Each gospel emphasizes in its own way the mystery that Jesus gives himself to be baptized. Matthew and Mark record John the Baptist’s wonder and reluctance even to baptize Jesus, saying “I should be baptized by you.” But Jesus insists. By contrast, in John's gospel, the Baptizer says he didn’t even recognize Jesus for who he was at first. He realizes only when Jesus emerges from the water and the voice of the Lord names him. Finally, in our passage from Luke, John the Baptist has actually already been arrested in the missing verses (18–20). Luke simply says, "when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized” (3:21). A theological thread runs through them all: Jesus is baptized as one of us.
We tend to identify ourselves by our faults and weaknesses. Past failures and present flaws loom large in the mirror. But when Jesus is baptized as one of us, it is not this “self” he affirms. We bring this brokenness to the waters, but God gathers and guides us through those waters. Jesus is with us in weakness, but he wants to give us a new identity, a new self-understanding. Jesus is baptized not for his own sake, but to draw all humanity with him into and out of the waters. And when he emerge, the name “Beloved” is bestowed upon all of us. This becomes the definition of what it means to be human: beloved children of God. Every other “self” is overwhelmed by the waters. Every other story is drown out by the voice of the Lord over the waters:
“Bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made."