“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came down from heaven: ‘You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” Luke 3:21-22 (NIV)
The book of Luke emphasizes the human nature of Jesus. Here, Luke spends time telling us about encounters that common persons had with Christ, which shows us the heart for people that Jesus had. Jesus’ baptism recorded in these verses was the first public declaration of his ministry. People at that time had little idea what this baptism and announcement would bring to the world. Instead of going to popular Jerusalem, where religious leaders were identified by their positions, it seems fitting that Jesus in his humble nature would choose the path less traveled. Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan.
According to Duke University’s The Connection, water is mentioned 722 times in the Bible. Water represents life. Christians baptized with water are purified in their souls and are admitted into the faith. The words we hear the pastors at Southwood recite during a baptism reflect this invitation: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In Titus 3:5-7, St. Paul writes about the miraculous gift given by God: “He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”
You may have wondered at some point why the sinless son of God wanted to be baptized. You are not alone. Even the baptizer, John the Baptist, questioned Jesus on this. But John did not have the history we do today. We have the whole picture of Jesus’ life and John had only a small component. The Son of God was also the Son of Man. He was born into this world and identified with the needs and the problems of the inhabitants on earth.
Through his baptism, Jesus identified with the sinners he came to save. But this act was also used to announce the beginning of Jesus' ministry on earth. As God spoke and confirmed in this verse his decision to send Jesus into the world, it was more than a verbal comment, it was a message between God and Jesus to begin to act; to begin to do God’s will. God was coming into human history through his son, Jesus Christ.
The baptism was the opening of a door. It was a beginning of teaching, preaching and the powerful story of salvation. It is through this baptism and Jesus’ suffering on the cross that God “fulfilled all righteousness.” For this eternal gift we give our humble thanks to God.
Questions for Reflection:
- Reflect on your baptism. What do you think occurred to you at this time? Even if you did not have a dove descend above you, that you could see, do you believe the Trinity was present?
- One of the reasons stated for Jesus' baptism was to give us an example of this miraculous act. What goes through your mind when you see the Pastors perform a baptism?
Father in Heaven, we thank you that in your love for us, you have called us to be baptized in your name, to be brought into your eternal kingdom. We ask that we remember that as baptized members of your Church, we are called to be your servants on this earth. In your name, Amen