March 24, 2019

Why Jesus Was Baptized

One week following our celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord, we celebrate His baptism.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “By Baptism all sins are forgiven, Original Sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin.” (CCC-1263)

We know that sin is anything that creates division between us and God.

  • The Bible tells us that, “It is your sins that separate you from God” (Isaiah 59:2)
  • St. Augustine said that, “Sin is an offense against God.” (Faust 22:PL 42, 418)
  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience.” (CCC-1849)

And in defining Original Sin, the Catholic Church says, “Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit. And that is why Original Sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed”, it is a state and not an act. (CCC-404) Original Sin, therefore, is a doctrine that says that everyone is born with a tendency to be sinful; and that we are all born with a built-in urge to follow our own will rather than follow God and obey His will.

But we know that Jesus, the man, is also truly God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Being God, He couldn’t possibly have committed an act that would have separated Himself from Himself. That’s impossible and illogical! And the concept of Original Sin couldn’t possibly apply to Jesus because, being God, His will is God’s will.

The Baptism of Jesus is an event that is recorded in all four of the Gospels. But why was Jesus baptized? Even John the Baptist objected to the idea. “I should be baptized by You, yet You come to me”? (Matthew 3:14)

Theological theories abound on the reason for Jesus submitting to John’s Baptism; but the short and simple answer is that Jesus asked John to Baptize Him simply as an act of obedience to the will of His Heavenly Father.  Jesus reassured His cousin, John, of this fact when He said, “Give in for now. We must do this if we would fulfill all of God’s demands.” (Matthew 3:15)

John the Baptist had said, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him. But He who sent me to Baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’” (John 1:32-33)

God had revealed to John the fulfillment of the promised Messiah. And God revealed to John the way for him to identify the Messiah. Jesus was the fulfillment of that promise. The Baptism of Jesus was an Epiphany that revealed to John, and to the world, Jesus’ true identity. Jesus’ Baptism was simply an act that fulfilled the will of His Heavenly Father, the last act of His private life.

St. Thomas Aquinas said that the Baptism of Jesus by John was purely symbolic; and that by His Baptism, Jesus “consecrated” Baptism. Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan.” (Book-Jesus of Nazareth) The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “By Jesus submitting to baptism, the Father revealed Jesus as His beloved Son” (CCC-1224) Therefore, Jesus was Baptized not for His own benefit, but for ours.

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Written by
Deacon Donald Cox

REVEREND MR. DONALD COX is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. On June 9, 1979, Deacon Don was ordained to the diaconate by His Eminence John Cardinal Dearden, an important American Father of the Second Vatican Council. He is currently assigned to St. Cornelius parish in Dryden, Michigan. Married and the father of three children and grandfather to four children, Deacon Don was born and raised in Detroit, and educated at St. Brigid Elementary School, Mackenzie High School, and Lawrence Technological University. His theological training was taken at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

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Written by Deacon Donald Cox