The Baptism of the Lord – Year C

Posté par diaconos le 5 janvier 2022

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The baptism of Christ is one of the episodes in the life of Jesus : his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. Recounted in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, it is one of the three epiphanies of Jesus, along with the adoration of the Magi and the wedding at Cana. The ‘Baptism of Christ’ is a theme found very often in Christian iconography.

In biblical exegesis, this event is most likely considered authentic because it corresponds to one of the four criteria of historicity defined by scholars : that of ecclesiastical embarrassment, according to which an episode that is more or less embarrassing in terms of Christian apologetics could not have been invented.

This criterion was explained by Simon Claude Mimouni and Pierre Maraval, who took the baptism of Christ as an example. They selected the actions and words of Jesus that created difficulties in their application within the early Christian communities, for example the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, recounted by Matthew, because this account places the former in a subordinate position to the latter, putting the Church in difficulty in its conflict with Baptist groups.

The Jordan region has a special significance in the Bible : in the Old Testament it was one of the borders of the Promised Land for the Hebrews led by Moses. Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, so he could not cross the Jordan. John the Baptist did so in the Jordan.

 Jesus’ immersion in the Jordan has to do with sin. The theology developing within Christianity sees the baptism of Jesus as a willingness of Jesus Christ to take on the sin of the world. The account of this baptism describes a theophany, a manifestation of the God of the Trinity : Jesus Christ, the Son, being baptised, a dove symbolising the Holy Spirit and the voice of God the Father.

From the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St Luke

At that moment the people who had come to John the Baptist were waiting, and they all wondered within themselves whether John was not the Christ. Then John said to them all, « I baptize you with water, but he comes who is stronger than I am; I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

 While all the people were being baptised, and while Jesus was also being baptised, he prayed, the heavens opened.  The Holy Spirit, in bodily form, like a dove, descended upon Jesus, and there was a voice from heaven: « You are my beloved Son; in you I rejoice. (Lk 3, 15-16, 21-22)

 The Baptism of the Lord

« When the people were waiting and all were wondering in their hearts about John, whether he himself was not the Christ, » (Lk 3, 15) This observation about the attitude of the people towards John is Luke’s own. Jesus came to the baptism with all the people; as he prayed, the heavens opened, the Spirit descended upon him in visible form, a voice from heaven proclaimed him the beloved Son of God.

 On the other hand, Luke, hastening to the account of the divine manifestations that took place on this occasion, relates them more objectively and explicitly than the other evangelists. He alone reported the remarkable fact that the heavenly revelations took place while Jesus was praying. This was the psychological and religious explanation of the event.

Prayer was the effective intermediary between heaven and earth, between the Father and his Son. While Jesus was praying, he was glorified on the holy mountain and received the same testimony from God his Father : « You are my beloved Son » (Luke 9, 29-35). Luke showed the heavens opening and the Holy Spirit descending in bodily form. He presented this as a real event and could not be considered a mere vision.

 In Luke’s account, as in Mark’s, the divine testimony to Jesus, ‘You are my beloved son’, was addressed directly to him, whereas in Matthew it was addressed to John the Baptist and through him to all men, ‘This is my beloved son’.

 Deacon Michel Houyoux

 Links to other Christian websites

◊ Father Valan : click here to read the post → Homilies – The Baptism of the Lord (Year C)

◊ The Christian Age of    : click here to read the post → The Baptism of the Lord, Year C

♥ The Baptism of the Lord

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