- Isaiah 43:1-7
- Psalm 29
- Acts 8:14-17
- Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
In this season of Epiphany, the Church commemorates three specific occasions of the revealing of Christ, beginning with the visit of the Magi, who brought their gifts and worshiped the Holy Child (Matthew 2:1-12). Their homage represented the adoration of all nations: that Jesus was to be the source of salvation and blessing for the whole world. The other two occasions are the Baptism of Jesus (which we celebrate on this day) and the wedding at Cana that we celebrate next Sunday (the Second Sunday of Epiphany).
In all the gospels, John the Baptist is understood to be the forerunner of the Messiah (3:4; Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; John 1:23). His preaching and baptizing fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy as John prepares the way for God’s coming salvation (Isaiah 40:3). To Luke especially, salvation means justice, not only for some, but for all people. This is the “good news” announced by John in today’s gospel. Baptism by John, therefore, is an act of preparation – an outward acknowledgment of sin undertaken in light of God’s coming judgment and salvation in Jesus.
- Read Isaiah 40:3-11. How do these words describe God’s coming salvation? To whom is this salvation directed? What does John use of the prophet’s words (3:4-6) indicate about Jesus?
- What does Luke indicate about God’s justice in his account of John the Baptist’s preaching?
- If you had been an eyewitness to the Baptism of Jesus, what exactly would you tell someone else about what you observed?
- Why do you think people thought John might be the Messiah? What do we learn in Luke 3:15-16 about the ministry of John and of Jesus?
- What is the difference between John’s baptism with water and the baptism of the Messiah “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (v. 16)? What does this passage tell us about the Holy Spirit?
- What do you think was the significance of Jesus’ baptism?
Image: Giotto di Bondone, 1304-06. Christus Rex.