John the Baptist was a key figure in God’s plan for our salvation. Before John was conceived God spoke to Zachariah and announced that his wife in her old age would bear a son. The Holy Spirit would anoint him while he was in his mother’s womb and he would go in power to bring many to righteousness. John did exactly what God anointed him to do by giving us a clear message that an internal conversion is necessary for each one of us as the first step in our restoration as sons and daughters.
Luke’s gospel gives a more extensive story of John’s conception and mission but all the gospel writers have John preparing the way of the Lord by his preaching of repentance. Each of the gospels tells us how John taught that Jesus would move us beyond a baptism of water to another more powerful baptism; a baptism of spirit and fire. But before Jesus does that he himself enters the waters and submits to the baptism of John.
We have heard the story of Jesus’ baptism so many times I do not think we give it much thought but we should because it has great meaning for us. Why would Jesus, the sinless one, ask to receive the baptism of repentance by someone who acknowledges he is not worthy to loosen his sandal. What are we to learn from the story of Jesus’ baptism?
When Jesus entered the waters of the Jordan and was baptized by his cousin it radically changed the meaning of baptism forever. John’s baptism was an outward sign of a person’s desire to change their way of living and follow the way of righteousness. When Jesus is baptized by John we see something happening that had never happened before in any of John’s baptisms. We see the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus and we hear God speaking.
Jesus in the upper room said he would send that same Spirit to each of us to teach us everything we need to know about our relationship with God. Jesus by entering into the baptismal waters shows us that baptism is more than an outward sign of an inner desire. Baptism has now become the first step into becoming sons and daughters. Our baptism has became an internal sanctification that restored our relationship with God. But beyond our baptism of water we are to expect more internal changes (like a change of heart) to come from a continual action of the Spirit within us.
Peter speaking to the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:37) says Jesus by the baptism of John was “anointed with power and the Holy Spirit.” We know Jesus was with God and the Spirit at the beginning of creation. We know that Jesus was the Word made flesh and the light that came into the world. But when Jesus became human, he willingly became like us in every way. We fail to understand that the miracles Jesus performed; he performed as a human dependent on God working within him and through him. That power of God within him began on that day when the Holy Spirit came upon him and then drove him into the desert.
It was in those days after his baptism that the Spirit equipped him for his mission to set the captives free, to give sight to the blind and to proclaim the kingdom of God was among us who believe. His anointing was the promise of our anointing as priest, prophet and kings by that same spirit on the day of our baptism. Yet because we do not remember the events surrounding our baptism we do not realize the power we have as sons and daughters.
During our baptism we were filled with the Spirit, cleansed from original sin and joined the family of God. In confirmation we publicly profess our faith and say yes to living a life of righteousness empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is on this day when Jesus was baptized that Jesus shows us how the Spirit also came upon us and confirmed that we are pleasing to God. It is by that Spirit daily transforming us that we are empowered to do the same things Jesus did.
Like John, you and I are not worthy of this gift of salvation but we are to be obedient and prepare the way of the Lord. We are to go to the lost who seek righteousness through piety. We are to go to the broken who have given up on receiving God’s mercy. We are to go to the blind who are seeking salvation by following the teaching of modern day Pharisees. We are to go and proclaim the kingdom to all.
We, you and I, need to realize that these stories are about us and not stories about John and Jesus. We need to think of our own anointing by the Spirit and our call to discipleship. Then we need to answer the one question Jesus asks you today – What are we doing with our anointing?