Sunday, 9th January 2022, The Baptism of the Lord, Feast

Luke 3:15–16,21–22

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, 'I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

Prior to today’s gospel reading in verses 1-22 of the same chapter, St. Luke tells us of the preaching and baptizing of John the Baptist at the Jordan. This appearance of John the Baptist caused great excitement. People flocked to him from all over the country. We learn from St. John’s gospel that some men from Galilee had become his disciples, among them were Andrew and probably John. What did they and other people expect? They expected the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies of the scriptures, which were well-known to the people. Someone was to come who would their king and their liberator. As subsequent event show, it was a political leader and liberator that they were looking for at this time. They never expected that the leader and liberator was a spiritual one.

The title “Messiah” means the Anointed because the one who was to be king, priest and prophet were anointed before assuming office. The Greek word for anointed is Christos, in English is Christ, the surname given to Jesus. At that time, many thought John the Baptist might be the expected Messiah. However, John the Baptist denied it vehemently.

John the Baptist knew that the Christ is much more powerful and important than himself that he the Baptist is not even worthy to be his lowly servant to untie his sandals and to do other menial tasks for him.

John the Baptist told the people that his baptism was only a symbol representing the interior conversion from sin and worldliness while the Baptism that Jesus would perform would be a reality and not a symbol. This was, said the John the Baptist, because those receiving Christ’s Baptism will receive grace, the friendship and sonship of God, as well as other gifts through the giving of the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier.

Fire was used in the Old Testament to purify objects as a ritual practice (cf Numbers 31:23). Furthermore, the presence of God was frequently surrounded by fire (cf Genesis 15:17 and Exodus 3:2). Baptism with fire means a thorough purification and the presence of God in the one to be baptized thus purified.

Jesus insisted that John the Baptist should wash him with water as he washed the other sinners. Although Jesus had no sin to repent of he represented all of us sinners that day. After he was washed, the Holy Spirit descended upon him. This is the vivid description of the inward reality. At the beginning of his mission of salvation for all men, the Messiah, in his human nature, received the fullness of divine assistance.

At the same time, God the Father proclaims that this is the Messiah by calling him “my beloved Son”. Those at the Jordan that day did not understand Jesus is also God. Only two who were present at the Baptism of the Lord, Andrew and probably John, left John the Baptist. Later Andrew told his brother Peter that he had found the Messiah and Peter joined him too.

What happened to the hundreds of others at the Baptism of the Lord? What held them back from following Jesus? Before we pass any judgment on them let us have a look into our own hearts today. We are Christians, we are followers of Christ, we know he was God and we believe his word. We are convinced that getting to heaven is more important than getting all the treasures and pleasures this earth has to offer. But do we always live up to these convictions? Are we true Christians the seven days of the week? In our speech, in our dealings with others, in our family life, are we truly following Christ and his teaching?
Is my way of life, my daily conduct, such that it would cause a non-Christian to say, “that person had something noble and sensible about him or her and I must find out what it is and get for myself?” That is the question that we should all ponder today. Amen.