Jesus’s Baptism Brings Grace To The World

Jesus’s Baptism Brings Grace To The World January 5, 2024

Ввласенко: Jesus’ Baptism. Mosaic In Arian Baptistry. Ravenna, Italy / Wikimedia Commons

God surprises us, doing things which are unexpected. The incarnation, certainly, is one of those surprises. This is not to say no one had any intuition that God could become incarnate, as clearly, many did, but the way of the incarnation, and what the God-man did in his earthly ministry, were things which could not be predicted. This is why St. John the Baptist was surprised when Jesus came to be baptized by him:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.  John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented.  And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him;  and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:13-17 RSV).

John knew Jesus didn’t need to repent, that Jesus didn’t need to be baptized for the sake of his sins. He also expected that Jesus was going to come with a baptism of his own, a fiery baptism of grace, which is why John said, he needed to be baptized by Christ, to receive his baptism, instead of being one to baptize Christ.

But Jesus knew something which John did not: his plan to take up and use John’s baptism as a means by which he would bring his own baptism into the world. Jesus did not need to be baptized for his own sins, as he had none, but he wanted to be baptized so as he could take up John’s baptism and transform it, using it to share his grace to the world. As he entered into the waters of the Jordan, as he was baptized by John, he imparted grace to those waters, and through them, every water, indeed, to the world at large, so that the world and all its elements could be infused by grace and become vessels God’s of grace to those who need it.

Jesus took on baptism, the way God takes on much of our religious inventions, and used it, showing that God works with us and uses what we offer as a means of engaging us and providing to us what we need. This can be said to be the real meaning of sacrifice. God sees where humanity reaches out to God, where humanity is open to and receptive of God, and uses that opening to the benefit of humanity. The greatest of all those sacrifices can be said to be human nature itself, which was rendered to God, and God, assumed it and used it to become human, to share with humanity the divine life and all that is in it. And in and through the incarnation, the God-man was infused with the Holy Spirit so that then the Holy Spirit could be sent by him and into the world, so that we could all become partakers of the Spirit and all its bounty:

but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,  which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life (Tius 3:4-7 RSV).

Baptism, it is said, is necessary for our salvation. The grace is always given by the sacrament, but it can be and is also given in other ways. When talking about the necessity of baptism, we must remember, we don’t mean the physical action and ritual, but the grace which is imparted by it, that is, the thing of baptism. The thing of baptism, the grace of baptism, cleanses us, and incorporates us into the body of Christ. In this way, we share in the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and in and through Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, we become a child of God.

Jesus’ baptism is important, therefore, not because Jesus needed to be baptized for his own sins, but so he could be baptized for our sins, for the sins in the world, to transform baptism into a sacramental act which can and will offer us the means for our spiritual regeneration and incorporation into his body. We go into the baptismal waters separated from Christ, we rise up, incorporated into him, becoming heirs with hope of eternal life.

Christ is baptized in the Jordan! The one who is sinless has taken on the sin of the world and overcome it. John the Baptist prepared the war, not Jesus has rendered the world ready for the kingdom of God.  While John was surprised and did not understand why Jesus came to him to be baptized, he did as he was told. He trusted God had some reason for it, even as we often find ourselves having to trust God when we do not understand things happening in our lives. When he did so, he saw the Holy Spirit was brought into the world. God was revealed in Christ’s baptism, with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each having their part, showing once again, how God is revealed through God’s actions towards us and why the baptism of Christ not only is said to enlighten the world with grace, but to be a revelation of who and what God is, a God of love, a three-personned God who actively seeks to impart grace to the world.

 

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