This Sunday millions of Christians around the world will feast again. Last week it was for Epiphany—the celebration of the gospel going to the nations symbolized in the coming of the wise men from Asia and the Middle East. This week it’s the celebration of the baptism of our Lord. It’s analogous to Epiphany, just much bigger. In Epiphany Jesus is revealed to a handful of people from outside Israel—traditionally three. At this baptism Jesus is revealed to the entire world. A voice from heaven announces to the entire world Jesus’ messianic vocation.
Additionally, Jesus’ baptism is testimony of what God is up to in his Son. Jesus’ baptism calls us back to the beginnings of the Bible – to the waters where the three persons of the Trinity were at work in the creation of the world. Likewise, at Jesus’ baptism all the members of the Trinity are again present and at work. Here, in these waters, the work of the new creation begins. In Jesus God is making all things new. He is making broken people new and he will make the whole world new one day too.
The baptism of our Lord also reminds us of the way he comes to take our place and associate with us. He did not need to be baptized for sins. He was in all ways and at all places perfect. That said, he took on human flesh and lived our lives and lived a life for us. In his baptism, Jesus demonstrates that he comes not merely to be a good example but that he comes to take our place.
Jesus’ baptism is testimony of what God is up to in his Son.
Related to this Jesus’ baptism looks forward to the culminating event in his life. Referring to his death on the cross, Jesus would ask James and John, “Are you able to be baptized with the baptism I am going to be baptized with?” Looking back to his baptism after the events of the cross gives us clarity that his baptism was symbolic of the cross, the place where he would swallow up death for us.
Finally, Jesus’ baptism reminds us of our own baptisms. At Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon him. At our baptism the life of God floods our own lives. We are baptized into his death by the bond of the Holy Spirit. At Jesus’ baptism God spoke and declared him to be his beloved Son. At our baptism we are marked out as sons and daughters of God, adopted into his family. And at Jesus’ baptism he was thrust forth in his messianic vocation. His ministry began. So, too, our baptisms thrust us forth into the world to live out our Christian vocations and identities as those whose lives are swallowed up in the life of Christ.
So on this day find yourself considering the baptism of our Lord — what it says about him and what it says about you. And hopefully you’ll find yourself around a table with friends and family and lots of food. Join with millions of Christians and take a little more time than usual and make it the feast that it deserves.