Relationship First - A Reflection on Luke 3:15-16,21-22
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you, I am well pleased.”
Today’s gospel is where the divine meets the human. Though he is holy, Jesus joins sinners at the river to be baptized. In other accounts, we have John protesting that it is Jesus who should be baptizing him. John was a prophet, and with the insight of the prophet he went through with the ceremony. Immediately his action was confirmed from on high, and his best suspicions of Jesus were proven to be correct.
We are told that ‘the heavens were opened’. This is significant in that it is a reversal of the effects of original sin when the heavens were shut. When Jesus will have completed his mission on Calvary, we are told that the veil of the Temple was rent in two. In other words, we now could come into the Holy of Holies. The voice of the Father and the visible presence of the Spirit was clear proof that full connection has been established between heaven and earth.
John made a very clear distinction between his form of Baptism and the Baptism that Jesus would make available to us. John’s baptism was for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He would anoint us, make us holy, and enable us to share in the fullness of the Divine life.
It is strange that Jesus had already spent thirty years on this earth by this time, with nothing extraordinary happening, but he was being prepared for his mission, by living and experiencing the ordinary everyday hum-drum life of those around him. While being divine, he put his divinity to one side and lived a full human existence. He would be guided by the Father in everything he said and did. He must have spent long periods in prayer, which for him was largely listening.
He tried to teach us that too. In a very memorable story, Jesus was one day in the house of his two friends Mary and Martha. While Martha busied herself in the kitchen, resentful of her sister who was sitting by Jesus’s feet instead of helping her out, Jesus pointedly said that of the two things both had chosen, Mary had chosen what is better. She had chosen to be with Jesus. This doesn’t imply she didn’t have to serve, but it is always first things first.
With Jesus it is always relationship before service.