THE gospel for January 12, 2020 (Matthew 3:13-17) talks about the baptism of the Lord Jesus by John the Baptist at the River Jordan.
A question quickly comes to mind, “Did Jesus need to be baptized?” A fast answer is this: “No, he did not need to be baptized.” John’s baptism symbolized repentance of sinners, and so Jesus who is sinless did not need any outward manifestation of repentance, nor should he seek forgiveness.
Then why did he subject himself to such a baptism? Didn’t John himself resist the idea of baptizing the Lord, only to do it when Jesus insisted? Jesus reasoned that his baptism was “to fulfill all righteousness.” What might this mean?
Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law’s requirement for the forgiveness of sins.
“Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22);” thus, it was necessary in Old Testament times to offer animal sacrifices in atonement for sins.
These animal sacrifices, as we now know, simply prefigured the real and only sacrifice that can truly forgive sins, and that is, the passion and death of Jesus.
Faith in this salvific work of Christ is the righteousness that God accepts and requires. And when did the public ministry carrying out this salvific work start? When else if not in the baptism of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ baptism set the tone for his mission. Even as God he was to empty himself, taking the human flesh and setting the example on how man, cooperating with Divine grace, can live in obedience to God. If he who was sinless had the humility to be baptized, so much we who are sinful.
And if he who was God’s own Son submitted himself to God’s commands, so must we who only become adopted sons and daughters of God by our relation with the Only Son.
As baptized Christians, the relevant question now is, “Are we faithful to our baptismal vows?” Do we continue to reject Satan, all his works, and his empty promises? Do we continue to believe in the basic tenets of faith as summarized in the Apostle’s creed? Do we believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth? Do we believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father? Do we believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by being true to everything that his baptism, although not needed, symbolized. On the cross Jesus defeated Satan and conquered evil, and proved to us that a living faith in him is the only way to salvation.
Lastly, Jesus’ baptism provided us a solid ground for our belief in the Trinity.
As we read in the gospel, “After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:16-17).’”
Without offense to others who may believe otherwise, we then profess the faith in One God in Three Persons -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit.