This Sunday the Church closes up the Christmas season with the celebration of the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. A feast day to celebrate and contemplate on a more than puzzling event in the life of Jesus. Why did Jesus go to John to be baptised? Mark’s gospel says: “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:4). But, if there was something Jesus did not need was forgiveness, so why did he do it? When we look at John’s baptism a little closer then we realise that it made a lot of sense. We know from the Gospel of John that John the Baptist exercised his ministry in “Bethany, beyond the Jordan” (Jn 1:28). That is, the eastern bank of the river – today’s country of Jordan. With his baptism John was inviting people to re-enact the Exodus. Passing from the desert, where Israel wondered for 40 years, back into the Promised Land. This Baptism was, as John himself said, only a preparation for the coming of the real Messiah, the One who would lead the whole of humanity in a new Exodus – not from the slavery of Egypt as in the past – but from the slavery of sin into the freedom of the Kingdom of Heaven. So, what we see in the Gospel is that Jesus, appears at the bank of the river Jordan to be baptised by John. Not to re-enact the Exodus, as John was doing with the other people, but to bring that baptism to its fulfilment. To take the lead of the universal and final Exodus. And as he crossed the river and he stepped to the other side the heavens opened as a sign that the way was now open for the rest of humanity to pass with Christ to the Heavenly Kingdom.
Fr Daniel Herrero Pena