Isaiah 42:1-9; Matthew 3:13-17; Acts 10:34-34
Sometimes we preoccupy ourselves with important questions to the extent that we overlook equally important questions. For example, Matthew 3:13-17 often finds us asking the question, “Why did Jesus have to be baptized?” But let us not overlook the equally important question, “What did baptism mean to Jesus?” Did it mean the time of the kingdom of God is now? I think so. Did it mean an identification with the Father? I think so too. But it was also the public approval of His Father. God said something like, “You are on the right track. Continue with my blessing.”
The question about why John baptized Jesus has always been a deep theological question. For me, the answer to the question, why was Jesus baptized? is, He was baptized for us. Because when we see what Jesus did during His earthly ministry, everything He did, he did it for three reasons: 1) to fulfill the scripture, 2) to please His Father and 3) for the benefit of humankind.
Jesus’ baptism inaugurated his public ministry, and what a way to begin surrounded by ordinary people. According to Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ baptism, “When all the people were being baptized,” Jesus was baptized too. He did not have a special ceremony just for Him. John did have a special time set for Jesus.
By being baptized together with the ordinary people, he allied himself with the faults and failures, with the pains and problems of all the broken and hurting people who had come to the river to listen to the new prophet called John.
With his baptism, Jesus openly and decisively declared that he stands shoulder to shoulder with us in our fears and anxieties. He intentionally takes sides with people in their needs and says that God is in their side; that He has favored us. With his baptism, he made himself our brother. Later, the writer of Hebrews confirms it: “So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation, I will sing your praises.” Thru his baptism and his life, Jesus identified with our human experiences. The Book of Hebrews says, “for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15–16, NIV).
By going into the waters with everybody else, Jesus declares that God’s presence is among the least, and His abundant love and mercy is available to them.
Jesus’ compassion for and in solidarity with the broken people is vividly confirmed by divine affirmation and empowerment. After His baptism in the Jordan River, a voice was heard and a dove was seen, apparently not only by Jesus and John but by everybody. God the Father spoke, He said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
The Dove was the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus. John 1:33 says, this is John the Baptist speaking, “And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain, is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”
The voice and the Dove were signs of God’s approval of Jesus’ ministry. However, this approval is found in every stage of Jesus’ life. When Jesus was born; angels appeared saying to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” These angels were God’s messengers, a sign of God’s approval. We can say the same about Jesus’ presentation in the temple; that presentation also had God’s approval. Do you remember Simeon and Anna -who was a prophet- telling everybody who this baby was?
Again, the same happened when He was 12, He was talking to the teachers in the temple, at the end of chapter 3 Luke says that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” Jesus had His Heavenly Father’s approval in every stage of His life.
Now, what all these approvals mean to us? It means that everything Jesus did and still does, everything He said and still says is supported by God the Father. Therefore, every promise He did is trustful; it means that Heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will never pass away. Therefore, we can trust Jesus because the greatest power of the universe is in Him and with him.
This approval and authority from the Father, made the difference between Jesus and those others who came calling themselves messiahs. Mark 1:28 “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” Jesus’ teachings had power, not only because He was a great teacher, but because he had his Father’s approval and authority.
For us, the gospel we heard today has two lessons: 1) Trust in Jesus, He has God’s approval. Trust in His words and His promises. Why? Because according to Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him.” This means that whatever Jesus has promised us he has the power to fulfill. He promised to be with us always, and because he has His Father’s approval and all authority in heaven and on earth, he can do it.
Jesus said in John 14:13-14, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” I will dare to say that our lives are testimony of this promise. We all at certain point in our lives have asked Jesus for healing and he has answered; we have prayed for miracles and miracles had happened. Jesus can answer our prayers because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. And because he has his Father’s approval.
My sisters and brothers, God’s words “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased,” are valid still today. Now that we are at the beginning of 2,020, I would like to remember you the promise of Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” This promise will be valid for all of us every day of this new year, regardless of what “them” means to us today.
The second lesson we can learn from the gospel today is: As His children we have God’s approval, let us then please Him with our life. 1 Thessalonians 4:1 says, “As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how-to live-in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.”
How can we please God? By living according to His word. By “Being strong and courageous. By being careful to obey God’s word and not turning from it to the right or the left as Joshua 1:7 says.
How can we please God? Psalm 147:11 gives us an answer, “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” God, our God, pleases in those who trust in Him as the source of every of their strength and hope.
My brothers and sisters, when Jesus was baptized He took His place among us and when He was among us, He was our example, therefore, let us live, as He lived and when God sees us, He can say once again: “You are my Son, you are my daughter, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased.”