The religious ritual of baptism which John popularized has no clear mention in the Old Testament. However, St. Peter helps us understand that Noah’s event suggests baptism, where eight people were saved through water. He further says: “And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you-not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).
During the ministry of John, baptism served as the ritual indication of repentance from sin for those who were touched and transformed by his preaching. Consequently, many people were coming to him to receive baptism.
Significantly, John was not expecting Jesus to show up for baptism. Remember John already said that though he is baptizing with water, one greater is coming after him whose sandals he is not worthy to untie. So again, he identified him as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:24-29).
We should be as curious as John as to why Jesus, the sinless one (Hebrew 4:15), came to John to receive the baptism of repentance. The following are some of the significant reasons:
Identifying with sinners: Recall that Jesus, the lamb of God, came for the remission of the sin the world, and John’s baptism was that of repentance from sin. It follows then that our Lord had to identify with sinners in the Jordan river, not that he was sinful, but because he would become sin for our sake so that we can become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
Sanctifying the water of baptism: As soon as the sinless one stepped into the Jordan River, the water of baptism for all time was sanctified; in other words, made holy. We can attest to the hallowing of the baptismal water through the declarative voice of God the Father and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.
The baptism of the Baptist: The encounter John had with Jesus in the Jordan brought about the baptism of John upon the fact that he wanted to have Jesus baptize him instead (Matt. 3:14). Under that desire, John was baptized as he baptized Jesus; he received what he gave (see Luke 6:38).
Demonstrating the necessity of baptism: If the trinity showed up at the baptism of the Lord, there would be every reason to believe that baptism is very necessary for the cleansing of both original sin and personal sins. While sending the disciples out in the great commission, our Lord said, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).
Moving Forward: Sustaining the Benefits of Baptism
We can understand so far in this reflection that the baptism of the Lord was as necessary as his redemptive mission on earth. So, moving forward, we need to make inquiries to know and sustain the benefits of the Lord’s baptism to us.
We are renewed: Renewal is the process of updating or bringing some freshness to reality from the state of expiration or dilapidation. We are conversant with the renewal of some personal documents and identifications. The shadow of sin darkened our souls, but we are renewed and reinvigorated through baptism. We can sustain the revival from our baptism by our daily commitment to reject sin, and Satan, including his works and empty promises.
Renewed access to heaven: Heaven had remained shut since after the Fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). However, the baptism of the Lord and his prayer afterward reopened the gate of heaven followed by the voice of the Father and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove (Luke 3:21).
Renewed Conscience: According to the testimony of St. Peter, baptism saves us not just the washing away the dirt but also from the appeal to God for a good conscience (1 Peter 3:21).
Some thinkers believe that the right and certain conscience represents the voice of God inside of our being, which reveals to us what is good and gives us the courage to do it as opposed to what is evil and wrong. So, through baptism, we receive an effective moral platform that aids and sustains our actions.
Membership in the community of faith: Baptism gives us a common identity that puts us together as a community. All Christians share in common, although the doctrinal difference evident in various denominations is baptism which formally brings an individual into the faith community. So, without baptism, membership is incomplete.
As we celebrate the baptism of the Lord, we need to do an in-depth personal assessment as to how far we can live baptismal life and sustain the same. We are thus invited to allow to stand firm on the path of righteousness as the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, who received baptism and sanctified it for our sake.
Have a renewing celebration of the Lord’s baptism, and may the benefits of the sacrament enrich your life always.