The Jordan River at the place where John, the kinsman of Jesus, was immersing (baptising) people is small, little more than a decent sized creek in Australian terms, but big in significance for the people of Israel of Jesus time. This is the river through which the people came at the end of a 40 year trek from slavery in Egypt to freedom in this land that Abraham had come to centuries before.
John the Baptist, as he was known, called people to repentance, to a change of thought, speech and action which would bring them into closer harmony with God’s wishes for them. As a sign of the inner change he plunged them under the water to rise renewed.
In his turn, Jesus who would spend time working with John, came to be plunged into the water. Personally he had no need of repenting as his will was in harmony with the will of the Father but by being baptised by John he identifies with the people who allow themselves to be enslaved by selfishness, greed and manipulation.
As Jesus rises from the water he has what we would call an amazing religious experience which he must have shared with his friends for ones like St Mark to record later in the gospel. He has a vision of heaven being torn open and a dove descending on him. He would recall the dove that Noah released from the ark at the time of the great flood which returned with a twig in its beak indicating that the waters were receding and the danger had passed. Not only, however, did he see the heavens opened and the dove appearing but he heard the Father confirm his identity: You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you. What his awareness of his identity was before this moment we do not know, but from this moment on Jesus would live each moment of his life aware of the reality of the Father’s love and favour.
This immersion experience was the end of his private life as a carpenter/builder in Nazareth. The validity of his experience of being chosen would be tested in the 40 days in the wilderness but he would then embrace the work of preaching and healing that would inaugurate a new era in human history which will come to fulfilment when all embrace the Father’s will and live in peace and harmony with each other. And this world will come to pass despite the pain and suffering, the violence and cruelty that seems so entrenched in our societies that we find ourselves thinking that this is all that human nature is capable of. The words that Jesus heard the Father utter about him is true of all of us though not in the way that was natural for Jesus as God’s word in flesh. By divine choice, we are God’s children, beloved and favoured. Rejoice in this and actively share that news with others.
Fr Adrian Farrelly
|Jan 13, 2015||The Baptism of the Lord 11.01.2015||Listen||Download|