Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. And 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. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased’.
Of the four stories of the baptism of Jesus in the Gospels (although John does not actually say that the Baptist baptized Jesus), Matthew is the only one to suggest any hesitation on John’s part. Jesus’s reply, ‘It is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness’, suggests that he understood John’s reluctance; but a greater good was to be shown, namely Jesus’s total identification with the humanity he had assumed, and whom he was to save. Moreover, although the Biblical text does not suggest the presence of any women in the crowd, in the light of later events it would be surprising if they had been absent. From the beginning baptism was available to Christian women (see Lydia in Acts 16:14). Unlike circumcision that was for boys, baptism was for all as God created us.
Holy Lord God, we thank you that baptism is for everyone. We give thanks for our own baptism into Christ, and we pray that the life of Christ may be made known in and through us, so that we may be faithful witnesses and disciples; for the sake of his holy name. Amen.
The Rev’d Professor David Thompson is a retired minister and a member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge.
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