Mark 1:9-11 “It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.... And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.... Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
I want to begin by making a simple observation that reinforces an earlier critique of the Gospel of Mark.... and in some ways give us a recap of last weeks study....
Mark is telling us the “beginning of the story....”
He’s introduced the hero as “Jesus the Christ the Son of God....”
The prophets foretold their would be a final prophet who’d “prepare the way” for his coming - so Mark starts with John the Baptist (The Advance Man).
This makes logical since, but.... following these seven verses summarizing John’s ministry Mark dives right into the baptism of Jesus.
Initially this seems like a strange way to begin the story of Jesus.
Think about the things Mark excludes from his narrative....
Mark overlooks Jesus’ supernatural birth. No immaculate conception. No Mary or Joseph.
Mark skips over the Christmas story. No mention of angles in the fields, shepherd’s watching over their flocks, no room in the inn, or wise men from the East.
Mark doesn’t include a single shred of information about Jesus’ upbringing.
Mark does not include any family information or provide any kind of genealogical cursers.
Why would Mark exclude these important details when he would clearly have been exposed to the information?
Answer: When you’re presenting Jesus as the “Ultimate Servant” to a Roman world made up mainly of slaves.... none of those details matter. No one cares about a slaves birth, upbringing, family, or heritage.
This leaves us with a healthy reminder of two interesting thoughts:
1. When approaching this Gospel always remember Mark is writing with a singular purpose.... Jesus as a servant.
2. Since Mark wrote his account first, this further explains why both Matthew and Luke begin their narratives the way they do.... filling in details Mark omitted.
Before we unpack the significance of this event, this is a good opportunity to establish the way we’re going to approach the various stories we’ll face in Mark.
- We’ll always begin with the scene of activity.
- We’ll address any relevant questions not particularly addressed in the text.
We’ll make some simple observations that will help us dig below the scene of activity and enable us to uncover the deeper significance of the event.
Let’s begin with the scene of activity.
John is preaching a message the centralizes on the coming of the Messiah. So many people are flocking to the Jordan and responding to the message that he’s baptizing in over a thousand folks a day.
Jesus travels a great distance from Nazareth - down the Vally of the Doves (which connected Nazareth and Capernaum) - around the Sea of Galilee - then down almost the entire length of the Jordan valley to Bethabara.
Jesus listens to John preach. He waits in line for hours to be baptized. Jesus enters the water and approaches John....
Mark’s account of what happens next is fairly cut and dry. John baptizes Jesus and when He emerges from the water “the heavens part” - or literally, the sky is “violently torn in two” - “the Spirit descends upon Jesus” - we’re told the Spirit looks like a dove, but isn’t a literal dove - “Then a voice came from heaven....” and affirmed to Jesus that “You are My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
1st Relevant Question: Who witnessed the event?
Was this an event for “Jesus’ eyes only” - was it something Jesus shared with only John and then He personally communicated what had happened to His disciples at a later date - or was it witnessed by everyone present?
Jesus witnessed the event.
Mark tells us Jesus saw these things taking place and no doubt relayed the events later on to His own disciples. Peter would later pass the account on to Mark.
John the Baptist witnessed the event.
In John 1:33-34 we read John the Baptist own account of the day’s events as, "I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' "And I have seen and testified that this (speaking of Jesus) is the Son of God."
It’s clear that John the Baptist also witnessed the event because the event of the Holy Spirit descending was God’s way of communicating to John who the Messiah was.
Everyone present witnessed the event.
Mark records God’s words as they were personally directed to Jesus, “You are My beloved Son....” However.... Matthew 3:17 indicates the message was also a declaration to everyone who was present. He records the words from heaven as, “This is My beloved Son....”
It seems evident the people present witnessed the scene and understood the magnitude of what was taking place.
2nd Relevant Question: Why would Jesus choose to be baptized? Was Jesus responding to John’s message and repenting of the sin?
Before we look at the answer, I want to first address the question itself.... Though this is a common “skeptics critique” of the baptism of Jesus, personally, I think this isn’t a very smart question - and lacks a certain level of creativity.
Think about it like this.... if, in examining the life of Jesus, we’re going to start asking “why did Jesus choose questions,” I can personally think of many more relevant, interesting, even pressing questions other than Jesus’ baptism.
For example.... if Jesus had the will to choose....
Why did Jesus choose to die on the cross?
Why did Jesus choose to be birthed through a vaginal canal?
Why would he choose to grow up in Nazareth?
Why did Jesus choose to be a middle schooler?
Why did Jesus choose Judas to be His disciple knowing he’d later betray him?
My point is that asking “why did Jesus choose” questions really becomes a ridiculous exercise. The more apt question we should be asking is rather, “what insight do I gain about Jesus by the choices He made?”
Now just so I’m not accused of dodging a question, let’s answer the question anyway.... was Jesus baptized because He was repenting of sin? Answer: No!
Three reasons we know Jesus “repenting of sin” wasn’t Jesus’ motivation:
1. The text doesn’t tell us this!
Mark’s doesn’t indicate in his account that “repentance for sin” was Jesus’ motivation for being baptized. To asset otherwise would be making a radical claim without any substantiating proof.
2. John’s reaction to Jesus indicates the opposite conclusion!
Matthew’s account further explains that John knew Jesus didn’t need to repent of sin and would have preferred if Jesus would instead baptize him.... to which Jesus refused and John only baptized Jesus out of obedience.
3. This notion doesn’t fit within the rest of the precedent of Scripture!
There are countless other passages in the Bible that emphatically affirm the sinlessness of Jesus so that He could be a perfect sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind. Jesus’ detractors could have inflicted a death wound to His earthly ministry if there had been a skeleton in Jesus’ closet. The Bible is clear they couldn’t find any fault in the character of Jesus.
This brings us back to the better question.... “What insight do I gain about Jesus by the choice He made to be baptized?” Which leads us to our first observation.
1st Observation of the Baptism of Jesus: Jesus came to identify with me!
The intention behind Jesus’ baptism was identification, not repentance.
Jesus didn’t need to be baptized, but He did want to be identified with sinful man so sinful man would later identify with Him when they needed a Savior.
Think about it this way.... When someone goes out of their way to identify with you by getting down into your muck and mire (especially when they don’t have too) doesn’t it earn a certain level of credibility?
So much of what Jesus did served the function of identification:
Jesus submitted to human authority - when all of creation submits itself to Him.
Jesus offered sacrifices at the temple - when He’d be the ultimate sacrifice.
Jesus worked with His hands - when He could have spoken things into existence.
Jesus walked from place to place - when He could have teleported.
Jesus suffered grief and loss. He wept and experienced disappointment. He dealt with physical pain and emotional toil. And for what purpose: identification!
Jesus didn’t come as some radical, goody-two-shoes, above the fray, spiritual sage who would speak to the multitudes with grandiose terminology that would sail over the common man. Jesus didn’t come to speak to the human condition from some lofty, removed, spiritual perch. Rather, He came as a common man - for common man - to save the common man.
Ultimately, this identification process would manifest itself in the most extreme way possible when, according to 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us” and then - He endured the punishment of sin by being nailed to a cross.
The result of this identification process: Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
2nd Observation of the Baptism of Jesus: I might need to rethink what pleases God!
God the Father’s affirmation, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” is really an amazing statement when you unpack it....
1. “You are My beloved Son” - As His Son, Jesus had always been God.
This is a statement of being - a statement of fact! It wasn’t as though at this point in Jesus’ life He goes from being the “son of Mary and Joseph” to being the “Son of God.” He didn’t in this moment become sinless or divine.
From the immaculate conception - to the virgin birth.
Through the terrible 2’s - and the early years of childhood.
From His years as a middle schooler, high schooler, and young adult.
- As He transitioned from His early 20’s to late 20’s into His 30‘s
Jesus had always been the “Son of God.” It was who He was: 100% man and God!
2. “You are My beloved Son” - As His Son, God had always loved Jesus.
I never really understood the interesting implications of this until late last year. When Quincy was born the nurses took him cleaned him up and gave him back to Jessica and I for our first night together. Every little hiccup, noise, or prolonged silence would send Jess and I up to check on his well being. It really blew me away the incredible the amount of love I immediately had for another human being I had known only a matter of hours. And why did I love Him so.... He was my son! I needed no other reason.
After the first night the doctor decided he wanted to take Q to the NICU for observation. It was brutal. I was upset and didn't want my little guy to leave my presence. And this was the thought that hit me (mind you it was Christmas morning).... “I’m having a hard time entrusting my only begotten son to a group of educated, highly trained professions. Oh, what it must have taken for God to intrust His only Son - in who me loves - to two teenagers who had not a clue what they were doing.”
The only reason the Father would send His “beloved Son” to this world is His great love for you and I. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.”
3. “I am well pleased” - As His Son, God had always been pleased with Jesus.
The phrase “well pleased” can be translated “brings joy.”
Please don’t forget the context....
When the Father uttered these words, Jesus was 30 years old and had not yet begun His earthly ministry. Jesus had instead spent His time in complete obscurity and inanity. Jesus had spent His time engaging in a very simple lifestyle.
He was a son to His parents.
He was a big brother to His siblings.
I’m sure He was a good friend to those who knew Him.
He was a student and later became a carpenter by trade. Most scholars believe at some point He became the principle bread-winner for His family following the death of Joseph.
Jesus went to church every week - filled in for the local Rabbi when He was needed - and attended the Jewish feasts in Jerusalem.
He paid taxes - and I’m sure was involved in His local community.
When Jesus came to the Jordan to be baptized by John, He had not preformed a single miracle or done anything to garner the attention of the power brokers of His day. Truthfully, Jesus had done nothing noteworthy.
He wasn’t a great preacher filling the sanctuary for multiple services.
He wasn’t leading an international ministry conglomerate.
He wasn’t hosting crusades or writing best sellers.
Jesus had yet to die for the sins of the world.
To say Jesus came out of nowhere would be have been an understatement of the facts on the ground. His Facebook friends or Twitter followers were numbered by the tens of people, not the thousands.
But this is what’s so incredible.... even with such a humble, nondescript, simple life of simple obedience, we’re told that His life brought God incredible joy. God was “well pleased” with the life He had lived. Understand, God takes greater joy in “the person you are” not “the things you do.”
This entire story challenges my outlook on the kind of life God takes joy in!
3rd Observation of the Baptism of Jesus: Humility leads to glory!
Think about how incredibly humble this scene was:
“It came to pass in those days that Jesus....” - A humble name.
“Came from Nazareth....” - A humble town.
“Of Galilee....” - A humble region.
“And was baptized....” - A humble action.
“By John....” - Humble submission.
“In the Jordan....” - A humble river.
“And immediately....” - Immediately following so much humility we transition into this glorious scene. Isn’t it true God is in the business of taking the humble things of this world and making them glorious?
4th Observation of the Baptism of Jesus: The baptism of the Holy Spirit is essential for ministry!
In the N.T. we find three roles for the Holy Spirit each defined by a different Greek word:
The Holy Spirit is “para” or literally “with us” - to come alongside convicting us of sin.
The Holy Spirit is “en” or literally “in us” - indwelling for regeneration.
The Holy Spirit comes “epi” or literally “upon us” - filling or overflowing for power.
Clearly the Holy Spirit wasn’t working in Jesus’ life convicting Him of sin. Jesus didn’t receive the Holy Spirit for regeneration or salvation. Mark is rather specific.... “the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove.” Before He began His ministry, Jesus first found it essential to have the Holy Spirit come upon Him for strength and for power.... we traditionally call this the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
The implications and significance is radical.... if Jesus needed the power of the Holy Spirit present in His life before He began His earthly ministry, how much more important is it for you and I to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?
The image of water baptism in connection with the baptism of the Holy Spirit provides some interesting insight into the implications of this event.... It’s a truth that “you get on you whatever you’ve been baptized into.” If you come out of the water it’s true that you’re soaking wet. “It’s also true that you often transfer to others that which is on you.” When you’re wet and you give someone a hug - that person gets on them whatever was on you. What is true concerning “water” is also true concerning the “Holy Spirit.”