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The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River

4 min • Digitized on July 19, 2021

From Life of Christ, by Fr. Cochem, page 62
By Fr. Martin Von Cochem, O.S.F.C.

Before introducing Himself as the Messias, Jesus wished to present Himself as the representative of fallen man, and as the Lamb of sacrifice bearing our sins. He effected this design by humbling Himself, and like a sinner subjecting Himself to the baptism of St. John.

This holy man dwelt in the desert between Jerusalem and Jericho. Locusts and wild honey were his food. Locusts are used as food by the very poor in Arabia; they are dried and then cooked or roasted on the fire or in the sun. The honey of wild bees is very bitter and unpalatable.

From this poor food, and from his dress, consisting of a rough camel’s skin, we may form an idea of St. John’s penitential life. “And in those days cometh John the Baptist preaching in the desert of Judea, and saying: Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. … Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the country about Jordan, and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Matt. iii. 1-6.)

“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan unto John, to be baptized by him. But John stayed Him, saying: I ought to be baptized by Thee, and Thou comest to me? And Jesus answering, said to him: Suffer it to be so now: for so it becometh us to fulfil all justice. Then he suffered Him. And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water; and lo, the heavens were opened to him ; and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him. And behold a voice from heaven, saying: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. iii. 13-17.)

According to tradition, it was on New Year’s day that our divine Redeemer, having taken leave of His beloved mother Mary, of His saintly foster-father St. Joseph, and of the humble home in Nazareth, set out to enter upon His public ministry.

He arrived on the sixth day in Aenon, on the banks of the Jordan, where John was then baptizing. Overpowered with sentiments of awe, love, and adoration, the Baptist threw himself at the feet of Christ, whom, by a revelation from heaven, he recognized as the Saviour. How overwhelmed with confusion he must have been, to see Jesus humble Himself before him and asking to be baptized, like any sinner!

But Jesus knew well what He was doing. In His supreme wisdom He had decreed thus to begin His great work before the world. For, in the first place, He wanted to show us that virtue and sanctity must begin with humility; in the second place, that the Sacrament of Baptism is the opening to God’s kingdom on earth; in the third place, that He had really and truly assumed the guilt of man, and now began the work of atonement.

By His baptism in Jordan’s waters He wanted to consecrate and sanction, in a specially marked manner, the baptism of the New Law. And, as toward the close of His life upon earth, at the Last Supper, He made use of the figure of the Old Law to establish the thing itself, that is, the paschal feast to ordain the Blessed Eucharist, so now did He wish at the beginning of His public life to practically use the figurative baptism in order to ordain the sacramental Baptism of the New Law.

The wondrous manifestation that took place at Christ’s baptism is a true and striking picture of redeeming grace. He humbled Himself, and was instantly exalted. So every man who humbles himself in Christ, the same shall be in Christ exalted. The outward act of baptism was administered unto Christ, and at the same time the heavens opened above Him. So does heaven open over every man at the moment he worthily receives the outward sign of a holy sacrament, whilst an invisible and supernatural grace overflows his soul.

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