In this passage, John is baptizing people in the river. There is some speculation amongst the people that John may be the Christ. The passage says that they were “filled with expectation.” They were excited to meet this “Savior” that had been prophesied and talked about.
When I read this passage, it reminds me of how as a kid I would wait all year in anticipation for Christmas because Christmas meant presents. It meant toys, fuzzy socks, gift cards, an iPhone if I was lucky. Now that I am older, I still anticipate the Christmas season with a new association. Christmas means joy, exchanging meaningful gifts, and time with family.
The people at the beginning of this passage are like children anticipating Christmas. They await his arrival so much so that they come to be baptized in the river and they hope that the person they see baptizing people is this prophesied Savior so that they don’t have to wait any longer. They seek the water for baptism because they associate that with Christ. But then John tells them that a greater baptism awaits because “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
In the second half of the passage after everyone, including Jesus, had been baptized, heaven opened, God spoke to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove. I find it admirable that Jesus was present throughout the events in the beginning of today’s gospel as just another member of the crowd coming to get baptized. By getting baptized in the same way as the rest of the people there, it shows that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. After Jesus was baptized, God claimed Jesus as His son. His baptism also marks the beginning of his public ministry.
This passage calls us to follow the example that Jesus set through baptism. Not only through the physical act of being baptized, but also through ministry and being disciples of Christ. This non-physical “baptism” doesn’t have to be at a specific age in one’s life, after all, Jesus himself was around 30 when he was baptized and started his public ministry.