Matthew 3: 13-17
Jesus then appeared, arriving at the Jordan River from Galilee. He wanted John to baptise him. John objected, “I’m the one who needs to be baptised, not you!”
But Jesus insisted. “Do it. God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism.” So John did it.
The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God’s Spirit—it looked like a dove—descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”
This is the first of three times in Matthew in which God expresses his direct approval of Jesus in these terms. In Matthew 12:14, conspiratorial forces surround Jesus and begin threatening his life. Jesus flees the threat but continues to heal everywhere he goes. 12:17-21 sees in all this a confirmation of the Isaianic oracle which is the first reading this Sunday. Once again, God’s soul is pleased. Finally, God’s voice again commends Jesus’ fealty during the transfiguration scene (17:5). This is the consistent witness of God concerning the Son, a witness further confirmed in the resurrection and perpetuation of the body of disciples in all the nations.
John plays a dual role in these verses. Having proclaimed the power of the one who is to come, he is also faithful to concede to a baptism whose necessity he may not fully understand. In submitting himself to John, Jesus combines great power and acquiescence. Jesus is not a king who won’t deign to tread the humble paths of his servants. Jesus’ hold on his power is not so tenuous that he must zealously hold on to it at all times. For Jesus, power and humility, authority and submission, power and relationship are not at odds.