And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17 NRSV
I always wondered why Jesus presented himself to John to be baptized. We often think of baptism as something associated with forgiveness of sin, washing away the old sinful nature and taking on the new life in Christ. Well, Jesus was not someone who might fit that criteria!
Over the years and through seminary, I have heard and read about this, and, thanks to many commentators and a number of interesting theological discussions, I have a much better understanding about why Jesus was baptized.
- There is a link throughout the New Testament between Jesus and Moses, as well as Israel. In some ways his baptism, being immersed in water and named and claimed by God seems like a way to usher in the new covenant. Even as the Israelite slaves passed through the water to freedom, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection brings us all into new life and freedom.
- More than that, it symbolizes a new beginning for Jesus – the beginning of his very public ministry.
- It was an experience where God named and claimed him as God’s own Son, and in some ways, it “humanized” God – touchable and tangible. Jesus said that to see him was to see God because God was in him.
- Another thought is that it was also Jesus’ way of connecting with us in our humanity. Although he may not have needed forgiveness of sins, his mission was to identify with us, with our lives, with our experiences, with our journeys.
This passage is about Jesus, and yet, we can also see it as a reminder to us that, in Christ, we, too, are commissioned and sent forth as the extension of Christ – the Body of Christ – into the world to bring the love of God to others. Since Jesus is no longer with us physically, we become the physical presence of the Body and are sent forth to ministry in Jesus’ name.
So, the words that God spoke to Jesus, “This is my Beloved” are also spoken to us in our baptism. When we are baptized, it isn’t just a ritual that the church does, but it is God working in us to claim us as God’s beloved child. We are loved beyond anything we could ever understand. God names and claims us as part of God’s family, as God’s own child. What a gift that is!
Baptism gives us an identity – tells us who we are and Whose we are. Baptism informs how we live our lives. Every day, we live as God’s baptized and beloved children because we have put on Christ through water and the Spirit. Whether we claim it or not, we are baptized, called, and commissioned to live our baptism in the world.
How will you live your baptism?
How will you share God’s love with others?
How will you help the family of God to be real to others?