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.”
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!