“And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.'” Matthew 3:17 (NRSV)
Jesus’ baptism is rather interesting. Why would the Son of God need to be baptized? We believe that he is the incarnation of God, and John the Baptizer called for the baptism of repentance. But, really, what would Jesus have to repent about? There are a number of ideas about the “why’s” of Jesus’ baptism.
There is one idea that it “kicks off” his ministry. He comes from a little Podunk town called Nazareth, a place that didn’t have a great reputation for bringing forth prophets and rabbis, and he approaches John (who according to Luke is his cousin) asking to be baptized. John recognized that this was rather strange, and in Matthew 3:13-17 we have a pretty clear idea that John resisted doing it. However, Jesus insisted, so maybe it is also a symbol of his change in his life’s work – a sort of ordination into mission and ministry.
Another thought about why Jesus was baptized is that it is God’s way of claiming Jesus’ and identifying him for all to know that he is God’s beloved Son. In verse 17 (see above), the voice from heaven (we presume to be God’s) names and claims Jesus as God’s own and adds “with whom I am well pleased.” Maybe the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry needed to start with his identity being declared for all those around to hear.
Maybe Jesus also was baptized as a way of identifying with us. There are stories about kings who left their throne and dressed in peasant garb so they could find out what life was like as one of their subjects. God, in Jesus, entered into our lives as human beings and through Jesus also understands our joys and sorrows, hurts and pains, celebrations and worries.
When we are baptized, we are welcomed into the family of God, named and claimed as God’s own child, and given the identity “Christian.” That means that we have been given the gift of a whole community of faith that, ideally, sets and example for us and helps us to live in this world in the way that Jesus invites us to live. We are God’s beloved children.
Would God say, “. . . in whom I am well pleased”? I would hope so. We all have challenges, and none of us is perfect. God certainly knows that, or there would never have been a need for Jesus to die on the cross so that we would have forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. Maybe remembering our baptism every day is a way of trying to follow in Jesus’ footsteps more faithfully, and when we don’t get there, repenting, asking for forgiveness, and trusting that God’s love and grace are big enough so that we can move forward once again. That is my hope and prayer for myself as well as everyone else. May it be so.