By Fr. Daniel Good
Jesus’ Baptism is different. His baptism is unlike the others John is baptizing. Those people are entering the water, announcing their sinfulness. Jesus enters the water, and the Father announces that Jesus is his beloved Son. Instead of announcing sinfulness, a relationship is announced, the relationship between Father and Son.
We know that John was baptizing in Bethany across the Jordan, meaning he was baptized in the Country of Jordan. Before Jesus begins his sacred ministry, he will enter Israel in the same way that the Hebrew People entered the promised land, crossing the Jordan. The people of the Old Covenant were led by Joshua. The ministry which begins the New Covenant starts with Jesus, another way of saying the name Joshua, crossing into the promised land. Jesus will try and call the people back to their Father by revealing that God is Father. The Creator enters the world of creation and is rejected by it.
Jesus makes himself an example for us by entering the waters of baptism. Our baptism is different too. Although we do acknowledge our sinfulness, baptism washes us clean of our personal sins and the stain of original sin. We put off the old self and put on Christ. In baptism we become the sons of daughters of the Father in Christ. Saint Paul states, “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead (Col 2:12).” We die with Christ in baptism as we are lowered into the font and the rise with Christ as we are raised up. Baptism creates a new identity: the identity of Jesus Christ. Now our life is more about becoming more and more like Jesus. When the Father looks at us, in the state of grace, he sees the image of his Son in each of us.
Saint Peter tells us that baptism is what saves us now (1 Pet 3:31). It is this identity that saves us now. Saint Paul explains further, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him (Rom 8:15–17). God’s Spirit dwells within us. Recognize what you have become and live in accordance of what grace God has given you. The slavery that Saint Paul mentions is certainly the slavery of sin, but we can also understand that slavery to include the wounds of sin: fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, anger, shame, lust, guilt, and pride. We need to allow Christ to throw these shackles off of us. We are God’s beloved children, and he does not want his children to be dirtied by any of these things.
The second plank after the shipwreck of sin is confession. If we have allowed ourselves to be muddied by sin, we can be washed clean by God’s grace. It is God who washes us clean in Baptism and in Confession. We have to participate; a priest has to participate too, but it is God who washes us clean by his own gift. It is not about our own holiness; it is about God’s love for his children.
Our baptism also makes us members of Christ’s Body, which is the Church (1 Cor 6:15). Saint Paul explains that this makes us accountable for each other (Eph 4:25). It means we are called to holiness for the sake of each other. We are not going to find perfection in this life, but we must try to rely on the grace that it is provide for us. We are called to live in accord with the call we have received and build up the body of Christ. Saint Paul tells us, “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma (Eph 5:1-2).”
The heavens opened up and the Father spoke concerning his son, ““You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased (Mark 1:11).” Because of Jesus Christ became a perfect offering to the Father, you and I can hear those words spoken to us, “YOU ARE MY BELOVED CHILD IN CHRIST. IN YOU I AM WELL PLEASED.