Baptism of the Lord, El Greco

Scripture interprets Scripture.  This is one of the principles of sound exegesis – passages of Scripture can be held together in dialogue to bring one to a deeper awareness of the Christian faith.  For this Sunday’s celebration of the Baptism of the Lord we are given Luke 3:15-16, 21-22.  In Luke’s presentation of the baptism of the Lord we find this written:

After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, 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 beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”

In the second chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians we read this:

Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 

These passages are important, I believe, because they can bring us into the mind of Christ and into a deeper awareness of how he accomplished his salvific mission.  In the Creed we profess the great mystery that Jesus is fully God and fully human – “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God … and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man”.  On the surface we can assume that Christ accomplishes his mission by the exercise of his unique power of being the Son of the Father, the second person of the Trinity.  Christ on his own, by his independent strength of will, accomplishes his task. 

I do not believe this is true and I point to the above passages quoted for a different interpretation.  In Philippians we are told that Christ emptied himself.  The Son of the Father lets go of his glory.  In the third chapter of Luke’s gospel we are told that heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ.  By holding these passages together we are brought to the awareness that Christ does not accomplish his salvific mission through the sole exercise of his glory of being the Son of the Father; rather, the Son empties himself thus both allowing the full humanity of Christ to cling to the will of the Father and allowing the Holy Spirit to fully work through him.

Christ is not a lone cowboy who rides into town one day and by his own power gets rid of the bad guys.  Rather, in Christ, we find humility, obedience, joy and love at work.  The Son emptying himself, the full humanity of Christ clinging to the will of the Father, the joy of the Father in his Son, and the love of Holy Spirit flowing between Father and Son and through the Son to bring forth miracles and accomplish the salvific event.

It is not “will to power” that accomplishes the salvific event but rather humility and the obedience of love.

Wherever the Son is, there also is the Father and the Holy Spirit.  In Christ, we find the whole Trinity at play. 

Through our baptisms we are brought into the very life of the Trinity and we also are brought into this very dynamic.  What we can accomplish in our lives as Christians and as Church is not accomplished by what we can do on our own (the sad and tired logic of our world) but rather by learning to live as Christ lived – emptying ourselves of glory, clinging to the will of the Father, and receiving the love of the Holy Spirit.

 “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”