Summary: Jesus at his baptism, tood on our identity--that of a sinner. At our baptism, we take on Jesus' identity--missionary, evangelist proclaiming the God's kingdom is near.
A reader of the scriptures does not get very far in any of the four gospels before coming upon this critical event in the life of Christ—his baptism. It is one of the few incidents in Jesus’ life that is contained in all four of the gospels. (The feeding of the five thousand, Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well, and his appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus are examples of important stories that are not contained in all four gospels.) Obviously, his baptism was an important event in Jesus’ life as is baptism in the lives of his followers.
Baptism is important in Christian congregations and is practiced by all of them. Sacramental churches such as the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Lutheran stress infant baptism. Churches of the Baptist persuasion, Pentecostal/Charismatic and non-denominational highlight adult, or believer, baptism. Though there may be theological differences in the interpretation of baptism, it is still understood to be an important part of a Christian’s life.
As important and universal as baptism is, many Christians struggle to change their baptism from a mere religious ritual into a watershed event that is life-changing for them.
Jesus meets John in the wilderness, along with others who had come to hear John preach, and asks to be baptized. Matthew is the only gospel writer to record John’s objection. John knows who Jesus is and realizes that Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized. Jesus insists on being baptized by John.
John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus had never sinned. He didn’t need to be baptized. Jesus’ was a different baptism. By his baptism, Jesus was identifying himself with all of humanity; he was placing himself on the level of all of us who sin and fall short of God’s glory. Jesus not only shed his godliness and took on human form he also opened himself up to all that is human.
The heaven’s opened, God spoke, and the Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism. All of the gospel writers record this event. God the Father affirms that Jesus is his Son. We can only imagine what this acknowledgement by God the Father meant to Jesus. For most of the people around Jesus, he was an out-of-wedlock child who Joseph had graciously raised. In this scene, the father finds the son and declares Jesus’ kinship. Perhaps only those who have been adopted can understand the power of this event.
Jesus’ baptism was also the beginning of his public ministry. The gospels do not contain any reference to Jesus before this event except for his birth and a temple visit when he was twelve years-old. Once empowered with the Holy Spirit Jesus sets out on his ministry.
Jesus’ baptism was a time when he reinforces the truth that he became one of us.
When we are baptized, it is a time when we become members of the family of God. We turn from enemies to friends, from slaves to family, and from sinners to saints.