Why was Jesus baptized?
If John the Baptist baptized people as a form of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mk 1:4), then why would Jesus, the sinless, divine Son of God need to be baptized? In his Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI draws upon the tradition of the Church to shed some light on this mystery of our faith. Christ neither needed to be cleansed from sin nor adopted into God’s family. Rather, Christ descended into the water of the Jordan to sanctify it, so that water may become the means by which we are sanctified. Water had a two-fold symbolism for ancient Jews. In one sense, it symbolized death because it recalled the destructive powers of the great flood in the book of Genesis. On the other hand, it represented life, just as a flowing river seems to be fully alive. Therefore, the early Christians recognized a rich theology in Christ’s baptism. Christ’s descent into the Jordan river symbolized His looming death on the cross, while His ascent from the water symbolized His forthcoming resurrection. As the Father and the Holy Spirit are manifested in this moment (Lk 3:22), the Holy Trinity transforms baptism from a merely symbolic act of repentance into a sacrament that bestows divine grace into our souls. Through this sacrament, we are baptized into Christ’s death so that we may be raised into newness of life (Rom 6:3-4).