“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” (Mark 1:9)
Jesus’ baptism raises the question, “Why?” John’s baptism was one of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And Jesus, according to traditional Christian belief, was without sin. So why would he choose to receive this washing?
A compelling answer is this: Jesus steps into the river as a sign that he has come to be with and among the people. He chooses to lead not from a position of power and prestige, but through participation in our everyday reality. He chooses to emphasize not how he is different, but how he is the same.
A modern example of such humility is the Dalai Lama. The Dalia Lama is the leader of Buddhists; and at one time also held civil power over the people of Tibet; he was a kind of Pope and Emperor rolled into one. With such an exalted status, he could easily believe himself unique and better than others.
But that’s not how the Dalai Lama sees it. He says, “I never consider, even when giving a talk to a large crowd, that I am something special. . . . I always emphasize that when I meet people, we are all the same human beings.” (The Book of Joy, page 130)
Lord Jesus, you are Messiah of Israel and Son of God. Yet you choose not to exalt yourself over others; instead, you enter everything that makes us human; you take upon yourself our joys and our sorrows, our hurts and our hopes, our successes and our failures. Thank you, Jesus, for bowing down so that we might be lifted up. To you, along with the Father in heaven and with the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.