In just three short sentences we are presented in the Gospel (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22) with a most decisive moment in the life of Jesus – his baptism in the River Jordan. It was so important that all four Gospels record it at some length.
His baptism is the moment when Jesus became fully aware of his true identity – the beloved Son of God – and the mission (outlined in the First Reading) to which God was calling Him.
Today we have St Luke’s account of the baptism and it is quite short. He does not describe the event in detail but dwells more on what happened before and after it.
The bare facts are that Jesus was part of a crowd responding to the preaching of John the Baptist and joined them in being baptised – fully immersed – by John in the flowing waters of the River Jordan.
Afterwards, Luke says, while he was ‘at prayer’, Jesus had a mystical experience in which he discovered that He was God’s beloved Son. ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’
From that moment it was as God’s ‘beloved’ and with God’s ‘favour’ that Jesus dedicated the rest of his life to the mission God gave him. He invited people to join him in a new community – the kingdom of God – comprising people dedicated to following His way of responding to God.
Through our baptism we formally join a community – the Church – which was founded on the faith the apostles had in Jesus as God’s Son. Through our baptism we become a ‘beloved’ daughter or son of God, and have a bond with Jesus that can never be broken. He became God’s beloved Son on earth precisely that we also might know how beloved and special we are to God.
Each one of us here today is a beloved son or daughter of God. Here at Holy Name we are members of a community where Christ is at the centre and everyone is accepted. Being a baptised member of the community of the Church means that no matter who we are, or what we may have done in the past, or even will do in the future, we never cease to be God’s beloved. We each have been given the same Spirit that came on Jesus at his baptism; and through this Spirit there is nothing we can do to break the bond with Jesus established by our baptism.
This is the Good News we celebrate today with the Baptism of Our Lord. How privileged we are that that in spite of ourselves God looks on us as favourably as he did on Jesus at his baptism.
Holy Name, Jesmond
13 January 2019