Jesus begins His ministry with baptism by John in the Jordan, and as we see the Holy Spirit descending upon Him in power with the blessing of the Father, our readings remind us of Jesus’ gentleness with our frailty. Even John, whom Jesus calls the greatest among those born of women, questions Jesus’ plan to be baptized. If we were asked to come up with a plan to save humanity, we would never imagine that the answer was for the Almighty God to make Himself vulnerable and suffer in our stead. But Jesus came to earth in humility and faithfulness, to bind up those who are bruised, to shelter and restore those who are smoldering, to lift up the foolish and weak as His own chosen people.
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Isaiah, chapter 42, verses 1-7:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.
This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
The Epistle lesson is from 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 26-31:
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
The Gospel for The Baptism of Our Lord is from Matthew, chapter 3, verses 13-17:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
The Baptism of Christ, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo [Public domain]