Monday, January 6, 2014

Baptism Of Jesus

Jesus begins His public ministry but submitting to baptism. John the Baptist is confused. John's baptism is a baptism of repentance. In fact, we see just a bit earlier in the chapter that people often confessed their sins when they were being baptized by John. Obviously Jesus does not need a baptism of repentance and John knows it. So why does it happen?

Jesus humbled Himself when He became human. Like us in all things except sin. Yet even in the things of sin Jesus stands with us. So He lines up with sinners like us to be baptized. Yet He is not just to be baptized but to transform baptism. John said Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Not yet, but we see a foreshadowing of it. Quite a dramatic foreshadowing actually.

We see the heavens open up. We see the Spirit of God in the form of a dove descend on Jesus. We hear God's voice, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." You have the entire trinity there. This is what we should experience every time we go to a baptism. We should see the Spirit of God descending on that person and we should hear the voice of God declaring that person righteous. It is a moment of amazing grace. Yet often we miss it.

What happens next? The very next verse says, "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Isn't that what God does with us? We receive grace and it is good to celebrate that but that new reality we are supposed to live quickly gets tested in the foxholes of spiritual warfare. We get tempted and we need to cooperate with that grace or we end up back where we started pretty quick. 

Peter points out in the second reading that Jesus' baptism was the beginning of something big. That after this event He went about doing good and healing people. Peter recalls this as he is about to baptize the first gentile believers into the church.That God's grace is world changing and we receive it through baptism. It is not just for the apostles. It is not just for the Jews. It is for everyone who wants God. It is a baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire.

The image of fire is interesting. Fire is an image of love and power. Fire is an image of death and destruction. Fire is also an image of purification and refinement. These correspond to heaven, hell and purgatory. The 3 ways to relate to God. We are to pass through the fire of purification and refinement and it will become a fire of love and power.

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