During Lent, as we approach Good Friday, the Lectionary leads us, in the gospel selections for the weekday mass, through progressive miracles performed by Jesus in the Gospel of John and His conflict with the Pharisees. As I followed along last year, I couldn’t help but wonder where I would have found myself. The man Jesus was teaching some pretty radical things and making appeals to authority to which no man could claim. My conclusion at that time was that the raising of Lazarus would have been a game changer for me. I might have had doubts before that, but certainly not after.
Today, the Church brings to a close the Christmas season by celebrating the Baptism of Our Lord. In the events of the Baptism, we see a public manifestation of God the Father recognizing in Jesus the authority that he already possessed. Some might argue that, on a human level, Jesus didn’t know his mission until after his Baptism. Pope Benedict XVI, however, warns against trying to psychoanalyze our Lord and the impact that his baptism by John had upon his self-awareness. “The texts give us no window into Jesus’ inner life – Jesus stands above our psychologizing.”
Imagine being present in the crowd that day. John was widely regarded to be an authentic prophet, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in
All four gospels are in agreement regarding the phenomena that accompanied the Baptism of Jesus. For a person present at the Baptism, it would not have been so hard to accept the controversial claims of the man Jesus. It would not have taken the raising of Lazarus. My personal conclusion is that the descent of the Holy Spirit and the affirmation of the Father were not for the sake of the Son. The Son knew who he was, but no one else did. It had been thirty years since the angels announced the birth of the messiah to the shepherds and the magi had brought him gifts. Now that he was to begin his public ministry, it was necessary to renew his divine certification.
Whenever I purchase gasoline, the pump is marked with the Auditor’s seal. The presence of the seal certifies that I’m getting what I think I’m getting. Placing the seal on the pump does not change the way the pump works, and it doesn’t change what comes out of the nozzle. It gives me confidence that it is what it says it is. In the same way, the dove and the voice after Jesus’ Baptism gave those who witnessed it confidence that Jesus was who he said he was.
Jesus didn’t need the Baptism, we did.