On the Baptism of Christ by St. Jerome

January 22, 2015

Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Book I, St. Jerome of Bethlehem


3.13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John that He might be baptized by him.  The Saviour accepted baptism from John for three reasons: first, in order that, since He had been born Man, He might fulfill all the justice and humility of the Law; second, so that by His Own Baptism He might give approval to John’s baptism; third, so that by sanctifying the waters of the Jordan by the descent of the dove, He might show forth the coming of the Holy Spirit in the [baptismal] bath of believers.

3:15 “Let is be so now.” “Now” was beautifully spoken. He wanted to show that Christ had to be baptized in water, but John had to be baptized by Christ in the Spirit. Or, here is another interpretation: “Let it be so now.”  That is, I, who have assumed the form of a slave, must fulfill also the humility of a slave. But know this: you must be baptized by My Baptism on the Day of Judgment.  “Let it be so now,” says the Lord. I have even another baptism by which I am to be baptized.  You baptized Me in water, in order that I might baptize you for My sake in your blood.

3.15. “For thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all justice.”  He did not add justice “of the Law” or “of nature,” so that we might understand both [forms of justice]. And if God accepted baptism from a man, no one should disdain receiving it from a fellow slave.

3:16. The heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit descending as a dove coming upon Him.etc. The Mystery of the Trinity is shown in the baptism. The Lord is baptized, the Spirit descends in the form of a dove, the voice of the Father is heard offering testimony to the Son. Now the heavens are opened not by an unbolting of the elements, but [they are opened] to the spiritual eyes, with which even Ezekiel at the beginning of his book records that they were opened. A dove, too, sat upon the head of Jesus to prevent anyone from thinking that the Father’s voice was addressing John and not the Lord.