We do not know much about Jesus in those years between his presentation in the temple and his baptism in the Jordan by John. We do have a glimpse of him at twelve years old with the teachers in the temple. As he left the temple and went home with Joseph and Mary the scriptures tell us that he “advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (Lk. 2:52).
Of course there is a lot of conjecture about his childhood and early years. Books and movies attempted to show us some aspects of his humanity and his divinity. But we can only speculate about his early life for the truth is that we just do not know. I believe that there was nothing spectacular in his life to make anyone believe he was the Messiah. How can I say this about the Son of God? Because a scene in John 6:42 has the crowd saying “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” From this it is obvious that there was nothing in his life or actions which would give them an indication of who he was.
Now with the baptism by John all will know or hear about him. It begins with him kneeling before John to be baptized. Not because Jesus needed to be baptized for the reasons we need to be baptized. His baptism had much more significance for us – our sanctification not his.
In Matthew’s gospel of Jesus’ baptism, John expresses how he should not be baptizing Jesus. Jesus tells him, “allow it now for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Our theology tells us that this statement by Jesus is a reference to him submitting to God’s plan of salvation for all. A plan that will have Jesus dying for the forgiveness of all sin. So Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry kneels before man and submits to God’s plan. Something that should have us all kneel before God submitting to his plan for us, as disciples, to build the kingdom of God. Through the Submission Jesus is affirmed and God signifies to us how deeply he loves him and us.
Don’t we all desire to know that we are beloved by God? Wouldn’t it be great to know that God delights in who we are? Wouldn’t it be great to know that God approves of our life and the choices we have made in our life? Our knowing how much God loves us should change everything about how we live out our spiritual lives. We would know that no matter how many times we fail or fall short, that God is always reaching out to embrace us. We would know without a doubt that God is there to celebrate over us as he did with the prodigal son. We would know without a doubt that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Jesus confirmed that day as he knelt before John that he came to remove the barrier of sin that separates us from receiving God’s love and mercy. Jesus’ submitted to his Fathers plan on that day and it ended on the cross – removing the guilt and penalty of our sin so we would know how deeply we are beloved.
Because of this action by Jesus we should be submitting to God’s plan and asking for that same Holy Spirit to drive us into the desert. Drive us to a place where the Spirit can strengthen us in Holiness to live the life God intended for us the moment we were created.
We, each of us, by our own baptism are called to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. We should be eager to spread the news of God’s gift of a life. A life filled with God love filling us instead of one filled with condemnation. God’s plan for us is that we live in righteousness not by our own merit but by the saving action of Jesus Christ. God’s plan for us is told to us in the prophets when God says he will change our hearts and put a new Spirit in us. A Spirit that will make our hearts burn with fire for love of God. God’s plan for us is for us to know how beloved we are and always will be. This should change us so that instead of seeking his approval we live out that approval by our own acts of forgiveness.
This week’s gospel is about our baptism. it is understanding how much we are loved and beloved by God. For most of us God’s love and his approval seems so distant that we shy away from entering into his presence. We, like John, object to God when he comes to us. But like John we must hear the words of God saying exactly what we need to do – allow him to let that water of life transform us and open our eyes to see how loved we are by God.