The Sunday after Epiphany is the feast day for the celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ.
From the Gospel of St. Matthew 3:13 we read: “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him.” But have you ever wondered why? Why did Jesus, who was without sin, consent to be baptized in like manner with others who were repenting for their sins? In fact St. John the Baptist asked this question himself: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” And Jesus replied: “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
This seminal event in the life of Jesus Christ is loaded with significance and purpose, which we celebrate (and grapple with!) on this feast day. Christ’s baptism served many purposes. To name a few, it validated St. John the Baptist’s ministry of confession of sin, repentance, and redemption; and Jesus, in humility, identified with us through his participation. In other words, as he would on the Cross, he stepped in for us. His Baptism anointed, consecrated, and announced the start of his public ministry, his Messianic mission. Its foreshadowed baptism as a sign and a sacrament of our faith. It called down from Heaven God’s blessing on Jesus, and the equipping and empowering of his ministry through the power of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of the Trinity. And as expressed in the words of St. Paul from 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Yet what does this mean? It means that Jesus Christ was willing, in his humility, to fulfill his role as our redeemer, our mediator; to do all that is required, through his love for us, to save us, even to death on the Cross.
Why is this important? Why is this meaningful? Just as our Father in Heaven, delights in his Son, so he delights in us. In his love and delight for us, God wants us to have the relationship with him that any father should have with and for his children. The fruits of this relationship are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In essence, the fruit of the Holy Spirit adds up to righteousness. Like Jesus, this is what we have been baptized into. Jesus continues to stand in for us; but now, in a sense, we stand together with him. Standing with Christ and sharing his everlasting life; this is worth grappling for.