The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
January 9th, 2022 – The Baptism of the Lord - Luke 3:15-22
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.
Why was Jesus baptized by John? I think there’s a likely simple answer. Jesus was a good person. He wanted to do the right thing. He wanted to improve himself. John was offering to all who came to him a water ritual that was common among these seeking to better their lives.
The pouring of water or being lowered into water denoted a cleansing, a purification, a sign that the baptized person wanted to change to a life more in accord with God’s Law. John’s baptism also had a special aspect to it. It was for Jews. Previously, only gentile converts to Judaism were baptized. John’s baptism also carried the note of making those receiving it more prepared for the coming of the Messiah. Hope like this was strong at that time.
The impression is given in some gospel accounts that John was uncomfortable baptizing Jesus. John felt that Jesus was someone extraordinary and that Jesus was destined for doing God’s work in a unique way. It is not necessary to assume that John knew the full identity of Jesus. But he knew enough to think that he was less than Jesus. Thus, John’s request that Jesus baptize him. But Jesus wanted to show his solidarity with all of us. He rejected any special treatment. So, he desired John’s ritual of cleansing and repentance.
Then, something remarkable occurred. Jesus heard God’s voice addressing him from heaven. Not just any word was said, but one quite unique and very special word. He heard of God’s approval of him, a very deep and comprehensive word of acceptance. It was the absolute word of approval by a father for a son. Being an only son in my family of origin, I know the power of such approval. Nothing is more valued by sons that their father’s appreciative word of blessing. At that moment, Jesus heard that word from God.
Some biblical scholars judge this moment in the life of Jesus as a kind of “turning point.” Like us, Jesus as human progressed in age and wisdom. These scholars claim that even Jesus only gradually became aware of his identity and mission. And one of the most important lessons Jesus learned was that he was loved by his father, God, something he came to know right after his baptism by John.
As a final point here, with our concern for family life, the power of a parent’s approval of children is immeasurable. And it’s a lifelong challenge. It’s always valued and always needed. So, parents (all dads and moms and grandparents) follow God’s lead.
©David M. Thomas, PhD