Consider how St. John, being sent as a forerunner of our Lord, to prepare the people for him, by preaching to them penance, and a thorough conversion from their sins; when a multitude of publicans and other sinners resorted to him, and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins, and receiving from him the rules of a new life; our Lord Jesus also came among them, as if he had been one of their number and stood in need of that baptism of penance for the remission of sins; and desired to be baptized by him.
Admire the humility of this ‘Lamb of God,’ who came ‘to take away the sins of the world,’ and yet here associates himself with sinners and is willing to pass for one of them. John was astonished at it and initially refused to baptize him, saying, ‘I ought to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me?’ But Jesus insisted upon his doing it; ‘for so it becometh us,’ said he, ‘to fulfil all justice,’ Matt 3:14,15; that is to exercise and to give examples of all virtues; amongst which humility is the foundation, which sustains all the rest. O give us thy grace, dear Lord, that we also may ‘fulfil all justice,’ by the imitation of thy humility.
Consider too, how our Lord Jesus having thus humbled himself to ‘fulfil all justice,’ was presently ‘exalted’ by his heavenly Father; when ‘being baptized and praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape, as a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven: Thou art my beloved Son, and in thee I am well pleased,’ Luke 3:21,22. Learn from hence, my soul, that humility opens heaven and conducts us to God, and to all good. But see also, how upon this occasion of the baptism of Christ, the chief mysteries of religion are displayed: see how the whole blessed Trinity manifests itself: the Father, by his voice from heaven; the Son, in his human nature, assumed for us; and the Holy Spirit, by descending in the shape of a dove. See how the mission and the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ is here solemnly authorised, with a formal declaration of the dignity of his person, and of his unction and consecration, by the Spirit of God: see how the Son of God, descending into the waters sanctifies them, in order to those great effects of regeneration and renovation of the soul in the laver of baptism: see how he buries, as it were, the old Adam here under the waters, and brings him forth a new man; opening heaven in his favour, and imparting to him both his Holy Spirit, and the title and dignity of Son of God. O let us venerate these heavenly mysteries! Let us here embrace our humble Saviour, the source of all our good.
Think about how our Lord began the functions of his mission, and the preaching of his gospel, from this time of his being baptized, and his being here solemnly recommended to the world, not only by the voice of his heavenly Father, and by the visible descent of the Holy Spirit. But first, for our instruction, he was pleased, by way of preparation, to withdraw himself from the conversation of men, into days in fasting and prayer; at the end of which time he suffered three different assaults of temptation from Satan; and after overcoming this wicked enemy, was visited and served by Angels.
Christians, let us learn from this great example, in all our spiritual undertakings to seek first the assistance and blessing of heaven, by retirement, fasting, and prayer; let us learn that these same are also the best arms against all the temptations of the enemy; that we are not to expect, how much soever we are retired from the world, to live without temptation, since Christ himself was tempted; but that we must, by his example, fight and overcome; and that this is the way to heavenly comforts here, and to an immortal crown hereafter.
Conclude to keep as close as thou canst to the Lord Jesus, in every step he takes, and to have thy eyes always upon him, that thou mayest copy out his virtues in thy life.
— A meditation by Bishop Challoner.
Photo courtesy freebibleimages