This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. What human mother or father, or child for that matter, would not hear parental pride in God’s voice at this moment of Jesus’s baptism? His is the voice of a loving, encouraging, and protective parent speaking to his son and to us just as Jesus emerges from his hidden life with Mary and Joseph and begins his public journey to the cross. There is so much sacrificial love at this baptismal scene that the Trinity breaks into the open, as Jesus rises from the water, God speaks, and the Holy Spirit alights in the form of a dove.
This is also a scene of obedience. John initially balks at baptizing Jesus, aware of his subordinate status and aware that Jesus is far unlike the sinners who have come to the River Jordan to repent. But Jesus asks John to join him in fulfilling the Father’s will. John obeys. Jesus obeys. Jesus is there to unite with sinners. He is there to descend into the depths, taking on the weight of our sins, and then to rise up. He will carry this burden into eternity. He will do it willingly. As he explains to John, obedience to the Father is the fulfillment of righteousness. Throughout his difficult mission Jesus will stay in perfect obedience to the Father in order to make human freedom possible.
It is through the Baptism of Jesus that we can best understand the profound love we feel at the baptismal font. What joy. Baptism brings us from obscurity into the Divine life. We are drawn (and, as witnesses, redrawn) into the dynamic of the Trinity and into a body of faith. We receive the gift of God’s love and protection. We receive the gift of a mission to carry out. And we learn from Jesus Christ that loving obedience to God leads to freedom and fulfillment.