Baptisms are wonderful and something to be celebrated. For some your parents arranged for your baptism when you were an infant, for others it comes later in life but either way it is a gift and a blessing. I wondered when thinking about this whether we truly understand why we are baptised and why it's so special. Let's have a look …
Jesus comes to His cousin John the Baptist to be baptised. Baptism is a washing away of sin and Jesus shows us how to do this by entering the water himself, He humbles Himself, He is not embarrassed or ashamed that people might think He is a sinner, we know He wasn’t. He accepts being seen in the company of sinners. Jesus enters the water knowing that anyone who does not know Him will count Him among the sinners. As Christians we believe Jesus was baptised so that he could become like one of us. This shows his great humility. He set an example for us to follow. Jesus' baptism was also an opportunity to show his authority as God confirmed he was his Son. ‘And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17 In accepting baptism, Jesus does not enter the water alone. He takes us with Him, for we are members of His Body. As the Head of the Body, He goes where the members will follow.
By going into the water Jesus receives four gifts on our behalf:
Access – The heavens are opened. The heavens and paradise were closed to us after Original Sin, but at Jesus’ Baptism, they are opened. Jesus acquires this gift for us. At our Baptism, the heavens open for us and we have access to the Father and to the heavenly places.
“For through Jesus we have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God”
Anointing – The Spirit of God descends on him like a dove. Here, too, Jesus acquires the gift of the Holy Spirit for us. At our Baptism we are not just washed of sins, but we also become temples of the Holy Spirit. After our Baptism we are anointed with chrism, signifying the presence of the Holy Spirit. For adults, this happens at Confirmation, but even for infants there is an anointing at Baptism to recognise that the Spirit of God dwells in the baptised as in a temple.
"Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?" 1 Corinthians 3:16
Acknowledgment – You are my beloved Son. Jesus receives this acknowledgment from His Father for the faith of those who heard it and to acquire this gift for us. In our own Baptism we become the children of God. Because we become members of Christ’s Body, we now have the status of children of God. On the day of your Baptism, God acknowledges you as His own dear child.
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” Galatians 3:26.
Approval – With you I am well pleased. Jesus had always pleased His Father, but now He acquires this gift for us as well. Our own Baptism gives us sanctifying grace, the grace to be holy and pleasing to God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight” Ephesians 1:1-3.
So, Christ was baptised for our sake, not His own, He already had these gifts but through His Baptism Jesus acquires these gifts for us so that we can receive them at our own Baptism. What a gift your Baptism is! The date of your baptism is a day to celebrate, enjoy it. Jesus fulfilled God’s righteousness by going into the water to get them for you. So, celebrate and shout “Hallelujah!” for you have been given the greatest of gifts, Baptism.
Sian Binley, Pioneer ALM at St John's