Jesus Appears on the Scene

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Mark 1:9-11

Parallel texts: Matthew 3:13-17;  Like 3:21-22

Mark continues the action, after having described briefly the ministry of John the Baptist, here comes Jesus down from Nazareth to be baptized by John. Since John was operating near Jerusalem, Jesus would have traveled about 80 miles on foot through some pretty rough terrain to join John at the Jordan. Mark doesn’t record the exchange between the two that Matthew describes, probably because it wouldn’t mean much to a Roman, but he does record the most important and significant aspects of this scene.

Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:10-11

First, you no doubt noted the words as Jesus “was coming up out of the water”. I point this out because it indicates that Jesus and John had been down in the water in the first place. As if the meaning of baptize (Greek baptiso “to immerse”) weren’t enough to indicate what is going on here, Mark describes a scene in which immersion has taken place in the river, and thus Jesus had to come up out of the water.

Next, Mark shows us an amazing scene. Jesus has just been baptized, and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him like a dove. you have seen other passages in the Bible where the Holy Spirit is described as being like fire, but here the Spirit is like a dove; gentle, harmless and peaceful. This makes perfect sense since Jesus’ ministry was not about condemnation or judgment, but rather it was a ministry of reconciliation, peace and love. I also like to point out that the Holy Spirit descended after He was baptized, just as the Holy Spirit is gifted to the Christian after baptism (Acts 2:38). Then, another amazing thing: The voice of the Father from heaven, announcing that Jesus is the Son for the first time.

Three times in the New Testament, the divine voice of the Father is heard. Here, at the transfiguration, and in Jesus’ last week in John 12:28. In this case, the Father not only announces that Jesus is His Son, but indicates that the Father is well-pleased with Jesus… why now?

Jesus has been baptized to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15) and it strikes me that this would imply an obedient act on Jesus’ part. The Father is pleased now when Jesus has been obedient. This is not to say that Jesus wasn’t pleasing in God’s sight before, but remember that Jesus has come to the earth do His Father’s will, and this act of obedience is an example to us of doing His will.

We should also note here, that in this scene are all three Persons of the Godhead: Father (voice from heaven), Son (Jesus coming up out of the water) and Holy Spirit (descending like a dove). You just don’t see a scene like this very often!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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18 Responses to Jesus Appears on the Scene

  1. Steve B says:

    We should also note here, that in this scene are all three Persons of the Godhead: Father (voice from heaven), Son (Jesus coming up out of the water) and Holy Spirit (descending like a dove). You just don’t see a scene like this very often!

    Very nicely understated there Don 🙂

  2. Cate B says:

    Great “visual” from your words, Don. thank you.

  3. So many leaders say you receive the Holy Spirit, then later on you can be baptized if you want to. They are not separate, as you noted from Acts 2:38. Thanks.

  4. pipermac5 says:

    That Jesus needed “to fulfill all righteousness” is something that seems to be almost an oxymoron because He WAS the sinless Son of God, but it doesn’t dawn on us that Jesus was also a complete Jew who kept the entire Law perfectly. He was also about 30 years old, the age necessary for a young man to enter the priesthood, and there were rituals which were required for that also.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Great points Steve. Interesting you should mention the priesthood… Most don’t think of that, but Jesus is both King and Priest, although of a different order; our High Priest forever.

      • pipermac5 says:

        I think that, since the New Testament clearly-teaches the priesthood of all believers, our baptism may also symbolize our inauguration into that holy-priesthood. One thing is certain, and that is that baptism is about more than just getting wet, whether a little or a lot. That begs the question of whether a person who was baptized in infancy, symbolizing their inclusion in the Covenant, should be re-baptized when they make their public profession-of-faith to inaugurate them into the holy-priesthood. Jesus was both circumcised, symbolizing His inclusion in the Abrahamic-covenant, and baptized.

        Any thoughts?

        • Don Merritt says:

          How much time do you have? 🙂

          The very short version is that I believe that baptism is our entry into covenant, which we can’t do until we are old enough to understand doing so, and that an infant cannot very well do that. Of course, infants haven’t sinned either…

  5. Again, never consciously noticed before this gathering of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit together in one place. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Question (and I hope I’m not opening a Pandora’s Box): Does this sequence of events mean one must be baptized before one receives the Holy Spirit?

  6. pipermac5 says:

    My background is Reformed Presbyterian. We believe in infant-baptism for covenant-children, and that baptism has replaced circumcision as the sign and seal of that covenant.

  7. I was raised in the Anglican church and was therefore “christened” at an young age. I had always believed that this was the same as baptism, but during a class I took this year on Anglican History and Theology, I learned that a ”christening” is just a naming ceremony – making you a member of the Church of England but not so much a baptism. It is very much a cultural, rather than a religious rite. When I became a Christian, in my 30’s, I chose to be baptised. My parents were incredulous as “I’d already been baptised”. For me, it was very important, as I was entering into a new life, of which I was conscious. I have baptised my son, at aged 8, but not because I so much believe in “infant” baptism but because it is what is done in the Reformed Church, as mentioned.

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