It happens like clockwork that we have the Baptism of Jesus as a Sunday in Epiphany. We get so used to it that we might miss some interesting and soul uplifting details.
The reaction of human beings to the nearness of the divine is normally and naturally fear. Just before Peter was promised that he would be a “fisher of men” he told Jesus to stay away from him because he, Peter, was sinful man. Separation from holiness was all over the religious practices of Jesus day and the Holy of Holies was the place in the temple where only one person could go and that was once a year. There exists a barrier between man and God. The holiness of God could not be accessed by anyone but the high priest, and then only once a year. God’s “eyes are too pure to look on evil” (Habakkuk 1:13), and He can tolerate no sin. The veil and the elaborate rituals undertaken by the priest were a reminder that man could not carelessly or irreverently enter God’s awesome presence.
But Jesus shows up at the Jordan to be baptized by John and John has some issues with the Holy One being baptized with sinners. Jesus should be baptizing him. But Jesus comes forward and identifies with sinners and submits to a sinners baptism.
Ever notice how so many people want to reverse the way this works. If you want to approach God you have become a little less sinful and a little more Godly. Then you that you can approach God and he will bless you. The Biblical way is that God approaches sinners and identifies with them and takes their sin away and makes them holy. We think that repentance and hard work and prayer are the key to our entrance into the Kingdom, but the baptism of Jesus proves that God gets to determine the character of repentance, not us.