I want us to spend a few moments meditating and mulling over why Jesus was baptized. Obviously, he had no sin of which to repent. So why be baptized by his cousin John?
We know from the surrounding scriptures that John’s baptism was just that – a baptism of repentance – calling the Jewish people out on their self-righteousness, their disregard for the poor and the lowly, and to remind the poor that there was something better for them and it was here now.
Jesus, by being baptized and by later commissioning the disciples to baptize showed forth the life of the Trinity. But more than that, Jesus changed baptism. Yes, it was still for the remission of sins and for repentance, but it now also was a dying to oneself to live for God.
When Jesus went into the water, he was putting aside the desires and wants of his human nature, he was dying to self. Coming out of the water, he now lived for God and God’s will.
That is what our baptism is today. We were baptized to erase our sin. But we were also saying that “yes, I will die to self, so I can live for God.”
We preach a lot about what this means – taking care of the poor, the homeless, the downtrodden, the immigrant.
The prophet Isaiah in our first reading says, “a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth.”
We are that bruised reed, we are that smoldering wick. We are given the opportunity to heal and to be reignited by God’s unconditional love.
But Isaiah also tells us what this dying to self and living for God entails: “I formed you and set you…a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”
We, by our baptism, have said that, “yes, I will be a light in the darkness. I will do all I can to open the eyes of the blind to the love of God; I will work tirelessly to bring people freedom from their sins, and shine the light of God’s love into the darkest of hearts. And I will work for social justice for every person.”
This is what our baptism means. This is why Jesus was baptized. To show us the way that we should follow. And having been shown the way, to live it.
There is no shortage of people that need to hear the Good News. But even more importantly – they need to be shown the Good News. This we do by living the Gospel of peace, the Gospel of love, the Gospel of hope.