On this day, the church commemorates the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord, Jesus. This concludes the Christmas season. This was the day in which Jesus descended into the River Jordan and was baptized with water by John.
Water was extremely important to the Hebrews. There are places all throughout Jerusalem, some still being excavated to this day that are the Hebrew ritual baths, called Mikvahs. It was believed these were in use by John the Baptizer’s followers. By the use of water, John was paving the way for what was yet to come. Jesus. Just imagine the glory and power of that day Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan. And what followed after with the appearance of the Trinity. This was the only occurrence in the New Testament that all three persons of the Trinity were thus manifested: The voice of God the Father, the Holy Spirit as a Dove, and Jesus the Son. For anyone who might have been blessed to experience this, probably left everyone in awe of what was transpiring. It also served as a commencement of Jesus’ earthly ministry, which was taking shape.
It is interesting to note here, that this is the first instance of Jesus’ relationship with water. Water was, indeed, a pivotal element of Jesus ministry. St. John 4:13-14 he writes, “Jesus answered and said unto her, whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” It was also said that blood and water came out of Jesus’ side when he was pierced while hanging from the cross.
During the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we encounter the truth of Jesus’ incarnation and His manifestation as the anointed One, Christ. There is much strength and power expressed when St. John proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sin of the world.”
In our scripture readings today, in Genesis 1: 1-5, we are reading the Creation story, the story of the very beginning. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form, a void which darkness covered the face of the deep, while the wind (breath of God) swept over the face of the waters. God, in his magnificence proclaimed, “Let there be light;” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called the Night, and thus was evening and then morning, the very first day.”
Then follows Psalm 29, “Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor. The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!” The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!” There is so very much that the Lord can do, power and majesty are his forevermore.
In Acts 19: 1-7, we learn that Apollos was in the Corinth; and that St. Paul had passed through the inner areas to Ephesus, where he located some disciples. Paul asks the disciples, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Paul asks, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul says, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” After hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit came upon them after Paul had laid his hands on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied, altogether there were about twelve of them.”
And in Mark 1: 4-11 John the baptizer was in the wilderness, announcing a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Citizens from the whole Judean countryside and the residents of Jerusalem went out to him and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, and confessing their sins. John wore camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and honey. He declared, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he perceived the heavens were torn apart and the Spirit descending as a dove on him. And then a great voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
The water is purity at its core meaning. And thus, when we are baptized; we are purifying ourselves to belong to God. We are, in a symbolic sense, becoming more Christ-like. What happened at our baptism is figurative of what happened at Jesus’ baptism. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit came down upon him; and at our baptism the Trinity took up residence in our soul. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke, and proclaimed, “This is my son, of who I am well pleased,” and at our baptism we become the adopted sons and daughters of God. The heavens were opened at Jesus’ baptism, at ours, Heaven became available to us.
What do you think of when you think of baptism? Perhaps some of you may even remember your baptism. Some of us were sprinkled as babies, or if we came to the Lord later in life, were baptized as adults. There are several methods of baptism, some people are baptized by a vessel that pours out water over their heads in a baptismal font, and others may be immersed or “dunked” bodily. It’s more than just a sprinkling of water. Regardless of the method, something very profound happens. Heaven becomes available to you. If you were baptized as an infant, you may go through confirmation at a later time to help the cement the foundation that was laid for you, if you were baptized later in life, perhaps your life has found a new meaning, as you declare Jesus as your Lord and you His follower.
Perhaps some of you reading this have never been baptized. Or maybe you are considering baptizing your children. Please take into thoughtful meditation the significance of the Lord’s baptism during your own or your children’s. As much as it involves getting wet, the inner self must be prepared for the transformation as well. May the peace of our Lord and Savior be with you all of your days. Amen.