John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He was preparing people for the coming of the Messiah, using the symbol of water to indicate a resolution to turn away from sin. Jesus was sinless so he had no need of baptism; in his humility, however, he accepted John’s baptism as an example to others. This event was also one of the ways in which the identity of Jesus was manifested. The vision from heaven, acclaiming him as the Beloved and the Spirit descending on him, marked a clear end of his life as a carpenter in Nazareth and the beginning of his public ministry. The infinite love between the persons of the Trinity, expressed by the Father and the Spirit descending on him, energised Him for what lay ahead.
Luke tells us that Jesus was thirty years old. This was the age when David became king. It was considered the age when a man reached maturity and could become a priest. He was baptised in the Jordan, a river mentioned frequently in the bible as of great spiritual significance. Naaman the Syrian was cleansed of his leprosy in its waters (2 Kings 5:14). The Israelites ended their long sojourn in the wilderness and entered the promised land by crossing the Jordan (Joshua 3:14). It therefore became a symbol of freedom from oppression and new beginnings. It was fitting that Jesus, the saviour, would be baptised there.
This feast day reminds us of our own baptism, when through our parents we entered into a new loving relationship with God.