The game is on the line. Everything comes down to one final play. All of the planning, all of the preparation, all of the discipline and hard work, everything comes down to this final move. Is there any hope for success? Can the enemy be defeated? Is a victory possible? Someone has to step up and be the one who will make the big play. Someone has to do what is right. Today the work of salvation passes into the hands of two big time players on the biggest stage of all. John the Baptist hands over the work of salvation to a small town boy who has grown up in an obscure village. Now is the time to reveal the young man as the hope for the future. John knows that he must decrease and the young man must increase. Jesus reassures John that this play is the correct one, “for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
“To fulfill all righteousness” means to do what is right, what is according to the game plan, what has been prepared from the beginning of time. When the game is on the line, John and Jesus both want to play their part. They are willing to do what is needed. In the baptism of Jesus, everything that God has promised is being fulfilled. With the baptism of Jesus, the obscure, small town boy is revealed to be who he is and God has revealed his plan for ultimate victory.
The baptism of Jesus is a moment of revelation. The enemy is sin and death. The enemy has proven for centuries to be a formidable opponent. No one has had any success in defeating this opponent. One after another, human persons have struggled with sin and death. One after another human persons have succumbed to sin and lost the struggle with death. Finally, we are awaiting one who will reveal to us the way to defeat sin and death and share in the victory of life.
In John the Baptist, humanity has an advocate who has not been touched by sin. John begins baptizing in the Jordan to do battle with sin. John believes in humanity and the possibility of defeating sin. He gives new hope to all who are struggling with sin in their lives. John’s advice was simple: do what is right. No matter what one’s state of life is, if one does what is right then one can defeat sin. God gives the same advice to Cain at the very beginning of the struggle, “if you do well, you can hold up your head.” John baptizes people to free them from the slavery to sin and to give them a new opportunity to make better choices with their lives and thus defeat sin.
There is one yet to come who outdoes John in obedience and justice. He is the Just One. He will be the one who will win the final victory of justice through mercy. He will do what is good, fix what was broken, heal what is diseased and drive out the enemy. He will bring light to those who live in darkness. He is God’s chosen one, the anointed of the Lord, the bearer of God’s Spirit and he will establish a new covenant between God and humanity through his blood, poured out and sacrificed for the sins of the many. Jesus, the Lamb of God, opens a way into heaven for all those who follow in his way.
After the baptism of Jesus, the heavens are opened and the nearness of God and his kingdom is revealed to all people. The Spirit descends from the heavens and comes to rest upon Jesus. John sees this and knows that Jesus is the one to save his people. From the heavens a voice is heard that reveals Jesus as the beloved Son of God, upon whom God’s grace and favor rests. Only the Son can reveal the Father for only the Son knows the Father. At the pivotal moment in time, Jesus accepts the Spirit of the Father, the will of God for salvation and the power of his love that comes to rest upon him. Jesus has the power to defeat sin and death and to open a new way into the Kingdom of God.
On the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord we celebrate the revelation, manifestation or epiphany of Jesus as the Son of God, the One chosen to carry out God’s game plan to defeat sin and death. We join with Jesus through our own baptism in dispelling the darkness of sin and accepting the anointing of the Father’s love, grace and favor. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Jesus and shine the light of God’s love into the darkness of the world. We also are given the power to be the children of God, the children of the light and the light of the world, to give light and new hope to all people. The baptism of the Lord is the moment in which Jesus is revealed to be the Son of God and our baptism is the revelation of the children of God. Let’s not drop the ball but carry it through to its completion until the final victory is won.