The Gift of Jesus
The Gift of Jesus
The Holy Sacrament of Jesus’ Baptism
Baptism was a central theme during Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ earthly mission began with His Baptism in the Jordan River where He was inaugurated as the Messiah and Christianity began in the waters of the Jordan River fulfilling the Holy Trinity. Jesus’ mission also ended with His last words concerned with Baptism.
Jesus continually referred to the importance of the Trinity and the Baptism of all mankind during His ministry. His last message to us before He ascended to Heaven, was, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. And behold I am with you till the end of time.’ (Matthew 28:18-20).
After Jesus Baptism at the Jordan River, it became the River of Life and one of the holiest places on earth. All water in Baptism fonts become a miniature Jordan River. The waters of the Jordan River are blessed by the Holy Trinity which was evident in the momentous occasion of Jesus Baptism in the Jordan River over 2000 years ago.
Even before the arrival of Jesus, many prophesies in Isaiah predicted the coming of Jesus and His Baptism found in the Old Testament. The theme in Isaiah is one of foretelling the arrival of Jesus, ‘He shall judge between the nations.’ (Isaiah 2:4) and He was the, ‘Branch of the Lord.’ (Isaiah 4:2) and ‘The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son.’ (Isaiah 7:14) and He would be called the ‘Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6-7) ‘and his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives.’ (Zechariah14:4)
The book of Isaiah also contains numerous prophesies concerning the Baptism of Jesus, we learn, ‘Behold the anointing of the servant of God with the Spirit in order to enable the servant to accomplish his task. (Isaiah 42:1) and ‘The Holy Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him.’ (Isaiah 11:2) Isaiah also clearly predicts the Baptism of Jesus when he asks God to rip open the heavens to repair the world, ‘Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down to earth, that the mountains would tremble before you!’ (Isaiah 64:1) The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy that God would rip open the heavens and come down, is revealed at Jesus’ baptism, when God sends the Holy Spirit upon Jesus, signifying the beginning of his ministry the birth of Christianity in the Jordan River.
Another prophesy concerning the coming of Jesus and His Baptism is, ‘He has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: You are My Son, today I have become Your Father.’(Acts 13:33).
The act of baptizing is associated with the coming of the Messiah. In preparation of Jesus arriving at the Jordan River, John the Baptist was baptizing at the Jordan River. The fact that John the Baptist was baptizing was a sign that the expected Messiah will soon make his appearance. ‘John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins at the Jordan River.’ (Mark 1:4) He called the people to repent in preparation for the arrival of Christ, the Redeemer, and began to baptize in the Jordan River. The baptism he administered was a symbol of repentance and belief in God. The Bible states that people came to be baptized by John the Baptist, ‘The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.’ (Mark 1:5)
When the priests from Jerusalem asked John the Baptist, ‘Who are you? He replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 40:3) ‘I am a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ (John 1:23) John the Baptist knew of Jesus from the revelation he received and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (John 1:32) and told those being Baptized, ‘But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.’ (Matthew 3:11) John the Baptist continues, ‘I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ (John 1:33)
Jesus literally makes His first public appearance at the Jordan River and hasn t been seen since He was 12 years old in the temple. Matthew heralds Jesus’ arrival at the Jordan River telling us simply, ‘Then Jesus arrived.’ (Matthew 13) Jesus loved to stay at ‘Bethany Beyond the Jordan,’ the site of His baptism at the Jordan River. Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days.’ (John 10:40) Jesus understood His Father s wish that He must be baptized and travelled from Galilee to the Jordan River to John, to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent 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 thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ (Matthew 3:13-16) Upon Jesus continued insistence, John acquiesced and baptized Jesus in the Jordan River.
At the magnificent moment of the Baptism of Jesus Christ, the most momentous event in the Bible, Jesus fulfills his righteousness, and brings the divine plan of salvation to fulfillment completing the Holy Trinity. For there are three who bear witness in Heaven; the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit and these three are one. (1 John 5:7) The Byzantine liturgy describes Jesus Baptism as when, ‘The angels trembled, the heavens leapt for joy, the earth shook, the sea turned back with all the visible and invisible beings. Jesus Christ appeared in the Jordan to bless all waters.
It was also at the Jordan River that John the Baptist testified that Jesus was the Son of God (John 1:29-36) ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, the man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.’
The act of Jesus Baptism symbolized Jesus’ death, resurrection and marked the first public identification with the sins that He would bear. Jesus’ baptism also established Jesus Christ’s revelation as the Messiah and the beginning of His missionary work.
It is with His Baptism that the celestial manifestation of the Holy Spirit and God’s powerful presence reveals the initiation of the divine redemptive ministry of Jesus and Christianity was born in the Jordan River. Jesus is inaugurated as the Messiah and is anointed by the Holy Spirit, and then is affirmed by the Father. Immediately after the Spirit fell upon Christ, the Father gave another token of His divine relationship to him. And a voice from heaven said, This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3:17).
THE BAPTISM Of JESUS
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove, and a voice came from heaven; Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.’ (Mark 1:9-11)
The presence of the Holy Trinity at the Baptism of Jesus Christ is clearly affirmed in all gospel accounts: (Matthew 3:13-17) (Mark 1:9-11) (Luke 3:21-22) (John 1:32-34) and was accompanied by one of the most stunning and remarkable events found in Sacred Scripture. The rending opening of the heavens, occurred with the Holy Spirit descending on Him in visible form like a dove resting upon Jesus Christ for the purpose of bestowing Him with special power to begin His ministry and then God’s voice was heard from heaven.
Luke is the only Gospel that reveals that Jesus was praying as he came out of the water, ‘As he prayed the heavens were opened.’ (Luke 3:21) The realm of glory was visible to all, leading to the interaction between God and Mankind in the form of Jesus. ‘In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2) The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven.
Given the supreme value Jesus gave to praying, to find him praying after his baptism stresses the importance of this moment for him. ‘The power of his prayer opened the heavens as He stood in the Jordan River. It is thus within a context of prayer that God is revealed.
The heavens have been closed for 400 years and at the Baptism of Jesus at the Jordan River they split open. The fulfillment of Isaiah’s petition that God would rip open the heavens and come down is revealed at Jesus’ Baptism, ‘If only You would rip open the heavens and come down to earth.’ (Isaiah 64:1) The ripping open of the heavens is symbolic of the barrier between heaven and earth being removed and that God is coming among us through his Spirit-anointed Son, Jesus. Through the Spirit-filled Jesus, God comes to dwell among us, taking action to demonstrate his reigning love and power, calling us to have faith and repent.
In Mark’s gospel he uses, the word schizo which means to tear apart, or to rip open which he uses at Jesus’ baptism to describe the ripping open of the heavens just before the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus and the voice of God identifies Jesus as his beloved Son. At the ripping open the heavens at Jesus’ baptism, God is saying, ‘I am here.’
The term is only used one other time in the New Testament, when the veil in the temple is torn from top to bottom, just after Jesus dies on the cross ‘And the curtain of the temple was torn (schizo) in two, from top to bottom.’ (Mark 15:38). This shows the ripping open of barriers between God and humanity.
After the heavens were ripped open, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him as a dove. It is interesting that not only does the Holy Trinity occur at Jesus’ Baptism but the symbol of the Holy Spirit as a Dove is used in a Trinitarian sense culminating at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. We are first introduced to the image of the Holy Spirit as dove at least in dove like language from the opening words of Genesis. There the Spirit hovers over the surface of the waters in preparation for the creation of the universe.
Next we learn that the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove appeared in Noah’s time symbolizing the end of God’s judgment as the dove returns to Noah with the olive leaf at the end of the flood, initiating an image of peace which endures to this day. Then finally at Jesus’ baptism when He comes up from the waters of the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit descends on Him like a dove.
The visible anointing by the Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to fulfill His mission and made a dramatic difference in the life of Jesus, ‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit.’ (Luke 4:14) It is at the time of Jesus’ Baptism that He is directed by the Holy Spirit from the Jordan River to the cross. All three of these symbolic connections to the dove come to fullness in Jesus. He is the creator through and for whom all things are made as well as the herald of the end of judgment which he himself has absorbed as the all encompassing sacrifice. God gave the people hope in the form of Jesus.
After the heaven had ripped open and the Holy Spirit had anointed Jesus, then the voice of the heavenly Father was heard to say, ‘You are my beloved son; with thee I am well pleased,’ (Mark 1:11) thereby entrusting his Son with the mission of bringing righteousness to the world and completing the Holy Trinity. God’s words showed the unique relationship between the two, Father and Son.
In those very waters of the Jordan River, Jesus was identified as the Messiah, with the power of the Holy Spirit and Christianity was born, ‘for Jesus came by water and blood.’ (1 John 5:1-6) The baptism of Jesus identifies the humble Messiah with his people and the heavenly Father’s voice establishes Jesus’ identity. God s multiple promises to send a Savior have been fulfilled. Here at His baptism, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is first prefigured. It is here at his baptism that Jesus intentionally identifies himself with repentant sinners, and demonstrates his full humility. It is at his baptism where the redemptive ministry of Jesus Christ begins.
The Man whom John had baptized was indeed the Messiah, the Light of the world. Christ now began His spiritual kingdom of righteousness in the hearts of men and women that He came to establish. Christianity was born in the Jordan River. Jesus’ ministry included baptizing, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’ (Mark 1:14-15).
After Jesus Baptism, the Holy Spirit took Jesus to the wilderness; the area immediately to the east of the Jordan River and north of Bethany for forty days. (Matthew 4:1-11) After this Jesus, ‘went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days.’ (John 10:40) As Jesus returned to the Baptism site, John the Baptist was sitting with two students. When John saw Jesus, he told his students, ‘This is the lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world.’ (John 1:29) Hearing this, the two students decided to follow Jesus and were in turn followed by three others, among them Peter.
‘After His Baptism, Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing.’ (John 3:22.) Jesus told His disciples, ‘You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with.’ (Mark 10:39). When Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.
Jesus ministry and indeed Christianity was not only inaugurated by His Baptism in the Jordan River but it ended with His urging of us all to be baptized, and was characterized by the sacrament of baptism throughout his ministry. When Jesus’ authority is questioned, Jesus’ answer goes right back to His baptism. Jesus responded, ‘I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism, where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men? Answer me.’ (Matthew 21:24) It was at Jesus’ baptism where His authority was established, the Holy Spirit anointed Him and the Father affirmed Him verbally, He received full authority to act, authority to forgive sins, authority to heal the sick, authority to raise the dead, authority over demons, authority to determine truth and destiny. The baptism was from heaven, ‘One Lord, one faith, one baptism.’ (Ephesians 4:5)
Jesus told us about the importance of Baptism when He said, ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’ (Mark 16:16). He also told us, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’ (John.3:5)
Under Jesus’ direction His disciples carried His message of Baptism, and Peter told the crowds, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts.2:37-38) ‘Those who received his word were baptized, and they were added that day about three thousand souls.’ (Acts 2:41) And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ disciples continued Jesus’ teachings concerning Baptism. One of the disciples, Ananias said, ‘The Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized.’ (Acts 9:18) Also Philip told the good news about Jesus and carried Jesus’ message about baptism. The eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized? And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.’ (Acts 8:35-38)
In continuing the theme of Baptism and its importance, two of Jesus’ disciples James and John asked Jesus to, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’ (Mark 10:37) Jesus told the disciples. ‘You don t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?’ (Mark: 10:38) Jesus told them, ‘You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with.’ (Mark: 10:39)
The very same Spirit of God which fills, directs and empowers believers today, is the very Spirit of God which filled, directed and empowered the Son of God. When the Spirit came upon Jesus his ministry began. That is where ministry begins for every believer. ‘For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body……all were made to drink of one Spirit.’ (1 Corinthians 12:13)
Our Christian Baptism reminds us that being immersed under the Holy Water symbolizes the death of our old life, and we rise up from the water symbolizing the birth of a brand new life in Jesus. ‘We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as the Messiah was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.’ (Romans 6:4) It is with Jesus in the water of the Jordan River, that The Holy Spirit comes to us as well throughout the Holy Water of the Jordan River, to cleanse and anoint us to His ministry.
‘When Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan and was baptized by John the Baptist, he did so not because he was in need of repentance, or conversion: he did it to be among people who need forgiveness, among us sinners, and to take upon himself the burden of our sins.’ Pope Francis 2014
When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, he prepared the Jordan River waters for the sacramental baptism in water and the Holy Spirit. It is not the waters which cleanse Jesus, but Jesus cleanses the waters. It is not the waters which purify Jesus, but Jesus purifies the waters. It is not the waters which sanctify Jesus, but Jesus sanctifies the waters of the Jordan River. Through the waters of baptism, Jesus will cleanse and sanctify the human race.
Jesus was baptized to give an example of humility to all who would follow him and is an example to us that we might all be baptized and be forgiven for our sins. Through the sacrament of baptism we are cleansed of all sin, we are elevated by grace and filled with the Holy Spirit; we are incorporated into the Church, the true Body of Christ. Indeed, in this sacrament we are united with Jesus in such a way that the words which almighty God spoke to our Lord at his baptism are applied also to us, we hear the Father say to each of us individually; ‘You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter, in you I am well pleased.’