This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan River and the importance of the event is emphasized by the fact that all three “synoptic” Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) tell us of it. This year, we have Matthew’s version of it (click here to read it).
On one level, it seems odd that the Son of God, the one who knew no sin, should need a “baptism of repentance,” as John called it. John even objected when Jesus came to be baptized, but Jesus insisted that it was best to “fulfill all righteousness.” It seems that what Jesus meant by this was to identify fully with the community and, by extension, with us.
It was, in fact, a politically charged and dangerous choice. John’s message seems to have been, essentially, that we must stop living a religion satisfied with rites and prayers repeated from memory but without conviction and begin to live as though we actually believe what we say. John appears to have gained a wide hearing among common folk, and even some of the Jewish leaders, but many saw him subverting the structures and practices of their faith. Yet, Jesus chose to identify Himself clearly with this stand of Judaism at the very beginning of His public ministry.
Do we live religious lives satisfied with outward forms but devoid of inward change? What would John’s message be to us?
This column appeared in the January 12, 2020 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the full issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.