As I have shared in an earlier posting, I am reading Pope Benedict’s book on Jesus. In my last post I reviewed “Chapter 1” but when I looked back at it, I found that I had actually reviewed the forward. So here goes the real Chapter 1 – Jesus’ baptism.
Benedict starts with the basic question most Christians ask, “If Jesus was sinless, then why did he need to be baptized?” His answer is powerful when he writes that Jesus joined in with the mass of people on the banks of the Jordan that John was baptizing to be one of us. While most are standing there and going into the water to be absolved of their sins in the past, Jesus took the weight of everyone’s sins – past, present, and future in this action. And I really liked the part when he wrote:
Jesus went down in the role of one whose suffering-with-others is a transformation suffering that turns the underworld around, knocking down and flinging open the gates of the abyss. His baptism is a descent into the house of the evil one, to combat the “strong man” who holds people captive…and overcome him.
This is no passive and nice guy Jesus Benedict is portraying. It is a bold and brave savior who can and will change everything. Suffering, evil, and redemption all addressed succinctly.
Another interesting point that he makes that I had never long considered is this is the first moment that the Trinity is portrayed. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are there in the baptismal scene. Some want to attribute the Trinity to some later church teachings but it is clearly there, even in the earliest Christian writings.
What did I find to contend with? Nothing so far. Perhaps it is polity (church government) rather than theology where we’d most disagree. Or maybe I just haven’t gotten there yet in the book. Whatever the case, so far I have found his book to be quite edifying.
All the best,