Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?" But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
- Matthew 3:13-17
Yesterday, we read that when John the Baptist saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?" But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed Him. What does it mean for them to fulfill all righteousness? My study bible points out that Jesus does not need purification. But by making the purification of humanity His own -- undergoing the baptism of John -- He would wash away the sin of humanity, and grant regeneration, revealing the mystery of the Holy Trinity to the world (as we will see in the following verses). So, this baptism of Jesus is necessary for the fulfillment of God's righteous plan of salvation. My study bible quotes Gregory of Nyssa: "Jesus enters the filthy, sinful waters of the world and when He comes out, brings up and purifies the entire world with Him." Thus, sanctifying all the world's waters for the baptism that He will give in the Church.
When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." This gives us an image from Genesis: in the creation account, the Spirit of God hovered over the water for the first creation (Genesis 1:2). At Jesus' baptism, the Holy Spirit comes in the form of a dove to anoint the Messiah, the Son of God, at the beginning of the new creation. Jesus is revealed as Son, thus for the early Church this event was called Epiphany (a manifestation or revelation), or more accurately Theophany (a manifestation of God), celebrated on January 6th. It is a revelation of the Trinity: Jesus the Incarnate Son is baptized, the Father speaks, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove. The Father's voice gives a quotation from Psalm 2:7: "You are My Son, / Today I have begotten You."
Jesus' baptism by John is occasion for revelation of the Trinity, but also for illumination of the Old Testament Scriptures. The words of the Psalm are given to us as revelation and fulfillment in the voice of the Father. We now have a much fuller comprehension of the meaning of the Psalm, and just who this Son is that is revealed and about whom the psalmist prophesied. This is the Incarnation of the only-begotten, and this baptism takes place so that we all may participate in the "new creation," becoming a part of this regeneration and the work of God in us. God condescends to life as human being, and by participating in "fulfilling all righteousness" He is revealed as Son, but also as the Gift to the world. He sanctifies all waters for the baptism in which we are given the Spirit, and He teaches us something about what all of Creation is capable of: as vehicle and vessel for holiness. Just as bread and wine can become Body and Blood of which we in turn may partake, so the water is hallowed. By virtue of its connection with all the waters of the world, we're given a picture here of the work of God -- and the work of God that is done for the life of the world. Whatever has come before is not only hallowed and sanctified in this moment of revelation, but its fullness is revealed. All preparation shows forth now as fulfillment of the word of God, in the Incarnation of the Word who stands as righteous man, and as the One who sanctifies and makes full every potential. And this is His work in us, to reveal the "new creation." Jesus is called the "new man," the "second Adam," but what that means is that He becomes human being so that the rest of us may become "like Him." This is a gift for all of us. What glorifies God isn't a kind of selfish, self-centered command for adoration, but rather it is God's glory manifest through love that glorifies human beings, showing us what we are made to be. Jesus' command that will come as He calls disciples to Him, "Follow Me," is all about that. We follow Him in order to participate in this new creation, so that the new creation is at work in us: a gift, the gift. I put a quote on the side of my blog from Athanasius of Alexandria, from his great work titled On the Incarnation of the Word of God. Athanasius in his introduction says of Jesus Christ, "Impossibilities through Him become possibilities; things unseemly become seemly; things human become divine." Here is the work of the Incarnation: the waters of the world are sanctified for our baptism with the Spirit, the new creation begins through the One who is always making all things new, the gift of the "new Adam" for a new people, for all of us. How does that gift work in you today? God's glory is manifest as love for all of us, for all the world and everything in it. The question to us is whether or not we really want what is offered.