Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11, Titus 2:11-14,3:4-7, Luke 3:15-16,21-22
In our liturgical calendar, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord brings to the end, the celebration of Christmas.
The baptism of Jesus is highly significant. In the sense that it puts an end to Jesus’ early and hidden life. For nothing much was known of the early life of Jesus.
The Baptism of Jesus also marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and public life. It is the second epiphany. In the sense that God the Father Himself confirms the identity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
This is unlike last Sunday, when God reveals Jesus to the magi. In today’s liturgy, God the father directly confirms the identity of Jesus as the messiah and son of God.
Also, the appearance of the Holy Spirit confirms Jesus as a member of the Holy Trinity. The Baptism of Jesus is not just an ordinary event. It has great significance in our own baptism, spirituality and the way we worship God.
Something New has Come.
We know that the book of Isaiah concentrates mainly on the Babylonian exile, which began in 586 B.C.
This is when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and burnt the temple. He then carried the people as slaves to Babylon. This exile came to an end in 539 B.C. Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem. He gave orders to rebuild their temple.
It was clear that what happened to the Israelites was a punishment from God, who used Nebuchadnezzar as the instrument to this. The experience of the exile was very harsh.
The chapters 1-39 of Isaiah outline the punishment that the people would expect because they relied on alliances with other nations instead of placing their trust in God.
Then from Isaiah 40, another era which is now of God’s mercy, love, comfort and encouragement came. Isaiah was seen consoling and comforting the people, hence promising that something new has come.
The people have been punished but now God is going to restore them to their former status as his chosen people.
Hence, God orders Isaiah saying ‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her that her time of service is ended and that her sin is atoned for, it was a moment of recreation. Then, comes the voice in the wilderness asking the people to prepare the way for the Lord.
2. We recall these as we celebrate the baptism of the Lord. The baptism of Jesus is not a baptism to wash away sins from Jesus but an event that ushers in a new creation.
John who is the voice that prepares the way for Jesus as Isaiah prophesies in the first reading, today baptises Jesus, thereby ushering in the new era the people have been waiting for.
2. Secondly, we see that immediately after the baptism, the gospel says that the heavens open and the Spirit like a dove descended on Him. Then the voice of the father speaks and confirms Jesus as His beloved Son.
Before creation, the Spirit hovered over the waters and today, the Spirit of God hovered again over the water of baptism, the water of Jordan.
The voice of the father which speaks things into existence at the beginning of creation was heard again over the waters of baptism.
The word of God, Jesus Christ which brings things into being, sanctifying and putting creation in order in the beginning is now in the waters of baptism at Jordan, sanctifying it.
Therefore, this indicates that the events of the old are repeating itself with the baptism of Jesus, hence, a new creation has come, the waters of the old have been sanctified to recreate us anew again.
This then is a sign that a new creation is ushering in. Therefore, the sacrament of baptism recreates us and makes us new creatures. This is one of its meanings for us.
3. When Jesus enters the waters of baptism which was used as a sign of repentance and cleansing of sins, Jesus by that singular act reveals what His mission to the world is.
Jesus has come to become one with us, even in our weaknesses. He did this, not because he wanted to be a sinner but to sanctify us from sin and release us from its slavery.
He becomes one with us so that we can become one with Him. Therefore, the baptism of Jesus begins the journey to set us free from the power of sin.
4. The Implication is that through Jesus we are liberated and free. Through Jesus, something new has come into our lives. We can now decide whether to embrace this new moment or to reject it.
What is your decision?
The Significance Of the Baptism of Jesus.
1. Before Jesus came for baptism today, John the Baptist has been the voice preparing the way for the Lord.
John moved from one place to another preaching the gospel of repentance and baptizing all the people who came from Judea and Jerusalem to be baptised by him.
John’s baptism is a way of preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah.
Therefore, John preaches repentance and confession of sins as a way for people to prepare on how to enter the blessing of His Kingdom.
John’s message was a message of judgment and wrath. He warns the people that the kingdom of God is at hand and the way to do that is to repent and confess their sins.
So, when Jesus comes for baptism today through John, Jesus affirms the importance of baptism. Jesus ascertains the necessity of baptism in the journey of our salvation.
2. Secondly, Jesus also affirms the need to seek repentance of our sins. In essence, Jesus makes it clearer through His baptism that one step to enter into God’s kingdom or prepare for His coming is to confess our sins and repent from our atrocities. Therefore, We cannot welcome Jesus in a heart deep with guilt and sin.
3. In Matthew’s account (Matthew 3:13-15), When Jesus comes for baptism, John hesitates to baptize him. This is because John’s baptism is a baptism of repentance, and Jesus is without sin and not to talk of repentance.
Therefore, by choosing to be baptized, Jesus fulfilled all righteousness. By choosing to be baptised, Jesus emphasizes the need for our own baptism.
Therefore, through our baptism, we become with Him. By accepting baptism, Jesus sanctifies the water of baptism, so that all who undergo through the waters of baptism can receive sanctification and adoption as sons/daughters of the most high God.
Heavens Confirms The Messiah.
For years, the jews have been expecting the coming of the Messiah. So, Luke reports that a feeling of great expectancy had grown among the people who then began to think that John may be the Christ they are waiting for.
John though distinguishes Himself from Jesus by saying that He baptises the people with water but one who is to come will baptise them with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Now when all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’
The voice from heaven authoritatively confirms who Jesus is amidst the confusion the people were having on who may be the messiah.
Therefore, God at this point, confirms the identity of Jesus. In essence, Jesus should not be compared with any other prophet that has come to the world. Jesus is divine and different. Everything about Him shows that He is totally different.
The voice confirms that Jesus comes directly from the father. Therefore, it was also a moment of approval. The Father at this point distinguishes Jesus from other prophets.
Also, It was a moment of confirmation, Jesus might have been waiting for a signal of approval from his Heavenly Father, and during his baptism, Jesus got this approval of Himself as the Father’s “beloved Son.
It is also a form of confirmation that the time to begin his work has started. Therefore, the appearance of the Holy Spirit was a form of equipping Jesus with everything He needs for the work He is to do.
Therefore to be effective in our call or our missionary works, we need the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and Fire.
John said that Jesus is coming with a different baptism. Therefore, with the coming of Jesus, baptism is no longer limited to only the baptism of repentance, the baptism that Jesus brings is that of the Holy Spirit and fire.
If baptism is for renewal, therefore, Jesus is coming to renew us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The power of the Holy Spirit will create us and fuel in us new energy and new vigour to work in God’s vineyard. This is the symbolism of the fire. Fire comes with great energy and heat.
When the Holy Spirit came to the apostles on the day of Pentecost, there was an appearance of tongues of fire.
After this experience, the apostles became totally changed, renewed and filled with divine energy to work for God and spread the gospel amidst persecutions and challenges.
Therefore, this is what we will experience when we allow Jesus to baptize us with the power from High.
Therefore, with Jesus, baptism is no longer only limited to the water of baptism but also an infilling and overflowing of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This was often experienced as people were prayed for with hands laid on them (Acts 6:6, 8:17, 9:17, 13:3-4, and 19:6).
Apart from heat and energy, another quality of fire is that it purifies and burns up anything worthless. Therefore, Jesus will thoroughly clean us and thus destroy whatever does not give God glory in our lives.
What this means is that a relationship with Jesus has a transforming and purifying power.
Therefore, if you truly want to experience a mighty change, create a loving relationship with Jesus, ask Him to baptise you with His Holy Spirit and fire. When the Holy Spirit dwells, significant changes happen.
1. The First point we have to reiterate in our conclusion is the importance of baptism and repentance. By accepting to undergo baptismal purification, Jesus underscores the need for us to be baptised.
If a divine person like Jesus can willingly accept the waters of baptism, then it is enough to tell us the necessity of it in our spiritual lives.
Also, if the baptism of John is for repentance and Jesus willingly accepts that it shows the need for us to repent of our sins. In our journey of salvation, repentance is extremely necessary.
2. As Jesus willingly decides to go for baptism to fulfil all righteousness, we also have to make that true and sincere decision to come back to God. We have to seek true repentance of heart.
This is beyond living a life of pretence so that people might praise us. It is beyond pretending to be powerful prayer warriors while our hearts are full of evil and guilt. This is a call for sincere repentance.
As Jesus willingly goes to the water of baptism today, we have to know that the decision to change and repent must come from us.
We have to decide wholeheartedly to return to God and seek repentance of heart.
Therefore, we have to ask ourselves ‘what is that thing in me that does not give God glory? Now is the time to chisel all of them out.
We cannot continue to live in sin. We cannot continue to live a life of pretence all through the years of our existence. Let the decision to change and repent truly come from us.
3. By willingly accepting the waters of baptism of repentance, Jesus also shows his readiness to atone for the sins of mankind. In essence, Jesus shows His readiness to fulfil the mission by which the Father sends Him into the world.
Also, by accepting baptism we show also our readiness to belong to the community of Gods family. We show our earnest desire to only promote God’s kingdom on earth.
That is why during our baptism we promise to renounce everything that belongs to the devil. We do this so that we can be fully in Christ Jesus.
So, the question today is “do we still remember our baptismal promises? Do we still abide by them? As Jesus willingly decides to atone for our sins, can we also decide to come to Him for repentance? Can we also decide to make reparations for our sinful pasts?
Can we decide to let go of all the grudges and injuries we are bearing in our hearts for another?
Therefore, the baptism of Jesus is a reminder that as Jesus decides to atone for our sins, let us do everything possible to keep our promises and live a pure life.
4. The gospel today reveals that whatever happens today began at the point of prayer. Before the baptism, heaven did not open.
After the baptism, the heavens did not open, but immediately Jesus begins to pray, great things began to happen. At that point, heaven speaks to the earth and the Holy Spirit begins His work of empowerment.
This is a powerful epiphany of what happens when we pray. Before the baptism of Jesus, John and the people were interacting but immediately Jesus prays, heaven takes over. Therefore, the baptism of Jesus reveals what we ought to know about prayers.
Prayer is a spiritual activity. At prayers, the spiritual become solely involved. At prayers, heaven takes over. God intervenes and the Holy Spirit comes down to do his work.
Therefore, the only avenue to involve the Trinity in everything that we do is through the power of prayers. Never underrate what prayer can do.
5. Therefore, the baptism of Jesus means a lot for us. It shows us how God directly intervenes in human affairs.
This exposes to us the need and necessity of our baptism. It reveals what happens when we pray. It reveals that great things happen whenever we pray.
The baptism of Jesus reveals a lot about the love of God. It exposes the humility of Jesus. For Jesus decides to enter the same water with sinners. What a humble Man He is. Finally, the baptism of Jesus shows us the need to repent and seek a change of heart.
As the voice says of Jesus today, “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”. What will God say of us presently?
Are our lives pleasing to God or pleasing to any human being? Are our lives pleasing to the devil? Is the devil happy with us or is God with us?
May God help us to seek mercy, repentance and forgiveness of sins. May His grace always accompany us in everything that we do. Amen.