Today, in the story of the baptism of Jesus, we see something highly significant about how God deals with us and how we, when we are moved by the Spirit of God, should deal with others.
Today, we see God's process of identifying with us so that he can save us. We see, as in the story of creation itself, water and the Holy Spirit, and the spoken Word of God come together and create something new. We see the ministry of Jesus begin with an act and a sign, an act of love, and a sign of God's compassion. Come with me to the River Jordan, to that place where John, clothed in camel hair, with a leather belt around his waist, is preaching the need for repentance and washing clean of their sins to all those who came to hear him. You and I know that Jesus did not have to be baptized. He did not have any sickness like we have. He was not a sinner like you and me. He had no cause for repentance like you and me. He had no need to undergo the baptism of John. Yet, he was baptized. Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, the man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." John 1:32-34. The baptism of Jesus shows complete dedication to following the will of God, announcing the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry and an example to us. If Jesus is the sinless Son of God, why did he get baptized, because he certainly didn't need to! I think the key to the answer lies in the fact that He loved us so much that he chose to identify with us and lead us towards a good relationship with God.
Jesus' baptism was a foreshadow of the Cross of shame, which was to come. The Cross on which Jesus would identify with the human race, that he took the penalty of our sins on himself. I see the baptism of Jesus, as an act in which Jesus takes upon Him our burdens, an act by which he shows how complete his identification with us and an event by which he demonstrates what the saving love of God is like.
The baptism of Jesus is the act which begins his ministry, the event which commences his process of proclaiming the good news of salvation, the start of a calling, which ends in our redemption. "This is he of whom I said , 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me'. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." Jesus began his ministry among us by identifying with us, by doing as we are commanded to do, by taking upon himself the sign of repentance and righteousness that we are to take upon ourselves, and when he did so, he received power, the power of healing and of saving, the power of the Holy Spirit, which descends upon him like a dove and he goes forth from that point to teach and to heal, to forgive and to empower. He takes upon himself the identity of every person, he takes upon himself the burdens of all, and offers himself to God in their place. The baptism of the Lord, his identity with us as lost and lonely sinners, which he took upon himself, our yoke and our burdens, and returned to us God's love and his concern. Our baptism into him, our acceptance of his healing love and our desire to be as he was, begins our ministry, a ministry in which we are called to do as he did, and identify with those who are lost and those who are crying out for wholeness and then, and only then, proclaiming the word that Jesus has given us. Yes, my brothers and sisters in Christ, because of the Baptism of our Lord, we can say Praise be to God, our Creator and Maker, to Jesus our Lord, our Friend and our Saviour, and to the Holy Spirit, our teacher, our guide, and our comforter.