Baptism of the Lord, Year C


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SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese. Sources include The Jerome Biblical Commentary, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and The Navarre Bible, and others.

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Is 42:1-4, 6-7 — WATCH VIDEO


by Richard Niell Donovan

Three Characteristics of the Servant

Yahweh reveals three characteristics of the servant.
First, Yahweh upholds (tamak) the servant. The Hebrew word tamak means to grasp, to hold, or to support. Yahweh holds his servant in an affectionate embrace—supports him—gives him what he needs to succeed in his Godly endeavors.
Second, Yahweh has chosen the servant, so the servant is responding to Yahweh’s initiative rather acting on his own.
Third, Yahweh delights in the servant. This servant is not a mere tool in Yahweh’s hands, but is someone who brings joy to Yahweh’s soul or heart (see also Matthew 3:17; 17:5).
Note the correlation between this verse and Matthew 3:17 where, at Jesus’ baptism, “Behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’.”

“I have put my Spirit on him” (v. 1b)

The servant is not limited to human means to accomplish the mission to which Yahweh has called him. Yahweh has invested him with Yahweh’s ruah—his creative, energizing spirit (Psalm 104:30). The servant is God inspired, God-directed, and God-empowered.
Note the correlation between this verse and Matthew 3:16 where “behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him.”

“He will bring justice” (v. 1c)

Justice (mispat) and righteousness (sadaq) are related. To bring justice means bringing people into a right relationship with Yahweh and each other, and these right relationships produce righteous lives.

“to the nations”  (v. 1d)

The servant’s responsibility in this instance is to bring justice to the nations (goyim)—Gentiles. Israel takes pride in its covenant status with Yahweh, but Yahweh made it clear from the beginning that the covenant involved blessing “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3) and “all the nations of the earth” (Genesis 18:18). Thus ministry to Gentiles is nothing new, but is rooted in the covenant between God and Abraham that marks the beginnings of the Israelite nation.
The previous chapter revealed the falseness of the idols that the nations are inclined to worship (41:21-29). The servant has the responsibility of helping the nations to find an alternative—justice—a justice that begins with a right relationship with Yahweh.
This emphasis on ministry to the nations is pervasive in the book of Isaiah from beginning to end (2:2, 4; 11:10, 12; 12:4; 42-6; 43:9; 49:6, 22; 55:5; 60:3; 66:18-20). Jesus will continue that emphasis in his own ministry, saying, “This Good News of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14)—and “Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). It seems significant that these verses are part of the Gospel of Matthew, the most Jewish of the four Gospels. In that Gospel, it is also said of Jesus that “in his name, the nations will hope” (Matthew 12:21).

“covenant for the people, as a light to the nations” (v. 6e)

The covenant status of Israel began with the covenant established by God with Abraham. In establishing that covenant, God promised Abraham, “I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you” (Genesis 12:2-3).
While Israel tends to think of its covenant relationship with God as one of privilege, Yahweh did not call it to privilege but to service. Israel is to be a light to the nations—the goyim—Gentiles.
Yahweh promises to make the servant “a covenant for the people”—”a light to the nations.” The servant thus becomes an instrument through which Yahweh dispenses grace. The overtones here are messianic.

“to open the blind eyes, to bring the prisoners out of the dungeon, and those who sit in darkness out of the prison” (v. 7)

This is spiritual rather than physical blindness and captivity. This is made clear by 42:16ff, where the blind are equated to “those who trust in engraved images” (v. 17) and people “snared in holes, and… hidden in prisons” (v. 22). God has not created us to be blind, but seeing. He has not created us to live in darkness, but in light. He has not created us to live in captivity, but in freedom—the kind of freedom that can result only from rightly placed faith and righteous living.

God upholds his servant, a light for all nations

Our Sunday Visitor; clipart from Fr. Richard Lonsdale © 2000

  • The first reading from Isaiah sings of God’s servant, being upheld by the Spirit.
  • God has formed us and we belong to God.
  • We are sent to heal and set free.

Yahweh’s Chosen Servant

1 Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I am well pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations…

An outpouring of God’s spirit will accompany the choosing of His Servant. God will anoint His chosen Servant with His spirit like His other representatives to the covenant people: the prophets, priests, and kings of Israel (Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 11:6; 16:1, 12-13; 1 Kng 1:39; 19:16; 2 Chr 20:14).

Verses 3-4 suggest that a mark of the Servant’s ministry will be the contrast between his mild and gentle demeanor and the power of his mighty works.  Even though he has great power, he does not loudly announce himself.  The Servant is so gentle that he would not even break a crushed reed or snuff out the failing wick of an oil lamp, symbols for those who are faint of heart and spirit.  Nevertheless, he brings forth judgments that are righteous and just.  Justice in Scripture denotes more than merely addressing crime; instead, it designates a society that functions in obedience according to God’s divine Law.

4 until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

God’s Servant is gentle, but he is not frail or indecisive.  No matter what the obstacles, he is determined and dedicated to his mission to establish righteous judgment and to provide instruction for all peoples on earth.  His mission is universal and not just for the covenant people of Israel.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations,

In verse 6, God the Creator speaks, further endorsing the choosing of His Servant.  Both the Servant’s righteous character and God’s divine guidance will shape the Servant’s ministry.  That the Servant is “a covenant of the people” suggests he serves as God’s special covenant mediator to the covenant people, and that he is “a light to the nations” speaks of his reach beyond Israel to the Gentiles, sharing the light of God’s truth with them.

7 to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

The Servant brings a special blessing to those who receive him in physical and spiritual healing.  Those who are spiritually “blind” will be identified as Israel six times in 42:16, 18 twice, 19; 43:3 and 8.

Who is the mysterious Servant of God whose coming was foretold by Isaiah in the 8th century BC?  In 42:1, Scripture identifies the Servant as God’s “chosen one.”  It is how God will identify Jesus at the Transfiguration event in Luke 9:23, And a voice came from the cloud saying, “This is my Son, the Chosen One.  Listen to Him.”  

ST MATTHEW’S GOSPEL:  identifies Jesus of Nazareth as the “chosen Servant,” quoting Isaiah 42:1-4 and applying it as a prophecy fulfilled in Jesus in Matthew 12:17-21.  And when St. John the Baptist’s disciples came to Jesus, asking if He was the Messiah, Jesus alluded to the passage from Isaiah 42:7 and applied it to Himself and His mission, saying, “Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see again, the lame walk, those suffering from virulent skin-diseases are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the good news is proclaimed to the poor; and blessed is anyone who does not find me a cause of falling” (Lk 7:22-23).

God’s Promise of Deliverance

Alternate First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 (NJB)

1 Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.

The doubling of the word “comfort” constitutes a double imperative and in Hebrew, in the plural.  The repetition emphasizes the urgency of the command and the plural may indicate that God is calling upon Isaiah and His heavenly court or upon Isaiah and all who are in a position to give comfort to God’s people, including priests, prophets, elders and other leaders. In Isaiah Chapter 40, Yahweh tells Isaiah to console His people with the good news that a new Exodus will begin when God comes to redeem His people and forgive their sins.

2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins.

In Hebrew, this verse begins with the words “speak to the heart” (IBHE, vol. III, page 1684). The same expression “speak to the heart” occurs elsewhere in Scripture to denote gentle, loving words (i.e., Ruth 2:13; Hosea 2:16/14).  In verse 2, we hear that God’s covenant people have paid for the offenses of their sins twice over. The double payment for sins has a sense of completeness, and because they have fully atoned for their sins, it is now time for God’s promised redemption.

In verses 3-5, God will show His glory by preparing a way for His people’s return from exile, and a mysterious voice will also announce His coming.  Sts. Matthew, Mark, and John identify the prophetic voice as St. John the Baptist.  His is the voice that announces the imminent arrival of the Redeemer-Messiah and His Kingdom among His people.  In St. John’s Gospel, he also tells the people of the wondrous, all-encompassing change the Lord’s coming will have on the world when He overcomes all obstacles, and nothing will hinder the Messiah’s appearing or the message of His gift of salvation to humanity (see Mt 3:1-3; Mk 1:1-8; and Jn 1:19-23).

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all mankind shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.  

God promises it will not be a difficult journey because He will be with them, and He will also reveal His glory to them: Yahweh will lead his people through the wastelands on a new Exodus just as He led the children of Israel through the desert wilderness to the Promised Land.  And like the procession of the children of Israel in the wilderness journey, all other nations will witness the journey of God’s people in their return to covenant union with Him.  Jesus’ mission as the Redeemer-Messiah is to lead an exodus out of sin and death.  He will guide “all mankind” into a New Covenant relationship with the divine and on a journey to the true Promised Land of Heaven, as He announced in John 14:6 when He said,

“I am the Way” … “and no one can come to the Father but through Me.”

9 Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news!  Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!  10 Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.  11 Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.

God sent Isaiah as His messenger to Zion (the covenant people) to announce His coming in power and authority to “shepherd” His covenant people.  It will be a new theophany, like the theophany of God on the holy mountain of Mt. Sinai in Exodus chapter 20, but this time the theophany will be on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem.  Jesus will make the same announcement in Jerusalem to the Pharisees in John 9:10-11 and 14, fulfilling this prophecy and that of the 6th-century prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23-24 where Yahweh promised: “I myself will take care of my flock” and “I myself will pasture my sheep” (Ez 34:11, 15).  In the same passage, Yahweh also promised to “raise up” “my servant David” to shepherd His people centuries after David’s death (Ez 34:23).  Jesus, the descendant of the great King David, will announce that He is the Good Shepherd who has come to redeem the “lost sheep” of the house of Israel (Jn Chapter 10).

SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Used with permission.
Acts 10:34-38 — WATCH VIDEO


by Richard Niell Donovan

The Context

The context for this story begins with God’s call of Abram, when God promised, “All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you” (Genesis 12:3). While the Old Testament relates the story of Israel as God’s chosen people, there is also an undercurrent that reminds us of God’s love for Gentiles. And so the Jewish law prescribes fair treatment for aliens (Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Deuteronomy 10:19)—and Rahab (Joshua 6:25) and Ruth (Ruth 1:16-17), both Gentiles, became part of Jesus’ genealogy (Matthew 1:5)—and God sent Jonah to Nineveh to save the Ninevite Gentiles (Jonah 1:2).
In the New Testament, this openness to Gentiles accelerates. After his resurrection, Jesus told the apostles, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth” (1:8). At Pentecost, Peter (not yet understanding the full import of his words) said, “For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are far off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to himself” (2:39).

Jesus is
Lord of All

Keep in mind that Peter is saying these things to a Roman centurion. To say that Jesus “is Lord of all” could be considered treasonous in a system that honors Caesar as Lord.

Holy Spirit and Power

When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, “the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form as a dove on him; and a voice came out of the sky, saying ‘You are my beloved Son. In you I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:22). Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed” (4:18). Jesus’ temptation followed, after which Luke recorded, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and news about him spread through all the surrounding area” (Luke 4:14).

Doing Good, Healing All

Jesus modeled the kind of behavior that he expected of his disciples. In his ministry of healing and exorcism, he helped people who were in desperate need—people who could not be expected to return the favor. When Peter spoke earlier of “works righteousness” (v. 35), this is surely one aspect of what he meant.


The Greek Word for Grace

The sense we get is that because we are the recipients of God’s grace and salvation (Titus 2:11), we should reflect the values and engage in the behaviors that Paul promoted in verses 2-10. Grace (charis) is a significant word in the New Testament, especially in Paul’s epistles. The use of charis in the New Testament has its roots in the Hebrew word hesed, used in the Old Testament to speak of God’s lovingkindness, mercy, and faithfulness. Greeks often used the word charis to speak of patronage (the support of a patron, such as someone who provided financial or political support). To Greeks, the word charis connoted generosity—generosity that demanded loyalty on the part of the recipient.

we might be made heirs”

An heir is a person who has the legal right to an inheritance. Jewish law regulated inheritances, giving two shares to the firstborn son and one share each to the other sons (Deuteronomy 21:17).
God’s first family was the nation of Israel (Romans 9:4-5). God said, “Israel is my son, my firstborn” (Exodus 4:22)—and “I will be (Israel’s) father, and he shall be my son” (2 Samuel 7:14).
The book of Hebrews says that God has appointed his Son “heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2). Paul says that we have become “joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:14-17)—the result of God adopting us into his family (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 3:16; 4:4-6; Ephesians 1:5; Revelation 21:7).

Jesus is the savior of all nations

Our Sunday Visitor; clipart from Fr. Richard Lonsdale © 2000

  • Anyone called by God is acceptable to Christ.
  • Jesus was anointed by the Spirit.

St. Peter’s Homily in the House of Cornelius

34 Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.  35 Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.  36 You know the word that he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, 37 what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.  He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 

God sent St. Peter to the home of a Roman centurion named Cornelius who, along with his family and friends, is ready to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior (Acts 10:17-23).  Acts 10:34-43 is Peter’s fifth kerygmatic address and has the same basic outline as his other proclamations of Jesus as Lord and Savior (see Acts 2:14-39; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32 and 10:34-43.  The Greek word “kerygma” means preaching or proclaiming as distinct from teaching or instruction.  Peter and the other Apostles and disciples preached the fundamental message of the Gospel:

  1. God the Father sent Jesus, anointed by the Holy Spirit, to be humanity’s Lord and Savior without partiality.
  2. He did what was good, healed those in need of physical and spiritual healing, and brought them peace with God.
  3. He was put to death by men but arose from the dead on the third day.
  4. He appeared to His disciples and commissioned them to preach in His name.
  5. Whoever believes in Him and receives the Sacrament of Baptism in His name will receive forgiveness of sins.

St. Peter’s proclamation of the Gospel to this gathering of Gentiles is followed by the outpouring of God’s Spirit upon the group (Acts 10:44) and confirms of what Peter stated in verse 34 that Jesus offers eternal salvation to Gentiles as well as Jews.  The gift of universal salvation through Christ Jesus is a fulfillment of St. Simeon’s prophecy in Luke 2:32 that Jesus is “a light of revelation for the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.”

Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7

The Basis of the Christian’s Moral Life and Instruction for Believers

Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7

2:11 For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, 12 training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, 13 awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.  

The “grace of God” who has “appeared for the salvation of all men” is Jesus Christ.  He has called us to renounce the world and its disorder passions and to embrace right worship through godly lives dedicated to good deeds as we await the return of our Lord and Savior at the end of time.  The Christian life of righteousness is the fruit of grace.  God is the source of that grace and salvation is the goal given to us through Christ Jesus.  Divine grace, manifested in the Incarnation, is actively at work in redeeming each Christian.  It is also the basis of our hope in the Second Coming of the Christ.

Verse 14 is a summary of the doctrine of Redemption and lists four essential elements:

  1. Jesus’ self-giving in the sacrifice of His life on the altar of the Cross
  2. Redemption from all sin
  3. Spiritual purification
  4. Establishing a people of His own dedicated to good deeds

3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, 6 which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus our Savior, 7 so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

In 3:4-7, St. Paul lists the effects of Christian baptism as rebirth, forgiveness of sins, reception of His Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5) and justification by grace so we can obtain the immediate enjoyment of all rights as heirs to eternal life (2 Cor 1:22).  These are the gifts of Christian life that begin with a new life, reborn into the family of God through the Sacrament of Baptism, when every Christian baptized in Christ, in the Trinitarian formula Christ gave us in Matthew 28:19, becomes God’s “chosen servant.”

SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Used with permission.
Lk 3:15-16, 21-22 — WATCH VIDEO


by Richard Niell Donovan

The Holy Spirit is important to Luke

We find references to the Holy Spirit throughout Luke-Acts (both written by Luke). Even in the very earliest chapters of Luke, there are several mentions of the Holy Spirit:
• In the announcement of John’s birth, the angel tells Zechariah that John “will be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1:15).
• In the announcement of Jesus’ birth, the angel tells Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come on you” (Lk 1:35).
• Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” sings Mary’s praises (Lk 1:41-45).
• Simeon “came in the Spirit” to see and praise Jesus in the temple (Lk 2:27-32).
• See also Luke 4:1, 18; 10:21; 11:13; 12:10, 12 and Acts 1:5; 2:1-4, 17, 38; 4:8, 25, 31; 5:3, 32; 6:5; 7:51, 55; 8:15-19, 29, 39; 9:17, 31; 10:19, 38, 44-48; 11:12, 15, 24; 13:2, 4, 9, 52; 15:8, 28; 16:6-7; 19:1-17; 20:22-23, 28; 21:4, 11; 28:25.

Jesus is Mightier

Jesus is more powerful and of infinitely higher status. John is not worthy to tie his sandals, a task so demeaning that Jewish slaves are exempted from performing it. Today, John might say, “I am not worthy to carry his bags”—or “I am not worthy to carry out his garbage.”

Holy Spirit and Fire

The Greek word, baptizo, has to do with being overwhelmed or immersed. John is not talking here about Jesus performing water baptism, but is instead talking about Jesus overwhelming us—immersing us—in the Holy Spirit and fire. “John baptizes with water—an outward symbol; the Messiah’s Spirit baptism is the reality to which the symbol points” (Wright, 316).
We derive our word, “pneumatic,” which we use for air-powered tools, from the Greek word which can be translated either spirit or wind, and it is very possible that Luke intends the ambiguity—intends us to think both of spirit and wind.
When introducing the story of Pentecost, Luke will speak of all three—wind (pnoes—Acts 2:2), fire (puros—Acts 2:3), and Holy Spirit (pneumatos hagiou—Acts 2:4)—in the space of three short verses.


Luke does not describe the baptism itself—does not mention John—does not say that Jesus came up out of the water (Mark 1:10; Matthew 3:16)—does not tell us Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness (Mt 3:15). Luke’s concern is elsewhere—with the endorsement implied by the opened heaven, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the voice from heaven. This is Jesus’ anointing—his preparation for service—his empowerment.
Luke frequently portrays Jesus at prayer (luke 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28-29; 11:1; 22:32, 41-45; 23:34, 46) or encouraging his disciples to pray (Luke 6:28; 18:1; 22:40, 46). He also portrays the church at prayer (Acts 1:14; 6:4; 8:24; 10:9; 14:23; 16:13, 16; 26:29). Is it too much to say that Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of the church are prayer-powered?
The opening of heaven is an apocalyptic motif that announces the presence and intervention of God (see Ezekiel 1:1; Isaiah 64:1; John 1:51; Acts 7:56; Revelation 19:11). It signals that Jesus has come as messiah.

and a voice came out of the sky, saying ‘You are my beloved Son. In you I am well pleased’” (v. 22c)

Luke doesn’t identify the one who speaks, but the voice from heaven is obviously that of God the Heavenly Father. These are essentially the same words that God will speak at the transfiguration (9:35), except that they are addressed to Jesus at his baptism—but to the disciples at his transfiguration. Verse 22 alludes to two Old Testament verses, “You are my son” (Psalm 2:7) and “my chosen, in whom my soul delights” (Isaiah 42:1).

Jesus is baptized

Our Sunday Visitor; clipart from Fr. Richard Lonsdale © 2000

  • The heavens were opened and God spoke.
  • Jesus invited John to baptism him in order to fulfill all that God demanded.
  • This is my Son, God said, My favor rests on him.

OT: Gen 1: 2; Ps 2: 7; Isa 11: 2; 42: 1; 61: 1
NT: Matt 3: 13–17; Mark 1: 9–11; John 1: 32–34


St. John’s Call to Repentance

15 Now the people in the crowd were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.

St. John’s call to repentance through a ritual of water purification and his warnings of divine judgment for those who oppress the weak and disadvantaged probably reminded the people of the prophecies of the Messiah in the books of the prophets Ezekiel and Malachi.


II will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.  I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees (Ez 36:25-28).

But who will endure the day of his coming?  And who can stand when he appears?  For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.  He will sit refining and purifying and he will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD… I will draw near to you for judgment, and I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, those who defraud the hired man of his wages, against those who defraud widows and orphans; those who turn aside the stranger, and those who do not hear me, says the LORD of hosts (Mal 3:2-5).

SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Used with permission.

16 John answered them, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

St. John denies that he is the Messiah and tells the crowd that in contrast to his baptism with water, the Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  It is an event fulfilled at the Jewish feast of Pentecost fifty days after Jesus’ Resurrection in Acts 2:1-14 which is also a fulfillment of the prophecy of the purifying and refining characteristics of the Messiah prophesied in the Ezekiel and Malachi passages.

The Baptism of Jesus

Jesus was without sin (2 Cor 5:21; CCC 602), but St. John’s baptism was one of repentance of sins (Lk 3:3). Yet Jesus tells John that He must be baptized (Mt 3:13-15).  So why did Jesus submit to John’s baptism if He was without sin, and what did His baptism mean in God’s divine plan?


Jesus was without sin (2 Cor 5:21; CCC 602), but St. John’s baptism was one of repentance of sins (Lk 3:3).  So why did Jesus submit to John’s baptism if He was without sin, and what did His baptism mean in God’s divine plan?  Jesus tells John that He must be baptized (Mt 3:13-15).   By baptizing Jesus:

  1. St. John the Baptist reveals the Messiah to Israel in a baptism of anointing by the Holy Spirit (Jn 1:31; Acts 10:37-38).
  2. Jesus is “fulfilling all righteousness” (as He announced in Mt 3:15) by submitting Himself to the Father’s divine will.
  3. Jesus accepts His mission as God’s Servant prophesied by Isaiah in allowing Himself to “be counted among the sinners” John baptizes, just as He will “be counted among sinners” at His death (Is 53:12; Lk 22:37; 23:32; Rom 5:8; 2 Cor 5:21).
  4. In submitting to John’s baptism, Jesus is anticipating the “baptism” of His bloody death on the altar of the Cross for the remission of our sins (Mk 10:38-39; Acts 2:38; 10:43).
  5. He is also demonstrating what those who accept Him as Lord and Savior must do to be joined to His baptism of death and resurrection unto salvation (Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16).
SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Used with permission.

21 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened 22a and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.”


22b  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

When John baptized Jesus, the gates of Heaven, closed since the fall of Adam, began to open.

The Gospel of Mark dramatically announces this event: On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open (Mk 1:10; see CCC 536 and 1026).

At this moment in salvation history, as the gates of Heaven opened to be ready to receive those redeemed by the sacrifice of the Christ, the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit in a prelude to the new creation!

SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Used with permission.

Humble Lives of Prayer

  • Because of events like the Baptism of the Lord, it is possible for us to have constant lives of prayer. If we were not beloved by God, if God were not well-pleased with us, we would not be able to meditate, dialogue with God, or contemplate his presence. How could we stand constantly being in the presence of a person who basically hates us?
  • But because we are beloved and approved, we can think about Him, talk to Him, and sit in silence before Him listening.
  • Our prayer is not a proud self-congratulation due to being friends of God. Rather, we humbly consider that we can pray because “Christ in his overflowing love willed to share his relationship to his Father with us.”
SOURCE: Doctrinal Homily Outlines: A Lectionary-based resource for homlists and the lay faithful. Written by Kevin Aldrich.