In the Gospel of Matthew; John the Baptist is baptizing people as they confessed their sins. In a dialogue with the Pharisees, John tells them that he is baptizing with water for repentance as he fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah: “A voice cries in the wilderness; Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Is 40:3). After this dialogue Jesus appears at the Jordan river to be baptized. John tries to dissuade him saying that Jesus should be the one baptizing him. But Jesus tells him to “leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should in this way do all that righteousness demands”.
Though he is sinless Jesus is determined to submit to John’s baptism because he sees it as a part of God’s design and the last act of preparation for the messianic era. By accepting Baptism, Jesus expresses his wish to satisfy the saving righteousness of God that governs the whole plan of salvation. Immediately after he is baptized, he sees the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a dove upon him to anoint him for his messianic mission. The first act of the Holy Spirit is to lead Jesus into the desert where he fasts for forty days and nights. Once he completes his fasting, Jesus is tempted by Satan who Jesus rejects. Jesus returns to Galilee where he settles in a town named Capernaum. It is there the messianic era begins as Jesus begins preaching.
Everything changes from that moment. For believers the authority of God is now communicated by his son Jesus. The struggle of the moment is to either accept that God has fulfilled his plans through Jesus Christ or continue to look to the scriptures as the definitive authority of God. This struggle will come to its highest tension in the death of Jesus Christ.
For us who have lived in the past Christian era, the baptism of Jesus is once again a call to enter the messianic era; to recognize that God is still guiding the whole plan of salvation through his Son. Our baptisms join us to the same baptismal reality that Jesus recognized at his moment of baptism as he heard the voice of God say:” This is my beloved on whom my favor rests”. We become members of that highly favored Son, each of us taking our own unique place in continuing His mission.