The power and love of God are at the center of Jesus’s baptism. As Jesus is praying, having just been baptized, the heavens open—and several things happen. A dove-like manifestation of the Spirit descends. A voice tells Jesus that he is the Son of God. That voice also says that God is pleased with him. None of these manifestations is new. In Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary (1:35), relationship to the Spirit and to God as father are both established. In the angels’ annunciation to the shepherds, they proclaim the good news to those with whom God is “pleased” (same Greek word). Many events and years down the road, in Acts 10, Peter will also proclaim this good news to everyone who fears God and with whom God is pleased (again, same Greek root).
Here at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, God’s pleasure in Jesus serves as a reminder that Jesus’s primary relationships are not only a source of divine power but are also marked by deep love and profound affection.
We come to you on this late winter morning,
accompanied by muttering thunder and flashes of lightning.
As we read the stories of Jesus’s baptism
with the drumming of life-giving rain in our ears,
may we remember his courage in the storms of his ministry.
Grant us, too, your wisdom and guidance for the journeys begun in our baptisms.
May we sense your undergirding and overriding grace and our belovedness,
and trust that life as disciples will bring us ever closer to you
and closer to your word from times past—for the needs of your world present.
Grant us patience and strength, enthusiasm and joy.
In Jesus name, Amen.
(Note: Usually I edit the specifics of a prayer for a broader audience, but for this elderly teacher the memory of studying the baptism of Jesus with students during a storm is so evocative of a particular time and place that I’m leaving the allusions to the stormy circumstances as they were.)