The Rev. Jeremy Thompson, Rector of St John Lee, comments on Mark 1 v 4 – 11:

I began by talking about baptism last week. The theme continues today as we reflect upon the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.

Many artists have tried to capture the moment of Christ’s baptism, but more significantly they have tried to capture its meaning.

One such was the Italian artist Piero della Francesca who translated the event from the heat and dust of Palestine to the green and lush Tuscan countryside.

The painting shows Jesus standing in the River Jordan, while John the Baptist pours water over his head from a bowl.

The Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, hovers over Jesus. In the background are the hills and towns of Tuscany.

A large tree almost frames the whole event, reminding us of the tree of life from the garden of Eden, as well as the tree of crucifixion.

What was della Francesca trying to achieve with this painting that was originally destined for a small chapel in Tuscany?

He is saying to us, that this moment in the life of Christ was so much more than Jesus stepping out of the shadows and onto the public stage. This is the moment when heaven and earth are united in the physical body of Jesus.

And by being set in the Tuscan countryside, for Tuscans who would see that countryside every day, Francesca is emphasising the fact that Jesus baptism is about our lives and places too.

As Jesus came up out of the water a voice from heaven was heard saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved: with you, I am well pleased.”

We do not walk the path towards the light alone. Jesus, God’s Son, our brother walks with us.