THE POWER OF THE CLEANSING WATER: REFLECTION FOR THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Person Cleaning Hands under Water

Life without water is unimaginable. Every living thing depends on water to survive. Science tells us that the average adult human body is about 60% of water. Notice also that we can stay a long time without food but not without water because dehydration could complicate the functioning of the brain due to a severe drop in blood pressure, which could lead to death.

The Japanese pseudo-scientist and author, Dr. Masaru Emoto, demonstrated that human consciousness and words could change the molecular structure of water through a verified experiment. The details are in his New York Times Best Seller book, “The Hidden Messages in Water.” Sadhguru, the Indian Yogi and author, claims that water has memory and could remember whatever you say or do to it.  

Beyond all the scientific information, there is something about water and God that we need to understand and appreciate. If we go back to the Book of Genesis (1:1-2), we discover that water was already in place when God created the heavens and the earth, and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the water. When God wanted to destroy the world (Genesis 7), he used water and saved Noah’s family with the ark floating on the same water.

Moses, who became the human hand God used to liberate Israel from Egypt’s bondage through the red sea, was rescued from water (Exodus 2:1-10). Moses also struck the rock to release water for the people to quench their thirst, though God asked him to speak to the rock (Numbers 20:1-11).

The Gospels tell us that the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ started around the waterside area of Galilee. The first disciples were fishermen who were making their living from the water region. The first miracle of Jesus was turning water into wine (John 2:1-11). Do not forget that Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm on the sea (Matthew 14:22-32)

All these Old and New Testament instances support the fact that water occupies a central place in God’s relationship with humanity. One could ask why water and an answer could be why not since we may not have a more satisfying one.

The Water of Baptism

The Gospel of Mark (1:7-11) introduces the ministry of our Lord Jesus with his baptism by John in the Jordan River. John’s baptism was that of repentance, and one could legitimately wonder why Jesus (the sinless one) had to join the long line of sinners waiting to be washed clean of sin through John’s baptism.

Four reasons come to mind as to why our Lord Jesus Christ decided to receive the baptism of John:

A Proof of the Necessity of Baptism

Baptism initiates us to the Christian life. Of course, the Christian life is not possible without baptism. The baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ shows that we need that cleansing from sin. St. Peter (1 Peter 3:21) says that baptism saves us not only by the washing away of dirt from the flesh but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Sanctification of the Water of Baptism

As soon as our Lord Jesus Christ, the sinless one, entered the Jordan River, he sanctified the water of baptism. We could attest to the sanctification when our Lord Jesus Christ stepped out of the water, and the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove, and the voice of the Father said, “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.” God the Father and the Holy Spirit come together to confirm and sanctity the water of baptism at the instance of Jesus, God the Son.

The Baptism of John the Baptizer

In the account of the baptism of the Lord, according to Matthew (3:13-17), John said that he should be receiving baptism from Jesus, not the other way round. But Jesus asked him to go on to fulfill all righteousness. John’s request was fulfilled because he desired to be baptized by Jesus. So being in the same water of baptism and making the request completed his baptism.

The Inauguration of the Lord’s Ministry

Notice that immediately after the baptism of Jesus Christ, the same Spirit present at Jordan river led him to the wilderness where he fasted for forty days and nights in preparation for his public ministry. Here we see the inaugural position of baptism in the Christian life and ministry.

Moving Forward!

One important event in the context of the Lord’s baptism was the opening of the heavens when our Lord Jesus Christ emerged from the water. The message here is that baptism opens the gates of heaven for us, but we should intentionally walk into it by how we conduct our lives.

But how do we conduct our lives? We do so by living the baptismal life. We see the baptismal life in the baptismal promises, including rejecting sin and Satan with all his works and empty promises. On the other hand, is the promise to believe steadfastly in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The celebration of the Lord’s baptism should recall the significance of the cleansing power of the water of baptism. He should, therefore, conduct our lives like those who have been renewed. St. Paul tells us that those in Christ are a new creation; old things have passed away (2 Cor. 5:17). This instruction is also very pertinent as we surf through the New Year with the invitation to a new life.

God bless you and have a blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

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