The concluding event of the Christmas season is the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus, which we celebrate this Sunday. Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit for the Messianic Mission and manifested as the Son of God in a marvelous way at the baptism in Jordan. The evangelist, Luke accounts, “After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:21-22).
If one would read the passage as written by the evangelist Luke, it is noticeable that the name of the baptizer is not mentioned in the event of Jesus’ baptism. Scholars think that the Evangelist has purposely omitted, because he wants to present the Divine manifestation about Jesus as the focal point.
How do we understand the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism in the form of a dove? It is understood by the scholars as a messianic event. It means that it is a visible declaration about Jesus as the Messiah. The Holy Spirit anoints Jesus and empowers him for his public ministry as the Messiah. Recalling the baptism of Jesus as anointing of the Holy Spirit, this is what Peter speaks, “… God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; … he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil …” (Acts 10:38). In later part of the Gospel, Luke also ascertains the same quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah that the baptism of Jesus was a real anointing for his messianic ministry. Luke states, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed …” (Luke 4:18-19).
Following the anointing by the Holy Spirit, the Father in heaven proclaims, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). With this is revealed the true identity of Jesus in relation of the Father in heaven. From now on Jesus commits himself to fulfill the Will of the Father not as a dominant master but as a suffering servant through humble service and self-sacrifice.
Thus the mystery of Jesus’ baptism is a public proclamation of his anointing and the beginning of his mission heading towards its culmination on the cross, to die for the remission of our sins and to reveal the love and forgiveness of the Father.
God bless you
Fr. Arul Joseph V.