“John tried to prevent him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?’”
I can relate to John’s confusion in today’s Gospel. John has a sense of who Jesus is. He believes Jesus is the Messiah, the one who will come to bring about the Kingdom of God and change the world. Yet, Jesus asks to be baptized by John. What is Jesus doing?
He was already the Son of God; he did not need baptism. He was already free from sin; he did not need baptism. He was the Son of God from the beginning, yet he took on our human nature and humbled himself to be baptized. His solidarity extended so far that he allowed himself to be thought a sinner.
Jesus reverses what we would expect. He makes himself one with us in our helplessness against the power of sin and in making himself one with us he overcomes the power of sin.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners… Already anticipating the ‘baptism’ of his bloody death. (CCC 536)
In being baptized, Jesus embraced all of us in our sinfulness and alienation from God. By descending into the waters of baptism, he descended into the darkness of sin, our sin, and brought his light there. His baptism reveals Jesus commitment to go to any lengths necessary to free us from our sin. He was counted as a sinner so that we could be free from sin. The baptism of Jesus leads us to the cross where his baptism is brought to fulfillment. Jesus was baptized because he loves us and wants to be one with us in all things.