared of being immersed in God. We prefer to stand on the banks of the river and watch the waters of grace flow by, without having direct contact with it.
So this feast day is about us as well. Don’t be afraid to be immersed in God. Don’t be afraid to be immersed in love.
If we are immersed in God, in love, we will hear the voice of God say to us
“You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter.
Now, before you go, here’s Bill and Gloria Gaither singing the traditional spiritual “Shall we Gather at the River.” Click here.