Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on Him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17 (Gospel from Liturgy on Feast of Theophany)
Today we examine the Gospel that is read on the Feast of Theophany, celebrated each year on January 6. There are several points to take away from this reading.
As we have already discussed, in the time of Jesus, baptism was done similar to the way that we do confession today, a periodic cleansing to be rid of sin. John “the Baptist” was a man who was well known, and people would flock to him at the Jordan River to have this ritual cleansing done. Jesus came to John in order to be “baptized”. John immediately recognized Jesus as the Christ, and thought it was inappropriate to “baptize” one who was without sin. John even offered to exchange positions, telling Jesus it was he (John) who should be baptized by Jesus.
Eventually John consented and Jesus was baptized. The word “Theophany” means “the manifestation of God.” Because the significance of the event was not that Jesus was baptized, but that the Holy Trinity was revealed. Jesus, the Son, was baptized in the Jordan. As He came out of the river, the Holy Spirit, alighted on Him as a dove. And a voice came from heaven, the voice of God the Father, endorsing Jesus as His Son: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17. Never before in the history of humanity had the Holy Trinity been revealed. This also reminds us that when we are baptized, it is not the water that makes the baptism valid (some will argue that one must be fully immersed in order to be baptized) but the invocation of the name of the Holy Trinity.
The Baptism of Jesus is recounted in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. It is only referred to in Luke and John. In Matthew’s account, the voice of the Father says “This is My beloved Son.” In the Gospel of Mark, however, the voice of the Father says “YOU are My beloved Son, with You I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) We know that the Gospel accounts of events in the life of Christ vary slightly. The fact that they do confirms their authenticity even more. Why? Because no two people see the same thing the same way. The fact that they are similar but not the same is evidence of truth. If they were exactly the same, this could lead to thoughts that stories were concocted and therefore not truthful. Ask any police detective.
The point I want to finish with is the saying “You are My beloved Son.” This was obviously an endorsement by God the Father over His Son, Jesus Christ. But as we hear it again, hear it as an endorsement by God over YOUR life. Imagine if God announced you as “My beloved son (or daughter).” Two things here—first, we are all His beloved children. God loves each of us. We are not His beloved slaves, or servants, or employees. We are His beloved children! Second, is our life in line with the phrase “with you I am well pleased”? If God looks at our lives, is He well-pleased with them?
Think of each action that you do during the day and ask yourself, what is God saying about this? When you help someone, God is saying “I am well pleased.” And when we fail and sin, He is still saying “you are my beloved child” but that we can do better. In our daily lives, we should remember this saying by God and work for this endorsement in all that we do.
As You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, then the worship of the Trinity became manifest, for the voice of the Father bore witness to You, naming You the Beloved Son; and the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the certainty of the word. O Christ God, who appeared and illumined the world, glory to You. (Apolytikion of Theophany, 1st Tone, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
You are God’s beloved child. Do things today that will make Him well-pleased with you.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.