John and Jesus
This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan River. The importance of this event is seen in 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 of Israel and with us.
It was, in fact, a politically charged and dangerous choice. John’s message was that followers of God must live as though we actually believe what we say. No longer can we be satisfied with rites and prayers repeated from memory but without conviction and without life change.
This message clearly struck a chord with people who were tired of religious leaders and institutions that did not live out what they proclaimed. However, many of the leaders of the community saw him subverting the structures and practices of their faith. Jesus chose to identify Himself clearly with the “life change” strand 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 8, 2023 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.