Mothers’ Union Devotion Sunday 10th January 2021 – The Baptism of Christ
There are many paintings of the Baptism of Christ which help us picture the pivotal moment when Jesus our Saviour is commissioned to begin his earthly ministry. The moment the Spirit descends on him like a dove. The moment a voice came from heaven and declared “You are my Son”. The moment Jesus set out on his path to the cross and so conquered death on our behalf, opening to us the way to eternal life. In these pictures, we generally see Jesus standing in the water after his baptism, the dove above his head.
I particularly like the version by Daniel Bonnell because it seems alive with the spiritual power of the moment (Apologies to those in Penarth All Saints Branch who have heard my thoughts on this painting before). Jesus has his arms raised in the same shape as the dove, a singleness of purpose. The light which connects the two, blends them together, blurring the edges into a single existence. The unity of the Trinity held together in this remarkable moment of salvation history. The light is so bright there is no place for any darkness. In Him there is only light.
From the waist down, Jesus’ body is immersed in the water. Living water, not a flat still pool but living rippling life-giving water. Again, his body has become indistinguishable from water. Jesus and the living water are one, as He is the source of the living water for all of us. And the water is indistinguishable from the light. The living nourishing life-giving water flows from the Trinity.
Surrounding the whole scene is a blaze of colour. The heavens torn apart as the Spirit descends. Flaming reds and oranges, vibrant colours fanning out. Warming the surrounding landscape with the burning power of the Trinity. The flame that burns brightly in our hearts when we too receive the blessing of the Trinity at our baptisms. The burning desire that we feel as we seek to embrace the power at the centre of our existence.
As we look at the painting as a whole, we see – the eternal light, the living water, the burning flames of love. Then, right in the centre, the open arms of our Saviour Jesus Christ that call us into the scene. The parental arms of love that long to draw us closer in so that we can hear the words of the scene spoken to us:
“You are my Beloved Child; in You I delight.”
May you always hear and believe this specific individual message to you from our loving Lord.