The question has been raised, “Why was Jesus baptized?” Truly it does seem out of place that the sinless one would submit to baptism. After all, John’s baptism was a summons to repentance. It was for sinners who were conscious of their sinfulness. Jesus did not have any reason to repent as he had nothing to repent for. What relevance could John’s baptism have for Jesus, and why did Jesus submit to it?
It was a symbolic act. Jesus wanted to show solidarity with the people for whom he had come into the world. For this reason it was important that he be baptized, and baptized publicly. It this way he was identifying with sinners. When Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan River, he was in effect saying to them, “I’m here for you!”
On the day of his baptism, Jesus joined the ranks of sinners. The Father approved of this and spoke through the Spirit, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased. Listen to him.”
What Jesus did on that day was to serve as a model for his public ministry. He would not set himself apart from sinners. He would not wait for sinners to come to him. Jesus would seek them out and go among them, welcoming them, befriending them, eating with them, and challenging them to embrace the Kingdom. Think about his parables: The Lost Sheep, the lost coin, the Prodigal Son. Think about the ones he encountered: the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus, Peter, the woman at the well, the thief who hung beside him on the cross.
Jesus did not stand apart or put himself above the sinners he came to save. He placed himself among them. He joined them where they were at on their journey and invited them to see the vision of the Kingdom as he proclaimed it. Jesus was so much in tune with sinners that he himself was accused by the religious leaders of being one of them. In fact, he was treated as a criminal, and suffered the fate of a condemned man.
Though completely sinless, Jesus took our sinful condition on himself. Jesus does not stand above us but walks with us as a compassionate brother. He reveals to us that we are the precious daughters and sons of the Father. Jesus desires to lead us out from our wretched condition of sin and death into resurrection and glory.
When we reflect on this feast we can understand why Pope Francis has told us that the date of our baptism is more important to remember than our date of our birth. For it was through the waters of baptism that we were cleansed from the stain of Original Sin, given the dignity of being children of God the Father, sent into this world for a mission, and have an eternal destiny. WOW!!!! As the Father said, “LISTEN TO HIM!”
- Fr. Dennis, January 12, 2020