Holy Spirit Baptism
When Jesus came up to John, baptizing in the wilderness, John was the well-known one. People came streaming out of the towns into the rough land to be baptized, and the need for change swept over them. John’s teaching of repentance and charity intrigued many, and they wondered whether he was the Messiah they had longed for. But John sets them straight – there’s another coming after me – wait for him.
The passage we have just heard comes at the very beginning of Jesus’ adult ministry. We heard about his birth, and his amazing knowledge as he stayed at the temple as a twelve-year-old. In that passage Jesus affirms that God is his Father.
In today’s reading, we hear God affirming the same thing – You are my Son, my beloved. With you I am pleased. Back in ancient Palestine, knowledge of reproductive biology was not as advanced as it is today. It was believed that the father’s seed was the sole determiner of the child, and that the mother was merely a receptacle for it to grow. Therefore a father’s public acknowledgement of a child was needed so that the community could be sure whether the child was accepted. Remember back to when Jesus was conceived – there would have been rumours circulating around about his parenthood, and later on the crowd remembers him as Mary’s son, not Joseph’s. But when the voice of God spoke from heaven, Jesus was very publicly acknowledged as exactly who he knew he was, and who Mary and Joseph knew he was – the son of God.
In the passage following today’s Gospel, Luke details Jesus’ lineage all the way back to Adam, and to God, following Joseph’s line. I won’t go into detail, but there are some strange, and some familiar names in the list, which also serves to place Jesus in his genealogical context.
Another feature of Jesus’ baptism is that Jesus was publicly honoured – God speaks his approval of his son. In the context, whenever someone was thus honoured, they would expect to be challenged, to be tested, and that’s exactly what happens next to Jesus, when he is tempted by Satan in the wilderness for forty days. In his resisting of the temptation he adds to his honour, which sets the readings for the next few weeks in context.
What can we take away from Jesus’ baptism? That it was public, that here the unequivocal voice of God spoke, affirming him. That there was no hesitation about who Jesus was, and is.
I look at the honour shown to Jesus, and the challenge that was to follow. Many have been honoured in our community, and we all expect those people to live up to the honour.We call ourselves followers of Christ – can we live up to the honour?Every time I think about God sending his own son to live among people, I am so humbled. I am challenged by Jesus’ words, by his love, by his uncompromising acceptance of everyone God loves. Let’s all live up to the honour of following him by our love for those God loves too.