I call this Gospel, “Jesus Aces the Test”.
What is the setting? This is the beginning of Jesus’ Public Career, when He would initiate the Kingdom of God in His own person and achieve our salvation. Jesus is just starting out. This is going to set the tone for His entire career.
Jesus goes down to the Jordan and asks John to Baptize him. John objects. John recognizes Jesus as the Lamb of God. That Jesus is much more important that himself. And so John says, this is not right. It is all wrong. Not the way it is supposed to be. I should be baptized by You, and on and on. John, after all was a preacher, and so incapable of saying anything quickly.
Jesus tells John, Look, I know this is odd, kind of backwards, upside down, but let’s do it anyway. Why? to fulfill all righteousness. In other words, this is the righteous thing to do. Because Jesus’ mission is not about power and prerogatives and whose is most important and on top, but rather it is about SERVICE.
Because that is the Will of Jesus’ Father. That Jesus comes not to be served, but to serve. In obedience to the Father’s Will Jesus is taking the lower place. Jesus is emptying Himself of power, of ambition, of self-importance, so that He can serve the lowly. And to serve the lowly Jesus needs to get down with the lowly, with us. This is one of the theme’s of Pope Francis’ talks: to serve the poor you have to be with the poor. Jesus has to have the smell of the sheep to use Pope Francis’ image.
This is what Jesus is going to do at the culmination of His career on the Cross. Jesus is going to empty himself, taking the form of a slave and a criminal. In theology this is called “kenosis”, or emptying.
It is what we do when we serve another out of love. When a parent gets up in the middle of the night even though she or he is tired and need their sleep, but drags themselves out of bed to comfort a child who is having nightmares, and sits with the child, sings to child, talks with the child till the child finally goes to sleep, that is the parent emptying his or her self for the sake of the child. Kenosis. See Philippians chapter 2.
That is what Jesus does on the Cross. AND it is how Jesus begins His public ministry in the Baptism by asking John to baptize him, to fulfill all righteousness.
In other words, Jesus does this because it is the Will of His Father, and Jesus is obedient to the Father’s Will. That is righteousness.
Well, Jesus has passed the test. He aced it. He scored a home run. He knocked it out of the park. Jesus got it that His mission is NOT about power or prestige, but rather about service and obedience: Listening to the Father’s Will, being truly a child, a Son of God.
And God the Father was PROUD. God can’t keep it in. God blurts out: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” God is saying “THAT’S MY BOY!” I am so proud of him!
Any of you parents here, can you identify with how God the Father felt? Have you ever been just bursting with pride and joy over your daughter or son? So filled with pride you thought you might explode? Could hardly hold it in? I hope so!
And how do you think Jesus felt? Well, if you have ever had someone you respect and love and care about – a parent or spouse or grandparent or friend – say how PROUD and pleased they are with you, and what you have done, of the great job you did, then you have some idea of how Jesus felt. “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus must have felt GREAT!
And you know what? That is how God feels about us. Each of us by our Baptism was joined to Jesus. Joined so deeply we became members of His Body. On the day of your Baptism God the Father looked intently at you and said, “This is my beloved son, my beloved daughter, my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”
And every time we live up to that, when we live as God’s children in faithfulness; in honesty; in chastity; in generosity and charity; in giving of ourselves in love; then God the Father is very proud. And God is well pleased in US, God’s beloved children.
Make God the Father PROUD! Amen.