Our first reading this time is the first suffering servant song of Isaiah. The suffering servant represents the finest qualities of Israel and her great leaders. In this first song, he is a “chosen one” like Moses, David, and all Israel; as the Servant, he fulfills the role of Davidic king, Messianic king, and prophet. His kingly prerogative is especially emphasized here. He is commissioned to “bring forth justice”, a legal decision ratifying and executing the divine will. The servant however has another quality: he imparts teaching, a task never done by kings but only by prophets and priests. The servant accomplishes his mission modestly and quietly, not whipping people into conformity but transforming them interiorly. He has gentle respect for others
God is speaking, perhaps to the heavenly court. His words include not only the nation of Israel but all nations. Notice that God had said of his servant “with whom I am pleased” – this harkens to Jesus’ Baptism which we celebrate with this feast and the transfiguration. God created the whole world and desires to save all of it.
When Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
John baptizes Jesus. As Jesus comes up from the water, the heavens open and the Spirit of God comes down on Him in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven affirms, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” The Son of God is baptized by a man, filled with the Holy Spirit and affirmed by the voice of the Father. This passage confirms the doctrine of the Trinity, but it also confirms the partnership that God establishes with human beings. Jesus could not baptize Himself. He voluntarily submitted Himself to the hands of a man.
God rarely acts alone; He chooses to work through people. His Kingdom is not merely the forceful use of power separate from humanity. He achieves His purposes at the hands of people who submit themselves to Him.
“The heavens were opened to him” suggests a connection between heaven and earth. The normal barriers that separate the physical from the spiritual are pushed aside. Jesus had full communion with the Father in the person of the Holy Spirit.
We have that same opportunity also as we have the Holy Spirit in us. The heavens are open to us today.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” May the Kingdom of heaven be open to us to allow us to fulfill your purposes in us today? God is still opening the heavens to us. He is still filling people with the Holy Spirit. He is still partnering with ordinary people, inviting them to be a part of His Kingdom.
The Baptism of Jesus was unique. By His Baptism Jesus identified with the people, the sinful people He came to save. And by His Baptism Jesus submitted to the Will of the Father, beginning His service as the Suffering Servant who would die for the sins of the world. And God the Father approved it and sent God the Spirit to empower it. And John witnessed it.
As a little aside here, it would be well to say that we as humans, with finite minds, cannot fully understand the relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit, There are simply some things in revelation that we have to accept as mystery, and realize that the nature of the Godhead is far more complex than we can imagine. It is one God, always acting in unity; but revealed as three persons. The incarnation makes it a little easier to grasp, but we will always be left with questions. This is why the apostles state that if the revelation had come by the will of man, it would have been very different. But it came from God. And God does not see fit to explain everything to us, probably because we do not have the capacity to understand it all.
Meditation: Why did Jesus, the Sinless One, submit Himself to John's baptism at the River Jordan? John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. In this humble submission of Jesus, we see a foreshadowing of the "Baptism" of his bloody death upon the cross. Jesus' Baptism is the acceptance and the beginning of his mission as God's suffering Servant. He allowed Himself to be numbered among sinners. Jesus submitted Himself entirely to His Father's Will. Out of love He consented to this Baptism of death for the remission of our sins.
Do you know the joy of trust and submission to God?
The Father proclaimed his entire delight in His Son and spoke audibly for all to hear. The Holy Spirit, too, was present as he anointed Jesus for His ministry which began that day as he rose from the waters of the Jordan River. Jesus Will be the source of the Spirit for all who come to believe in him. At His Baptism, the heavens were opened and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, signifying the beginning of a new creation.
God desires every believer to make a commitment to do His Will, and doing that Will means sacrificial service--to God, and to others. That is what the Christian life is all about. This commitment often comes at the same time as conversion, but it may also come later when we realize what God desires of us. Now God’s Will for us will obviously be very different from what Jesus was to do. But God’s Will for us is also recorded in Scripture, and so we should make an informed commitment to do it.
Lord Jesus is ever ready to renew and refashion us in His likeness through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit - and he anoints us for a mission as ambassadors of His Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. We are called to be the "light" and salt" of His Kingdom that radiate the beauty and aroma of His mercy and goodness to those around us. The Lord Jesus wants His love and truth to shine through us that many others may find new life, freedom, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Let us ask the Lord Jesus to fill us with His Holy Spirit that we may radiate the, of the Gospel to those around us.
"Lord Jesus, fill us with your Holy Spirit and with the fire of your love and goodness. May we always find joy and delight in seeking to please you in doing your will just as you have delighted in the joy of pleasing your Father and doing His will?"