The Baptism of Jesus

Mark 1:9-11

Tom Pennington  •  June 22, 2008
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There's no doubt in any of our minds that without question the most fascinating character who has ever lived is Jesus Christ, and much of the world would agree with that conclusion. A few years ago, there was a survey of many of the world's leaders, and that was the answer that came back in terms of the most compelling personality who has ever lived is Jesus Christ. But how is it that we come to conclude that a person who is in fact one of the most fascinating characters in human history is the Messiah, the Son of God, the fulfillment of everything that was predicted in the Old Testament. John Piper in the preface of his little book, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ describes two paths for concluding that Jesus is in fact who He claimed to be.

One of those paths is careful research and investigation. You can see a little of this if you were to look at the preface to Luke's gospel as he talks about the research and the investigation that he did before he presented his material about the life of Jesus Christ. The other path Piper identifies is one that is in all of the ancient creeds and confessions that is clearly taught in Scripture and that is, simply examining the Jesus of the biblical record. Not every person in the history of the world who encounters the person of Christ has the opportunity or privilege to carefully research and investigate the facts of his claims. And so, God in His wisdom has made it so that when you and I open up the pages of Scripture and we examine the Jesus of the biblical record, we find Him in the pages of Scripture to be self-authenticating. John Piper put it like this,

Jesus as he is revealed in the Bible, has a glory—an excellence, a spiritual beauty—that can be seen as self-evidently true. It is like seeing the sun and knowing that it is light and not dark, or tasting honey and knowing that it is sweet and not sour. There is no long chain of reasoning from premises to conclusions. There is a direct apprehension that this person is true and his glory is the glory of God.

Really that's what Paul says in 2 Corinthians, and I invite you to turn there with me as we begin our time tonight, 2 Corinthians chapter 4. He begins chapter 4 by talking about the reality that the gospel, verse 3, "is veiled to those who are perishing, [because Satan] the god of this world has blinded the minds, [of the unbelieving] so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." So, Paul says, verse 5, "We preach Christ."

And how does that work? How does the preaching of Christ overcome the imposed blindness of Satan himself? The answer is in verse 6, "For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

Paul is, in the inspired text of Scripture, saying in much fewer words what John Piper was saying in that quote I read for you and that is, when a sinner reads the account of the gospel, when he reads the life of Jesus Christ, when he encounters the Biblical record of Jesus in that encounter, God says just as He said at the very first of the world, "let there be light." He says and speaks light into that human heart— "let there be light"—the light comes on and they recognize the beauty and glory and majesty of Jesus Christ. Over the many months to come it is our great joy to do the second of these to simply examine the Jesus of the biblical record and we will see as we march through the record, His beauty and glory and majesty in new and fresh ways.

Tonight, we meet the main character of Mark's gospel for the first time. We meet Him according to Luke's gospel at about the age of 30. And we meet Him as He goes to be baptized by the man we've been studying the last couple of weeks, John the Baptist. Now Jesus's baptism is obviously very important; it's mentioned in all four gospels. And it becomes a criteria even among, a criterion I should say, even among the disciples as they try to choose a replacement for Judas in Acts chapter 1. It says, "Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection."

Absolutely important, Matthew has the fullest account of the baptism of Christ. Luke records it in just 2 verses and Mark, where we'll turn tonight, uses only 3 verses. Mark chapter 1, verse 9,

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased."

Now if you'll notice as I read that text, Mark presents this monumental event in the life of Christ in two basic parts: the human part and the divine part. The human part is in verse 9, the baptism of Jesus by John. The divine part is the testimony to Jesus by God Himself in verses 10 and 11. That's how I want us to look at it together tonight.

Let's begin with the baptism of Jesus by John there in verse 9 that I just read to you. Mark tells us that "in those days, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan."

Literally in the Greek text, verse 9 begins, "it happened in those days." That's a very Hebrew way of saying it. By those days Mark means the time that was just described back in verse 5 when all Judea and Jerusalem were streaming out to John at the Jordan. It was at the very height of John's popularity and his ministry. Luke chapter 3 verse 21 says, "Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized."

So, Jesus comes from Nazareth and Galilee as one of those coming out to be baptized by John that we saw last week. When exactly did this happen? Well retracing our steps through our survey of the gospels and I won't take you back through all of the details of how we got here, but the year was AD 26. In the spring was the beginning of John's ministry probably, in the late summer, best we can figure is when Jesus came to be baptized and, in the fall, then immediately following that came the forty-day temptation.

"In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee." This is Nazareth by the way, today Nazareth modern Nazareth is much larger than it would have been in Jesus's time but in the foreground, you sort of get a view of the pastoral setting that was the ancient little village of Nazareth. He came from Nazareth. You remember that Nazareth is where Jesus's parents had settled after the family returned from Egypt. They had lived for a short time in Bethlehem, but when the Magi came and all of that happened with Herod and they fled from their home in Bethlehem, apparently left everything there, fled down to Egypt and they come back and when they do they settle after Herod's death in Nazareth. It's an agricultural village some fifteen miles from the Sea of Galilee and about seventy miles due north of the city of Jerusalem. It was in Jesus's day a very small little village. In size the entire village was about sixty acres. In population those who know such things estimate that in Jesus's time there were only between two hundred and five hundred people living there. In other words, there are far more people in this church than lived in the little village of Nazareth where Jesus grew up and lived for thirty years. It was an obscure and unknown town; it was so insignificant that the influential people of Judea and Jerusalem had never even heard of the little village of Nazareth. In fact, it's not mentioned in the Old Testament, the Jewish Talmud mentions sixty-three different sites and cities in Galilee, not Nazareth. Josephus mentions forty-five different Galilean towns and villages but again not Nazareth. You can see that it was an obscure out of the way unknown sort of place. The most significant thing about this little village was its most famous Son, Jesus of Nazareth.

The text says from Nazareth in Galilee—in Galilee. From the time of the Babylonian captivity, some five hundred years before Christ, there were more Gentiles in this area than there were Jews. And that's because it was surrounded on all sides by Gentiles. If you'll notice the map here you'll notice to the north and you can see the way the map is situated—I like their maps so this is from Logos but I don't like the way they're always changing the configuration so you don't know which way is north. This is north up here in this corner, here's the Sea of Galilee, here's the Jordan River Valley and here's the Dead Sea and of course over here's the Mediterranean. So that gives you the big picture. You'll notice in this picture that here's Galilee, the sort of pink up here by the Sea of Galilee, you'll see that on the northwest corner of Galilee is Phoenicia, then you have across the Jordan River the Decapolis which was a Greek area, ten Greek cities, Hellenized cities. You had Samaria directly to the south of Galilee, which was a hybrid group of people that we've studied before, a mixed race of people of Jews that were left in the land after the Assyrians attacked it and Assyrians and others that they brought in to people the land. They weren't true Jews; they were considered Gentiles and then you had Syria up on the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee. So, you can see that this little pink area of Galilee is surrounded really by Gentiles and it even was spotted with Gentile cities.

There was on the Mediterranean side of the Sea of Galilee the Tiberias and on the western side was the little town of Hippos which was a Greek village, one Roman, one Greek. That's why this area was even called Galilee of the Gentiles in Matthew 4, from Isaiah 9:1, because that's how this area really was. Judea on the other hand down in the south where you see by the Dead Sea, this pink area where Jerusalem is below Samaria there. This was primarily Jewish, so there was this sort of open hostility between Judea and Galilee. Kind of like the north and the south here in the US or where I grew the kind of hostility that existed between Alabama and Florida, we just assumed that Florida wasn't really a part of the south, because all of those people from Michigan had come down there and ruined a perfectly good state. There was that kind of animosity between these two areas. In fact, we could say it this way, there was an instinctive rejection of any sort of prophet from Galilee. You remember in John 1, Nathaniel says to his brother, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" when he hears of Jesus. And I want you to turn with me to John chapter 7, because here you get a little flavor for how Galilee was thought of. John 7 and verse 40,

Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, "This certainly is the Prophet." Others were saying, "This is the Messiah." Still others were saying, "Surely the Messiah is not going to come from Galilee, is He? Has not the Scripture said that the Messiah comes from the descendants of David, and

from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him. The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, "Why did you not bring Him?" The officers answered, "Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks." The Pharisees then answered, "You have not also been led astray, have you? No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he? [You see this sort of animosity going on] But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed." Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them, "Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?" [So he tries to intervene and cool the situation down] They answered him, "You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee."

So you get this flavor for how even in God's providence where Jesus was from, was on the outs with the center of the religious community in Israel. He was from Nazareth in Galilee. Jesus had lived all of His life there, and He had apparently taken over the family business after Joseph's death. Joseph is mentioned when Jesus is twelve and not mentioned later in Jesus's ministry so the very clear supposition is that Joseph died somewhere between there, and Jesus would have had the responsibility as the oldest son to take over maintaining the family and the family business. Probably at least for ten years Jesus had led the family and worked as a carpenter in the little village of Nazareth. You remember in Mark chapter 6 verse 3 they said, "Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary?" So, Jesus had been living in this out of the way obscure little village of between two hundred and five hundred people for thirty years. And some of that time, perhaps the last ten years He had run a carpenter's business there and led the family that had grown up, His at least six siblings and cared for His mother as well. That's the background for when Jesus comes to John at the Jordan.

This is what the Jordan looks like south of the Sea of Galilee. Today it's much smaller than it would have been in Jesus time because so much of the water is drained off today for water usage by both Israel and Jordan, but you get the picture of the kind of setting that this would have been where John was baptizing. It wouldn't have been far from the wilderness but because there was water and there was a fertile valley adjacent to it, because of that. So, in those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Mark records the baptism here in verse 9, but he doesn't record the interchange that occurs just before Jesus's baptism. Matthew does. Matthew says, when "Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him" —so He came specifically from His home to be baptized by John the Baptist. "But John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?'" Now the question that immediately comes to my mind is why did John refuse to baptize Jesus? John knew Jesus as a cousin, but John 1 says that John didn't know who the Messiah was until after the baptism because he'd been told that when the Spirit descends and remains on that Person, that's the Messiah. So, it seems to me that at this point John does not know that Jesus is in fact the Messiah until after he baptizes Him. So why did he refuse Jesus before? John said, "I need to be baptized by You." If he didn't know Jesus was the Messiah, why did he say that? Well we can't be sure but the only answer I can come up with is that John knew Jesus as his cousin, but he also knew Him to be an especially holy Man. And as holy and set apart as John the Baptist was even before he knew Jesus was the Messiah, he considered himself unworthy to baptize Jesus with a baptism of repentance. He was essentially saying, "You are a more godly Man than I, if one of us needs to baptize the other with a baptism of repentance, You need to baptize me." Jesus answered said, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." And "Then He permitted him."

So, John baptized Jesus, and we'll come back by the way to this response of Jesus in just a few minutes. But Jesus was baptized. Mark puts it like this. He "was baptized by John in the Jordan." In those simple straightforward words, Mark describes one of those important crucial events in the life of Christ. Jesus was baptized; that is, immersed or plunged into the Jordan River. So that's the simple history, the baptism of Jesus by John.

And that brings us to the second part of this passage in Mark and that is the testimony to Jesus by God Himself, and we find this in verses 10 and 11. Verse 10 begins, "immediately." This is one of Mark's favorite words; we'll see it again and again. In fact, it occurs eleven times in the first chapter alone and thirty-seven times in the book. He's writing to the Romans and the Romans were people of action not theory and so the idea most commentators would say of using this word is to sort of hurry the action along to give you the impression of a busy life lived in activity in getting things done. "Immediately," it says, "coming up out of the water." This expression reinforces the idea that John and Jesus were both out in the water of the Jordan that John plunged Jesus beneath the water and then He was coming up out of the water. And as Jesus was coming up out of the water, Luke adds that Jesus was praying. And as Jesus was praying, three very dramatic things occur: first of all, the heavens opened above Him; secondly the Spirit of God descended upon Him or into Him as Mark says; and the voice of God thirdly, spoke to Him.

Now what makes these three events important is that in Jewish thinking all three were to be true of Messiah. In a document that was written some two hundred years before Christ called The Testament of Levi, this document was describing what it would be like when Messiah came and this is what it says, "The heavens will be opened and from the temple of glory sanctification will come upon Him with a Fatherly voice as from Abraham to Isaac and the glory of the Most High shall burst forth upon Him and the spirit of understanding and sanctification shall rest upon Him." This was the first century expectation of when the Messiah came. That's what the Jewish people anticipated from Messiah. And each of them in fact occurred. Let's look more specifically at each of these signs.

The first is that the heavens above Jesus opened. Mark says, "He saw the heavens opening." The "He" here obviously refers to Jesus. Matthew's account says that John the Baptist also saw what was going on and I personally tend to think that since Jesus shows up according to Luke 3:21 with others to be baptized during the height of John's ministry, there were probably others there who witnessed these events as well; we can't be certain. Now the Greek word that's translated "opening,"—"He saw the heavens opening"—is a very interesting word. It's the word, the Greek word, from which we get the English word "schism." It means literally "to divide or to tear." Jesus and John and whoever else witnessed this encounter—those who were there that day—saw the heavens as it were torn open. It's a graphic picture and again no more detail is added but probably the best way to picture this is that in some sense the atmosphere that covers our earth and that makes the sky blue during the day time was in some way torn, ripped open as it were for a moment.

This was always a picture in the Old Testament of a message coming from God. And that's the picture here as well. By the way Mark only uses this word for "opening" or "tearing" here for the "tearing of the heavens" and again in 15:38 for the "tearing of the curtain" in the temple. So, you get the picture of something ripped open, it's like the heavens themselves the atmosphere which we look up at and depend on each day was ripped open over the Jordan River that day. Both of these by the way these two uses of Mark were supernatural events that were designed to serve as a sort of supernatural testimony to Jesus as the Son of God. It reminds me of Isaiah 64, where Isaiah says, "Oh, that you would rend the heavens God and come down" to rescue your people. And that's exactly what was happening. So, the heavens opened above Christ.

The second sort of supernatural miraculous event that occurred is that the Spirit descended upon Him verse 10 says. Now in the first century it was a common Jewish understanding that the Messiah would be especially endowed with God's Spirit. There were even documents that were found in Qumran, some of you are familiar with that, that Essen community down near the Dead Sea, that those of us who're going to Israel will see here in just a couple of weeks. There at the Qumran community they've discovered documents that speak of Messiah being especially endowed with the Spirit. So, this was a common Jewish expectation, outside even the Old Testament. Notice what Mark says in verse 10, "Immediately coming up out of the water, Jesus saw the heavens opening, and [He saw] the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him."

Now I encourage you to read your Bibles with a certain amount of sanctified imagination. When you read that passage something strange should strike you about it. He saw the Spirit. Does anything seem strange to you about that? He saw the Spirit, the Holy Spirit or for that matter any spirit is by definition invisible. It's a spirit. In fact, Jesus you remember in John 3 was talking to Nicodemus and He said listen the Spirit is like the wind, you can't see the wind you can just see the effects of it. So, the Spirit of God could have descended on Jesus without being seen. And yet, all three synoptics make a point of telling us that the Spirit manifested Himself in visible form.

The accounts say that either He descended as a dove or like a dove. Now that expression could mean a couple of different things. It could mean, like a dove in shape or form; that is, the Spirit took on the appearance of a dove. If that's true, then it's really hard for us to know what the significance is. The other possibility is that He descended like a dove in manner; that is, He hovered over Jesus. This same image is used in the Babylonian Talmud commenting on Genesis 1:2 where the Spirit of God hovered or brooded over the waters; pictures the Spirit brooding or hovering over the waters like a dove that may be the picture here. But I think Luke helps us a little bit because Luke puts it like this in his account. Luke 3:22, "The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in bodily form, like a dove."

That seems to indicate that He took the form or shape of a dove. The Holy Spirit descended from heaven in a visual image resembling a dove. Why a dove? I've read much on that issue and we just can't be certain. I would like to think that the reason is that the most common animal of the common bird that was sacrificed in the Old Testament for those who were too poor to offer anything else was a dove, picturing Jesus as the Great One who would provide Himself as a sacrifice, but we just don't know. We have no way to know specifically why a dove.

The bigger question I think is why did the Spirit appear at all? If He didn't have to take a visible form, then why did He appear? Well this we can be pretty sure of, first of all, as a testimony to who Jesus was. Look back at John 1, you remember what John the Baptist had said in verse 31, he says, "I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water."

So, I came to prepare for Him even though I didn't know Him, verse 32, "John testified saying, 'I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him.'" Now why is that significant? Verse 33, "I did not recognize Him," He says again, "but He who sent me to baptize in water"—that's God the Father—"said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.'"

So, it may be that the sole purpose for Him appearing as a dove was that that is what God had told John the Baptist would be the sign. It was a testimony to who Jesus was, He is the Messiah, He is the One coming of which you John are the forerunner.

But it's also the Spirit's appearance that day was about divine empowering. Here Mark says that the Spirit descended into Him. In John 1 verses 32 and 33 it says the Spirit remained on Him; it lighted and rested on Him. Now that's a graphic picture, because in the Old Testament the Spirit of God would rest on men specially chosen to give them the power for the roles that God had given them, had assigned to them. Mainly we're talking about Israel's kings, her priests and her prophets. Interestingly enough the Messiah was to fill all three of those roles. And so the Old Testament prophesied that the Spirit of God would rest on Messiah in a unique way. You can see it in a number of texts, but in Isaiah 42 verse 1 you see it most clearly. That the Spirit of God would in a special way empower the One whom God would send, the Messiah. So, it was a testimony of who Jesus was that He was in fact the Messiah, He was also for divine empowering, although certainly the Spirit of God was always with Jesus. Yet here is a picture of the Spirit specially empowering Him for the task He's called Him to do. And thirdly the Spirit appeared, I think, to show that this is the initiation of Jesus's ministry. In Acts 1 as I read you a little bit ago, to the apostles it was clear that the baptism of John that is, Jesus's baptism by John was the beginning of Jesus's ministry. Jesus's ministry officially began with this public act. So, the Spirit descended upon Him.

There's a third dramatic sign that took place that day: not only did the heavens tear apart; not only did the Spirit descend upon Jesus in a visible form; but thirdly the voice of God spoke to

Him. Verse 11, "And a voice came out of the heavens: 'You are my beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.'"

God is a God who constantly reveals Himself. He often spoke to the prophets, and He often spoke to them through visions and dreams. But only a few times before this does the Scripture say that God audibly spoke from heaven so that people on earth heard Him and understood Him. One of those times is in Genesis 21 in the life of Hagar and Ishmael.

God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is."

In Exodus 20, when God has gathered His people out of Egypt and is speaking to them the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai. Deuteronomy commenting on that says out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you. And on earth He let you see His great fire and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. God spoke the Ten Commandments to punctuate their seriousness to the people of Israel. In Daniel 4:31 to Nebuchadnezzar, "While the word was in the king's mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you.'"

There are only three times during the ministry of Christ when the New Testament record speaks of this happening: here at His baptism and all three of the synoptic gospels mentions the voice; at the transfiguration which we'll see in Mark chapter 9; and during the passion week in John chapter 12. And even at those times only those who truly believed in God heard the voice. Turn over to John chapter 12. I think this is interesting, John chapter 12, verse 28, Jesus here foretells His death, he says in verse 28, "'Father, glorify Your name.' Then a voice came out of heaven; 'I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.'"

So, during the passion week, Jesus is praying, and God audibly speaks from heaven, verse 29, "So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, 'An angel has spoken to Him.' Jesus answered and said, 'This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.'"

So here is one of three times that God the Father speaks (by the way we know it's God the Father speaking for several reasons: because the voice comes out of heaven; because it refers to Jesus as Son, and the other two members of the Trinity are already accounted for and present on the scene—Jesus and the Spirit.) Mark and Luke have the voice speak to Jesus and say, "You are My Son." In other words, it's directed specifically to Jesus. Matthew has the voice speak to at least John and probably to others and say, "this is My Son." Realize that this is all not happening primarily for Jesus. As we saw in John 12 just a moment ago, Jesus said, "This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes." Peter in 2 Peter 1 made the same point, that God spoke at the transfiguration to Jesus, but it was for the disciples who were there. So, God spoke to Jesus, but clearly, He spoke not primarily for Jesus's benefit, but to the benefit of others.

R. T. France writes in his excellent commentary on this passage,

This voice comes out of the heavens and the words spoken leave no room for doubt that the speaker is God Himself. These words are therefore of the highest importance. Whatever the verdicts which people in Mark's story may reach on the question of who Jesus is, the reader is left with no option when the identity of Jesus is declared explicitly on the highest possible authority.

So right here at the beginning, we're told that God Himself speaks as to the identity of Jesus Christ. We're going to encounter some people who don't believe in Jesus, but we're reminded at the very beginning that that is to sin against God's own personal testimony of who Jesus was.

Now notice what the Father says to Christ, He says, "And a voice came out of heavens: 'You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.'"

Look at that first phrase, "You are My beloved Son." "Beloved" here is used in the sense of special, unique, or only. This statement points to Jesus's unique relationship with God, to His identity. He is God's special, unique, only Son. You can see this in a number of passages including John 3:35, John 5:20 and Colossians 3:13. Jesus is unique. Most commentators agree that this expression that the Father uses here is drawn out of Psalm 2 and verse 7 where it reads,

"I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord," This is Christ speaking, "He said to Me," This is the Father saying to the Son, "You are My Son, today I have begotten You." You are my only, unique, special Son. The Jews of the first century understood Psalm 2 to be referring to the Messiah. So, understand what's happening here, God the Father actually speaks audibly from heaven and He identifies Jesus with an Old Testament passage as His unique special Son and He uses language that is purposefully Messianic.

And then He adds a second expression, "in You I am well pleased." This expression comes from Isaiah 42 and I want you to turn back to Isaiah 42 with me now. Isaiah 42, verse 1, this is one of those Servant sections of Isaiah, the suffering Servant who is to come; the One who had been predicted back in chapter 7 verse 14, in chapter 9 verse 6, in those majestic terms.

Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. [There it is, in Hebrew terms] I have put my Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.

There is the prophecy from which the voice from heaven speaks. He is, verse 1 says "the one in whom my soul delights"—in you I am well pleased. This is in the middle of one of those as I said, suffering Servant passages; so, God the Father is identifying Jesus as the promised suffering Servant of Isaiah and the prophecy that we read there. And by the way in Matthew chapter 12, the passage we looked at this morning, that passage is identified specifically with Jesus Himself. So, the Father makes it clear, He uses Psalm 2, He uses Isaiah 42, two passages that are thoroughly Messianic. They were understood to be in the first century. And He says, "I want you to know this is My Son, My unique, special Son, He is the Messiah." God could not have said it the Father could not have said it more clearly.

Now just on an aside, although this passage is about Jesus's baptism and God's affirmation of who He was. Tangentially it teaches to the doctrine of the Trinity. Just briefly let me mention that three Persons are present: Jesus coming up out of the water; the Spirit descending upon Him in the visible form of a dove; and the Father speaking from heaven. They are clearly represented as distinct, each one doing something different. There is a false teaching embraced by primarily in our day a group called Oneness Pentecostals. T. D. Jakes is probably the most well-known voice of that movement that teaches an ancient heresy called modalism; that is, that there are not three persons in one God, there is only one person sort of pretending to be three persons. So that in this scenario, you have Jesus being baptized at the same time descending upon Himself and at the same time speaking from heaven; that's the picture of Oneness Pentecostalism. But this text won't allow that, they are three persons are clearly present; they are clearly represented as distinct. And yet at the same time the Bible teaches that there is only one God in both the Old Testament and the New. So, what we're left with then, is that there is one God manifest in three distinct persons. We call this teaching the doctrine of the Trinity and it's clear in such passages as this.

Now we need to ask the bigger question here as we conclude our study and that is what was the purpose of the baptism of John? Why did Jesus leave His carpenters workshop at the age of 30 and as an act to initiate His ministry go purposefully to the Jordan to where John the Baptist was baptizing there to be baptized by him? What is the point? There are four of them I believe. Number one, in doing this Jesus affirmed the message and ministry of John the Baptist. Jesus affirmed John's ministry of preparing Israel the people of God for the coming of their Messiah and His kingdom which was near according to John. Jesus also associated with those who were looking for the coming of that King and His kingdom. So, by going and being baptized by John, Jesus was affirming the ministry and message of John.

But secondly, the baptism of Jesus confirmed Jesus's own identity. It affirmed Him as the promised Messiah, we saw that in John 1 already. It affirmed Him from the words of God Himself as the unique Son of God. So, the baptism not only was Jesus affirming John the Baptist and his ministry, but it was God confirming Jesus's identity.

A third reason or purpose is that it fulfilled a perfect righteous life. In Matthew 3:15, you remember Jesus told John permit it for now, for in doing this we will fulfill all righteousness, in other words this is what a righteous person does, and therefore it's crucial that I do this because I am here to live a perfectly righteous life and this is what a righteous person does and so I'm here to be baptized. Permit it so that we can fulfill all righteousness.

But there's a fourth possible reason, those three are very clear, but there's a fourth one I believe, and that is that Jesus's baptism served as a vicarious repentance; that, is repentance in the place of others. Very interesting, Mark 1:4 tells us that John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He came preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Mark 1:5 says that all the people were going out to be baptized by him and while they were doing it, they were confessing their sins. Four verses later it says Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan. Now think about this, Jesus was baptized with a baptism that had to do with sin, repentance and forgiveness. But the rest of the New Testament record makes it very clear that it was not His sin— He had none—it was not His repentance, He had no need for repentance because there was no sin, and He certainly had no need for forgiveness. Therefore, it must have been for ours.

Many commentators take this position and I'm prone to take it with them, and that is that this was part of that life of Christ lived in the place of you and me. Isaiah 53 had predicted that the Servant would take the sin of His people on Himself, that He would be their substitute. Christ's life then provides a substitute's righteousness, He lived the life we should have lived. He did what you should have done. He interacted with His family the way you should interact with your family. He loved others the way you should love others and I should love others. He loved God the way we should love God. Everything He did was a perfect pattern of righteousness and in so doing that righteous life is credited to us when we come in faith and repentance to Christ. Christ's death, the Scripture is very clear, provided a substitute's death. When Jesus died, He died for the guilty, the innocent for the guilty in place of sinners. That's clear in both Testaments. And so, it may very well be that Christ's baptism provided a substitute's repentance. Think about it for a moment. Last Sunday morning we studied Psalm 51 and the confession of sin and the seeking of true repentance and the manifestation of true repentance. Let me ask you a question. When was the last time that your repentance of sin was completely full and thorough? Or do you find yourself all too often as I do confessing the same sins again and again. As one Puritan put it in one of those great prayers in the Valley of Vision, "Our repentance needs to be repented of."

In Christ I believe we have a complete Savior. He lived the life we should have lived, He responded to our sin the way we should have responded to our sin and He died to pay the price for sin that you and I should have paid. He is a complete Savior. D. Edmond Hiebert writes, "He deliberately identified Himself with sinners taking His place with them in order that as their representative He might redeem them." A. Schlattler writes, "He associates Himself with sinners and ranges Himself in the ranks of the guilty, not to find salvation for Himself, not on account of His own guilt and His flight from approaching wrath but because He is at one with the church and the bearer of divine mercy."

Jesus went to the Jordan to be baptized by John with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. In so doing He affirmed the ministry of John; God the Father affirmed the identity of Jesus. He fulfilled the righteous commands that a righteous person should do in this life in preparing for the coming Messiah, who was Himself. And He also did it, I believe in our place. The repentance we should manifest and do manifest to some degree, but never perfectly. What a Savior. Let's pray together.

Our Father, we delight in this passage as we meet in Mark's record for the first time our Lord. Lord we cannot imagine that Your eternal Son took on human flesh and became one of us; lived for thirty years in that tiny little obscure, out of the way village, living as a member of the family, living as a part of the village, eventually taking over the family business Himself and providing for the family. For thirty years and then as His first public act, going to be baptized with the baptism of repentance, what humility. Father what amazing grace we see in Christ, we thank You that He has done it all for us. Help us to live in love for Him, in obedience to Him. Help us to live our lives for Him who loved us and gave Himself up for us. We pray it in His name, for His sake, Amen.