When Our Lord came to the River Jordan to receive baptism at the hands of His cousin St. John the Baptist, John asked the question that any of us would have asked:
“I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Our Lord answered:
“Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.”
So John obeyed and baptized Jesus, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world, yet Who was guilty of no sin Himself.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his work Jesus of Nazareth has some profound insights into why Our Lord underwent baptism. One of the Holy Father’s central points is the identification of Jesus with sinners and the anticipation of His sacrifice on the Cross.
Although the baptism John offered to the people of Israel was not the same as the true Baptism Our Lord would bring, it was a prefigurement of it. Like the Sacrament it anticipated, John’s baptism involved a deep-seated conversion of heart, a confession of sins, and a rising out of the water to new life.
As Jesus goes into the waters of the Jordan to receive this baptism, He is identifying Himself with sinners, taking our sins upon Himself, and submerging Himself—in our place—into the waters of purification. His rising up shows the new life that He will gain for us.
This, of course, is directly related to His Passion, death, and Resurrection. In fact, as Pope Benedict points out, He refers to His Passion as His “baptism.” In His death, He fully shoulders our sins, cleansing them in His own Blood.
Our Lord rises from the waters of the Jordan as He would rise from the tomb three years later, glorified and victorious. At the Baptism, we see the heavens opened and the Trinity manifested: the Father proclaims the identity of His Son—“This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased”—a proclamation which, Pope Benedict says, foreshadows the Resurrection.
His rising from the dead was the most definitive proclamation of His divinity and His power over all things, even sin and death. Because of Christ’s actions, the heavens are opened, and we—through our own Trinitarian Baptism and participation in Christ’s death—can pass through.
Get to know the Son of God by delving into the events of His earthly life. The late Pope Benedict’s beloved work Jesus of Nazareth is your guide to understanding the principal episodes covered in the Gospels, from the Baptism to the Transfiguration. Your knowledge of Christ and love for Him will grow as Pope Benedict uncovers the vast and often hidden mysteries of His life. Order yours today!