He went down into the water. It was not his first descent, or his greatest. He had already descended from heaven to earth, put off his immortality and infinity to share our finite mortal state: creator reduced to creature. And he would go down further, into unimaginable horror: darkness and death and separation and damnation. He who was everything, from whom all things take their being, would become nobody and nothing, a dehumanised thing from which men turn away their eyes. This was not that day, but it was a decisive step towards that day. For this purpose he had been born. So he went down.
He went down into the water. His cousin, who had known him for what he truly was when they were both still in the womb, hailed him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”; but in that clamorous throng, who listened, who understood? He was just another man come to hear the strange prophet who had emerged from the wilderness, one of the many in the dusty, milling, jostling crowd. He was just another man seemingly answering the call to repentance, lining up to go down into the water and be baptised.
He went down into the water. He had nothing to repent of, for he was without sin. He wore no shame, for when he took on human flesh there was no shame in being material finite. He had no shame, he had no sin, but we did. He had never walked away from God, but we have. He had never tried to build a righteousness of his own based on empty works, for he was righteousness incarnate. He had never constructed a hollow façade of religious practices, for he was the one who fulfilled the law and the prophets. He had never done any of these things, but we had, and we still do, and he carried it for us, down into the water.
He went down into the water. And his cousin was shocked. This was the wrong way round. John knew who stood before him, and he knew he, a mere man, wasn’t worthy to so much as tie his shoes, let alone baptise him. But Jesus said that this was fitting, to fulfil all righteousness. John did not know what that meant, but how could he refuse the one he had been born to serve? So Jesus went down.
He went down into the water. And as he came up again. And the Spirit of God descended on him in the form of a dove, and a voice spoke to him from the thunder of heaven, saying, “This is my Son, my beloved, and I am well –pleased with him.” It was done, he was accepted to be the True Israel and the Second Adam. And so, wrapped in the Father’s love, he went down, into the desert, to face the bitter temptations of humankind, and resist them to the uttermost
.He went down so that, when he had descended to the uttermost, we might be raised with him.