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"The Baptism of the Lord"

  • January 9, 2011
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Baptism was a rite of purification in ancient times. It consisted of total immersion in water, usually by the riverside or in a pool. The one being baptized was usually guided and prayed over, the persons present being witnesses to this major change of life.

John the prophet lived and preached by the river Jordan, and baptized many of his hearers, as a sign that they had changed their lives and wished to become his disciples.

When Jesus comes to John to be baptized, it’s an awkward moment for him. He knows who Jesus is and protests that it is he, John, who should be baptized by Jesus. But Jesus pacifies him, saying, “let it be so, for the present. We do well to conform in this with all that God requires.”

As Jesus arises from the waters, Matthew and the other Gospel writers describe this significant moment in Jesus’s life: he publicly accepts his mission from God to be his “beloved Son”, the messiah whose sufferings will save the world.

The rich symbolism of this passage was understood by all the Jews and early Christians. Jesus is filled with the Spirit who alights gently upon him, “like a dove”. A voice is heard, quoting the prophet Isaiah, and claiming Jesus as his unique son, the messiah.

Christian Baptism is no longer just a ritual of purification; it’s also a rite of mission.

God chooses us and gives us a task to do. As he chose Jesus and blessed him with his Spirit, so does he call us and challenge us to spread the good news. Do we realize this?
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