Baptism of Our Lord

Baptism of Our Lord

Matthew 3:13-17

The holy gospel according to Matthew. 
Glory to you, O Lord.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

The gospel of the Lord. 
Praise to you, O Christ.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength & our redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)


Relationships change. John and Jesus had a particular relationship before this encounter that was established before either of their births. They were sons of cousins, Elizabeth and Mary, which made them cousins. And, if a case that the prophetic mantle is an inherited one, it is apparent they received their gift from their mothers. It’s hard to imagine that they were raised far from one another given that Elizabeth was Mary’s first confidante as she learned her role in the redemption story.

We might read this interaction as reverent and respectful as well as familiar and candid. This moment records one anointed cousin saying to another, “I know who you are and who I am in relationship to you.” The cousin with the greater stature responds in love, purpose, and humility. Even before Jesus descends into the water, the kingdom of God is demonstrated.

There is a power in belonging. We find belonging in relationships, especially community. This is not belonging in the sense of ownership or possession, but love.


The Baptism of our Lord in the Gospel of Matthew, sees Jesus speak his first words and make his entry into the Gospel narrative as an adult. Stepping out of obscurity, his first act is to travel from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized.

John was not the first to baptize people. Jews baptized proselytes into their faith, but did not baptize other Jews. Jews couldn’t imagine themselves as needing baptism because they were the chosen ones. Yet here is Jesus standing with sinful humanity asking for a Baptism being given to sinners as a mark or a sign of their repentance.

Jesus is the sinless one and standing in line with sinners seems to send the wrong signals to those around; or so it may seem. This was an act of humility. Jesus did not need to be baptized but he does this to identify with sinful humanity. This is not the first time he will be associated with sinners for the Gospels tell us that his detractors accuse him of keeping the company of tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners. The Son of God, appears to the religious establishment of the day, out of place and out of step in such company.

But the Jews were not the only ones who would have been left puzzled by Jesus actions that day. We are told that John put up quite a resistance, preventing Jesus from going ahead with what could only seem to others as strange, if not scandalous action by one who was the lamb of God, come to take away the sins of the world.

It is clear that Jesus is emphatic on the role that John must play. Jesus imposes his authority with his demand for immediate baptism; “let it be so now.” The righteous will of God had to be fulfilled. In the Gospel of Matthew, it is not as if this one action of Baptism makes all things righteous.

Righteousness’ in the Gospel of Matthew is not an act but an attitude; It is in doing the will of God. The initial phase of that plan required Jesus to empty himself OT his Godly majesty to be born in human likeness. The final part of God’s plan will involve Jesus being “obedient to death, death of the cross.

to all that transpires at the Jordan, God’s agreement is seen in the climax of this Gospel text. One would think that the Baptism of Jesus is the climax of this text. In reality it Is the vision that Jesus encounters when he comes up from the water.

We are told that the heavens opened. This is Bible talk for saying that God reveals Godself. This was the moment when the heavens could not hold back. The Holy Spirit now descends on Jesus. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit is operational only from this moment in the life of Jesus. Remember he was conceived by the power of the Spirit. In this moment of the Spirit descending like a dove, it is God who reciprocates Jesus expression of his commitment. In this moment God now ‘equips Jesus for his ministry.

The humility and obedience of our Lord at his baptism, calls us to a new way of life; a way that is created and sustained by God. To surrender in humility to the Lord’s divine will for our lives, provides the unequivocal answer to one of the most frequently asked questions: “How do I know God’s will for my life”? God’s will for your life begins with the Word. We must turn from reliance upon anyone or anything other than Jesus himself. The world has many gurus, we have Jesus.


We usually focus our discussions of Baptism on sin and repenting, Jesus, here in Matthew 3, has two clear and distinct emphases: forgiveness and being beloved.

Far from stepping into the waters, the river, the swimming pool, and the font and being reminded of washing away the stain of original sin, we are reminded that baptism marks us as part of a community from the beginning of our time in God’s community we are forgiven (what I have begun calling “original forgiveness ), and that forgiveness is made manifest in being called “beloved” of God. In this way, Baptism is not a choice we make or a choice our families made for us as infants. Ultimately, baptism is a gift to us from God. It is a means of receiving God’s grace, Freely entering our lives. I don’t think we need to make up an elaborate theological system as to how baptism works. Isn’t being told that through this one action, we are God’s forgiven beloved enough? Why do we need more?

As Jesus comes up out of the water following his baptism by John, the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove, and a voice from heaven affirms God’s relationship with Jesus with one carefully worded sentence: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

  • Imagine how different this story would be if the voice had said, “This is my son. the Beloved, and love you dearly. but really think you need to change some things about yourself.” Had the voice from heaven said those words, we might think God’s expressions of love are merely a mechanism to express criticism.
  • Imagine how different this story would be if the voice had said, “This is my Son. the Beloved, with whom am often pleased because he can do some really excellent things.” Had the voice from heaven said those words, we might think that God’s love is limited to certain occasions or only connected to positive accomplishments.
  • Imagine how different this story would be if the voice had said, “This is my Son. the beloved, and once he signs this agreement to obey me unto death. then I will love him forever. Had the voice from heaven said those words, we might think that God’s love is a part of a conditional agreement, to be given out only once certain requirements have been met.

Thankfully, the voice from heaven sald, “This is my Son, the Beloved, With whom I am well pleased.” reminding us that in the waters of baptism, God’s love is treely given with no strings attached.

In a world filled with conditions, strings, and filters; where we may hear, “I love you, but… and not nearly enough people hear someone affirm them for who they are, God speaks good news at Jesus’ baptism. God blesses Jesus, and through Jesus, looks at each of us and says, “love you! I see you! With you I am well pleased!”


I love baptism. No matter the reason people come to the water, it is a choice and the Holy One meets them.

I will also confess am weary of all the ways we try to add layers of gatekeeping to baptism and the entrenched debates over infant baptism. It’s not that these aren’t important theological questions to explore. Its that in engaging in them, we often fail to make the main thing the main thing. In Jesus’ response to John’s hesitancy, Jesus conveys that baptism has meaning and substance beyond John’s-and perhaps our own-understanding. Perhaps, it’s because I believe that baptism is as Invitational as the table. It’s not a magic ceremony or talisman to avoid the gates of hell. It’s a public demonstration of belonging to a community where Holy Love reigns. Its a sign of joining as a member of the body of Christ. It’s a commitment to live the baptized life.

Matthew’s distinctive interpretation is shaped by the challenges of the church in his own time and yet resonates remarkably with challenges we face today. This Gospel was written in a time when there was conflict and division in the community of faith; when some were insiders and others were outsiders; when political and religious leaders were co-opted, mistrusted, and discredited; when the great majority of the common people were without power; when cultures clashed.

Jesus’ embrace of being baptized demonstrated to those questioning the renewal movement of their day that the counter to those struggles were belonging, relationship and connection within the kingdom ot God. Jesus enters the waters we entered and are invited to continually enter. Those waters not only cleanse; they refresh and renew. They expand beyond borders, they part to allow movement, and they even rage in the storm.

The church of our time as much as in Matthew’s day. In the midst of cultural clashes, political turmoil, and religious discrediting, we benefit from public declaration of good news that is expansive, inclusive, diverse, and equitable. We can rejoice in our primary ritual of welcome and acceptance into the beloved community. We can declare to the life-long member, the person off the street, and anyone else we encounter: “You belong, and with you I am well pleased!”