The heavens open when Jesus goes into the waters of the Jordan to be baptized. The Spirit descends on him and the Father announces his pleasure in him: “Listen to him,” we’re told, and share in his life.
The baptism of Jesus, a feast we celebrate with the Feast of the Epiphany, affirms a new connection between earth and heaven. It speaks through the simple, fundament sign of water. Going into the Jordan, Jesus indicates that God blesses the waters of the earth– and consequently creation itself– with life. Our second reading today from Isaiah 55, 1-11 illustrates this mystery so well. First of all, Jesus quenches the thirst of our souls; he comes to quench the thirst of all:
“ All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!” Isaiah 55, 1
God’s gift of Jesus Christ not only satisfies our thirst as individuals, he comes to revive the institutions of our world.
“I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.
As I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of nations,
so shall you summon a nation you knew not,
and nations that knew you not shall run to you,
because of the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.” (Isaiah 55)
Jesus Christ also comes to purify the world and those who dwell in it:
“Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked man his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55
Finally, in his Son, God makes an everlasting covenant with our world:
“For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.”
There’s an good article on the significance of water in the scriptures on the American Bible Society site.