Readings for January 13, 2019
The Baptism of the Lord
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 or Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Psalm 29 or Psalm 104
Acts 10:34-38 or Timothy 2:11-14, 3:4-7
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
Jesus did not need to be baptized by John. John baptized sinners seeking repentance, not Saviors who have come to redeem the repentant sinners. So why is Jesus being baptized by John? Even John declares his own unworthiness in so much as removing Jesus’ sandals. Yet both still carry out the baptism. A cynic could view this event as yet another churchy-type event, unnecessary for salvation, little more than cultural tradition and religious theater.
The cynics, however, would be wrong, completely underestimating the efficacy of an example of humility and, importantly, the role of righteousness. “Righteousness” in the biblical sense, is doing what is pleasing to God, particularly in place of doing what we think we should be doing for ourselves. This can be tricky in today’s society, as we seem to want to choose ourselves, and our pleasure, over God’s often more challenging requests. We may even find verses from the bible to justify our self-serving worldliness or, in many cases, our self-righteous Godliness. True righteousness puts things in the proper order, with God at the top of the list. Right thinking, right feeling, right behavior is and must be considered from God’s perspective, not from our own.
John and Jesus knew this, and in Jesus’ baptism they are submitting to the Father’s will, accepting their duty in righteousness. The event as told in the Gospel of Matthew sheds some light on this, telling of an exchange between the Savior and the Prophet. “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” John asked. Jesus replied, “Allow it now, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (3:14-5). God then affirms their decision, with the fullness of the Trinity as the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus as a dove and God says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
It is not insignificant that God spoke of His Son after Jesus “had been baptized and was praying.” In doing so, Jesus shows us the righteous behavior that God desires from all of us, modeling it for us in all fullness. We must accept the power of the Holy Spirit in baptism and pray to live out the righteousness of the Father with that power. As St. Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy, we are saved by the mercy of God because of His love for us, “not because of any righteous deeds we had done.” So, in right order, we are to understand that we are saved through God’s grace first, and then to respond to that grace in righteousness. I pray to live in this right order in my own life.
Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and with the fire of your love and goodness. May I always find joy and delight in seeking to please you in doing your will just as you have delighted in the joy of pleasing your Father and doing His will.