A modern icon of the Baptism of Christ
TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality
Saturday 8 October 2016
Liturgy (2016-2017) Part Time 4.1: Bible study (2):
Matthew 3: 13-17
13 Τότε παραγίνεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην πρὸς τὸν Ἰωάννην τοῦ βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ' αὐτοῦ. 14 ὁ δὲ Ἰωάννης διεκώλυεν αὐτὸν λέγων, Ἐγὼ χρείαν ἔχω ὑπὸ σοῦ βαπτισθῆναι, καὶ σὺ ἔρχῃ πρός με; 15 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἄφες ἄρτι, οὕτως γὰρ πρέπον ἐστὶν ἡμῖν πληρῶσαι πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην. τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτόν. 16 βαπτισθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εὐθὺς ἀνέβη ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος: καὶ ἰδοὺ ἠνεῴχθησαν [αὐτῷ] οἱ οὐρανοί, καὶ εἶδεν [τὸ] πνεῦμα [τοῦ] θεοῦ καταβαῖνον ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν [καὶ] ἐρχόμενον ἐπ' αὐτόν: 17 καὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν λέγουσα, Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα.
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptised by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?’ 15 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. 16 And when Jesus had been baptised, 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. 17 And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’
The story of the Baptism of Christ is the first revelation of the Trinity to the creation and is like the story of a new creation. All the elements of the creation story in the Book Genesis are here: we know we are moving from darkness into light; the shape of the earth moves from wilderness to beauty as we are given a description of the landscape; there is a separation of the waters of the new creation as Jesus and John go down in the waters of the Jordan and rise up from them again; and as in Genesis, the Holy Spirit hovers over the waters of this beautiful new creation like a dove.
And then, just as in the Genesis creation story, where God looks down and sees that everything is good, God looks down in this Theophany story and lets us know that everything is good.
Or as Saint Mark says: And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1: 11).
God is pleased with the whole of creation, God so loved this creation, κόσμος (cosmos), that Christ has come into it, identified with us in the flesh, and is giving us the gift and the blessings of the Holy Spirit.
(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This Bible study was part of a lecture/seminar on 8 October 2016 as part of the MTh module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality with part-time MTh students, Years III-IV.