And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” from the Gospel according to St. Matthew.
Today we commemorate and celebrate the Baptism of Jesus by St John in the Jordan River. As we learned in the Gospel, John hesitated, because he thought himself unworthy to baptize Jesus, and instead he should be baptized by him. Jesus says,
“Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”
Why did Jesus need to be baptized? We know he had no sin to repent, and since he was the Son of God, he had no need to be grafted into the tree of life.
At the Baptism of our Lord, the Trinity was revealed to include the Son, with the anointing of the Spirit in the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father, claiming Jesus as his Son. The mystery of the God in three Persons is key to our faith. St. Peter proclaimed this as well, as we heard from the book of the Acts of the Apostles: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power;
We don’t really know the form that John used when he baptized Jesus and the others who came to him. We do know that the Jews observed a ritual cleansing with water when they had become unclean. Jesus ran afoul of the Pharisees when, as recorded in St. Luke, he had not washed his hands before eating.
The New International Version of the Bible renders the verse in Luke, chapter 11, like this: “The Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.”
Now listen to the New American Standard Version:
“When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He (Jesus) had not first ceremonially washed before the meal.”
In the Greek bible, the word for the ceremonial washing is Baptizo, which of course, give us the word baptize. The Strong’s Concordance of the Bible defines this word as: to dip, or to sink, or to submerge.
The point is that the sacrament of Holy Baptism is a ceremonial washing for the remission of sins, and regeneration to a new life in Christ.
The matter we use for Baptism is water. John had the Jordan River which supplied all the water he needed. The preference is for running water, but any water will do.
The Church father Tertullian wrote that “it makes no difference wether someone is washed in a sea, a pool, a stream, fountain, lake, or trough. All waters attain the sacramental power of sanctification. For the Holy Spirit immediately supervenes for the heavens and rests over the waters.”
As for the manner how this is done, some later traditions insist on full immersion. We follow the instructions found in the teaching of the 12 Apostles from the early Church, known as the Didache.
This is from Chapter 7, “concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
As for who can baptize in the church, the bishop has the right, and by his authority, his priests and deacons can as well. It is best done this way to preserve the order and dignity of the sacrament. In an emergency, any layman can baptize, so if you find yourself in a situation when a person you know is not baptized, and they are in dire straights, you can baptize them. You must, however, get consent, if he is able to give it, and you must baptize in the Name of the Holy Trinity.
Jesus was baptized by John also to show the importance of this sacrament for us, and to receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” This is the role of the Father, who names and claims the Son as his own.
In the chapter 3 of the Gospel according to St John, we read that Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”
The second part of Baptism is the anointing of the Holy Spirit, signified by the anointing with the oil of chrism placed on the forehead of the newly baptized. The words are spoken, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism, and marked as Christ’s own forever.”
While the oil is absorbed by the skin, the seal of the Holy Spirit is absorbed into your soul, and you then belong to Jesus. Your soul is regenerated in the image and likeness of the Father, and the Son will lose none that are given to him.
The Spirit of Christ will take up residence in your soul; He in us, and we in him. He will direct you in your ways if you listen to him. His voice is still and small so listen carefully.
Holy Baptism is one of the two primary sacraments given to us by Jesus himself, including the Holy Eucharist, for the upbuilding of his Holy Church. We as his ministers are charged with its administration.
Together, you and I are following his holy ordinances in accordance with his will. These are works he has given us to do, so lets do them with all reverence to the glory of his Holy Name.
And let’s thank the Father for sending his Son into the world for our salvation.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.