IN THE FIFTEENTH YEAR of the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius (A.D. 27) a herald appeared in Judea to prepare the Jewish people for the coming of the Messiah. In the fall of that year John the Baptist came into the wilderness along the banks of the lower Jordan and began preaching and baptizing, calling on the people to repent and reform.
The voice of prophecy had been silent for over four hundred years, and pilgrims came from all Israel to see this messenger from God. To those who believed him and who sincerely wished to reform their lives, he gave practical counsel. But the Pharisees and Sadducees, who sent scouts to spy on him, he bitterly denounced as a “brood of vipers.”
John plainly told the people that he was not Christ but His forerunner; the baptism he performed was merely a symbolic cleansing with water, but he announced the coming of one whose baptism would really forgive sin: “I indeed baptize you with water. But one mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
Early in the following year Jesus came down from Galilee to Judea to be baptized by John. Though John was the cousin of Jesus, he did not recognize Him when He came to be baptized. However, he must have had an intimation that there was something unusual about this pilgrim, for he protested that it would be more fitting for Jesus to baptize him. But Jesus said:
“Let it be so now, for so it becomes us to fulfill all justice.”
Thereupon John consented. He led Jesus into the Jordan and baptized Him as he had done with the others who came to him. And after Jesus had come up from the water, as He stood praying, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove, and a voice was heard from above saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Meditation: At a word from Christ, John acted. He did not wait or demand a divine sign before carrying out what seemed to be the will of God. His prompt obedience was immediately rewarded–he was permitted to behold God’s public acclaim of Christ as His Son. Do we procrastinate in our service of God, excusing ourselves that we have had no positive sign of what He wants us to do?
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 17-18. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.