Baptism of Our Lord
January 15, 2023
Matthew 3:13-17 describes the baptism ofJesus, including John the Baptist’s objection that Jesus should be baptizinghim. Why did Jesus want to be baptized, anyway?
This question was raised by Christians alreadyin the first century, which is probably the reason that it is recorded here—unlikethe baptism accounts in Mark 1:9-11 and Luke 3:21-22. John the Baptist haddisciples and a very well-known ministry before Jesus had disciples or a publicministry.
In fact, in the earliest decades ofChristianity, there were people called Mandaeans; among other things, thesegnostic Christians asserted that John the Baptist was, in fact, superior toJesus. Mainstream Christianity rejected that view. In later passages, theGospels of Mark and Luke clearly present the superiority of Jesus. The Gospel of
John records John the Baptist as approvingwhen Andrew and another disciple became disciples of Jesus (1:35-37). Jesus didnot have the same motivation to be baptized as the people immediately ahead ofhim or behind him at the Jordan River; they were baptized as a sign ofrepentance. By being baptized, Jesus identified himself with sinful humanity.His prayer and the revelation of Father and Spirit tell us that Baptism unitesus with the Trinity and makes us beloved children of God. Jesus later speaks ofhaving to undergo a baptism, namely, his plunge into depths by which he saveshumanity and all creation.
During the Easter season, our liturgy affirmsthat by his being baptized, Jesus sanctified even water. Jesus was baptized toencourage his later followers to be baptized. That action began his publicministry; similarly, that act begins the new life of every follower of Jesus.Jesus’ baptism resembles in some ways the key visions of Old Testament prophets(Is 6:1-13; Ez 1—3; Dn 7—8; Am 1:1-2; Mi 1:1—2:13; Hb1:1—2:20). The JewishChristians for whom Matthew wrote would have made that connection readily.
Other New Testament passages indicate how theBaptism celebrated by Jesus’ followers differs from the baptism that John theBaptist administered (Acts 8:14-17 and 18:24-26).
Used with permission from Franciscan Media (www.FranciscanMedia.org).