The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan

The following article is an excerpt from our Mini-book on the Luminous mysteries

The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John the Baptist

The First Mystery of Light

The Hebrews had waited five thousand years for the fulfillment of the promise made by God in the Garden of Eden, to come about. The history of these chosen ones of God had been one of great joy and great suffering, mostly suffering, and they couldn’t wait for another David to come along and free them from their most recent enemies and captors, the Romans. They ran to every claimed messiah who preached to them, hoping against hope that each one would finally be the one. John the Baptist came upon the scene, out in the desert. They were hoping that he was the one who would deliver them from their enemies. But he was not the one. As we read in John’s gospel, “There was a man, one sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness, to bear witness concerning the light, that all might believe through him. He was not himself the light, but was to bear witness to the light. (Jn 1: 6-8)”The Fulfillment of the PromiseThis is why Our Holy Father wanted to begin these Mysteries of Light with this, the great light from Heaven. God had made a promise to the children of Israel in the garden of Eden. He prophesied the coming of a Redeemer when he spoke to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; He shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for his heel (Gn 3:15).” The Israelites waited. God became angry with man, and destroyed mankind, all but Noah and his family. Then God renewed His covenant with man through Noah. The Israelites continued to wait for the promised Messiah.And then came John the Baptist. The Israelites were sure he was the Christ. “The people were full of anticipation, wondering in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered them all by saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but there is one to come who is mightier than I. I am not fit to loosen His sandal strap. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire. (Lk 3:15)”In John’s Gospel, he added a phrase. They sent their emissaries out to the desert to ask him. Was he the Christ? No. Was he Elijah, coming back to save them? He told them he was not, but he prophesied about the One who would come. Then he said, “I baptize with water. There is one among you whom you do not recognize – the one who is to come after me – the strap of whose sandal I am, not worthy to unfasten. (Jn 1: 26-28) “ John reveals that the one to come was already among them.And then Jesus came onto the scene. God the Father had set the stage. Jesus came to the Jordan River to be baptized. John saw Him and proclaimed, “‘I should be baptized by You, yet You come to me!”’“But Jesus answered and said to him ‘Give in for now. We must do this, if we would fulfill all of God’s demands’ (Mt 3:13).” Now all three synoptic Gospel writers, as well as St. John, mention the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. But St. Matthew is the only one who uses the above phrase as justification for Jesus to be baptized by John. Jesus was not subject to John’s baptism, as his baptism was for repentance of sins, and the Church teaches us that Jesus was without sin. But He followed the law. He was always obedient to the law. And God rewarded Him.Scripture tells us, “After Jesus was baptized, He came directly out of the water . Suddenly the sky opened and He saw the Spirit of God descend like a dove and hover over Him. With that, a voice from the Heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son. My favor rests on Him.’” (Mt 3: 16-17)The skies opened; light poured down from Heaven. The public ministry of Jesus, the light of the world had begun. St. John tells us that it was at this time that John the Baptist realized that Jesus was the Messiah. He knew He was special; perhaps He was Elijah or one of the prophets. This would have made the following statement more understandable, “The next day, when John caught sight of Jesus coming toward him, he exclaimed: ‘Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! It is He of whom I said: ‘After me is to come a man who ranks ahead of me, because He was before me.’”(Jn 1: 29-30 )John the Baptist’s final statement at the Jordan River affirmed that which he had been instructed. “But I did not recognize Him. The one who sent me to baptize with water, told me, ‘When you see the Spirit descend and rest on someone, it is He who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen for myself and have testified ‘This is God’s chosen One.’”(Jn 1:33)Family, John the Baptist was fulfilling prophecies that were given to us down through the ages from Moses, who told his people “A prophet like me will the Lord your God raise up for you from among your kinsmen; to him you shall listen (Dt 18:15) and “And the Lord said to me, ‘I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsman, and will put My words into his mouth, and they will listen to him. (Dt 18:18). This passage refers to John the Baptist, who would herald the coming of the great Light. Also, the Catholic Catechism (Page 190 # 719) teaches us about “the voice of the Consoler, who is coming. “John the Baptist is “more than a prophet (Lk 7:26)” In him the Holy Spirit concludes His speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah (cf Mt 11:13-14). He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler, who is coming (Isaiah 40:13).After all those years of waiting for the fulfillment of the promise, first given in the garden of Eden, then reiterated to Noah after the Flood, again given to us by Moses, Isaiah and all the prophets, it was about to become a reality.A great light shone down from Heaven. God looked down on His people and had mercy on them. He had made a promise; He was about to deliver on that promise. Jesus began His Ministry at the Jordan River with the Baptism of John the Baptist. Prophecy had been fulfilled. Through the life and sacrifice of Jesus, Redemption would be accomplished; the gates of Heaven would be opened. It is fitting that the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, would begin the Mysteries of the Public Ministry of Jesus with this, the beginning of His Public Life. Praise God.

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