The Baptism of the Lord is told in all four gospels with each one giving its own slant. Luke’s version is the only one which mentions Jesus “was at prayer”. Luke doesn’t emphasize the actual baptism at all, but majors on the descent of the Holy Spirit and the voice from heaven. “Heaven opened”. “The Holy Spirit descended like a dove”. “A voice came from heaven” The voice makes three statements, each with its own importance: “You are my son. “The beloved”. “My favour rests on you”. We are reminded of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “As the Father has loved me so I have loved you, remain in my love”.
The inclusion of verses 15 and 16 in the reading remind us that Jesus’ baptism took place when John the Baptist’s ministry was about to come to an end. The baptism was therefore Jesus’ call to public ministry. In the bible a call to do God’s work is often preceded by a deep experience of God, like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Gideon in the Old Testament, Mary and Zechariah in the New. Experience bears out that this pattern of a deep personal experience leading to a new commitment occurs in the lives of many people, such as Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, and to many other great men and women.
Can we identify a similar pattern in our own lives too? Luke notes that Jesus came forward “when all the people had been baptised,” inviting us to see him as entering into solidarity with those who had come to John for baptism. In Luke’s version, Jesus’ baptism was a personal experience. Might each of us have had a similar experience in our own lives? If so what have we done about it?