Baptism of the Lord, Year A
The Beginning of a Great Adventure
When we are baptized, many of us as infants, our sins are forgiven, But as babies, though we aren’t perfect, we haven’t really had the chance to sin yet. Jesus was perfect; He didn’t have any sins to be forgiven even though He was baptized as an adult.
Baptism is more than just a forgiving of sins. It’s also a welcoming into a family, the family of God. But even that still doesn’t explain Jesus’s baptism. God was Jesus’s actual Father, so He was already a card-carrying member of the family of God. John the Baptist even “tried to stop Jesus, saying ‘I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?’” (v. 14) So, why did Jesus go through the ritual, the dunking? Why did He have to get wet?
Baptism is even more than the sins and the family; it’s the beginning of a great adventure. It’s a chance for us to say “yes” to God. If we’re baptized as infants, our parents say that “yes” for us, indicating they will lay the foundation for us to form our own relationship with God, Relationships take time and commitment to develop, and as we grow, it becomes our responsibility to deepen our relationship with God. We’ve been given the gift of free will, and God lets us choose whether or not we use it wisely.
Free will is an amazing gift. It’s also a lot of responsibility and probably a stress point for God too since He is a Father. As a human, Jesus also had free will and didn’t have to say yes. Jesus could have chosen another way. Baptism was Jesus’s very public yes to God. Yes, God, I will do what You want Me to do. Yes, God, I will lead the life of an itinerant teacher. Yes, God, I will incur the anger of the rabbis. Yes, God, I will follow You all the way to the cross. Yes, God, I will bear the sins of all humanity on my shoulders.
Even though it wasn’t an easy life, Jesus was also saying “yes” to the one and only life that could fulfill His every inner desire. God had made Jesus to be that itinerant teacher willing to go to the cross. God had made Him to be different from all Jews who had come before. If Jesus had chosen another way, perhaps a quieter life as a spiritual leader, He still could have been faithful. He still could have been righteous. He still could have done good in the world. But He wouldn’t have been living out His destiny. He wouldn’t have been a fully realized human being; He wouldn’t have claimed His gift.
Jesus’s baptism set Him on the path towards the life God had designed for Him to lead. Once on that path, Jesus never wavered. I’m sure He had private doubts, only public at the very end when He cries, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 25:46) Once Jesus offered His life to God, He knew what He had to do and He followed that through.
We will waver, and that’s fine. We are human, and we lack Jesus’s divine identity. But our baptism is still a public act that sets on the road and points us in the right direction. Baptism is still our “yes”and the beginning of a great adventure, one we could never plot out on our own.