Theophany: the baptism of Christ
This week, on 6 January, we celebrate the Feast of Theophany (sometimes called Epiphany), and the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Jordan. This sometimes prompts people to ask about the relationship between Christ’s baptism and that of other people.
There is a link between our baptism and Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, but there are also some significant differences. Our baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), but Christ had no sins to be remitted.
When we are baptised, we go into the water and come out changed. When Christ goes into the water, he comes out unchanged, but the water is changed.
We go into the water sinful, but emerge clothed in his righteousness. He goes into the water sinless, but emerges clothed in our sins (see Zech 3:3).
We go into the water and when we emerge our true life is hidden (Colossians 3:1-4). But when Christ goes into the water, he emerges and his true life is revealed:
When Thou, O Lord, wast baptised in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest!
For the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee, and called Thee His beloved Son!
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ our God who hast revealed Thyself and hast enlightened the world, glory to Thee!
He went into the waters of the Jordan, at the lowest place on the surface of the earth, not to have his sins washed away, but to crush the heads of the dragons that lurked there, and to reclaim the world, and water in particular, for God. In a sense, he allowed himself to be fully immersed in the evil of this world, and threw down the gauntlet in a challenge to the powers of evil. His baptism was followed immediately by his temptation, in which Satan met him and responded to the challenge.
There is more on the meaning of this in another post on Salvation and atonement.