The Baptism of Jesus

Mark: The Suffering Servant-Savior  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The baptism of Jesus commenced His public ministry as a servant and confirmed His personal mission as the Savior.



Glorious God,
Give us understanding as we come to Your Word.
Give us wisdom to apply Your Word to our lives.
Give us a desire to see Jesus in Your Word.
Give us an enjoyment of Your Word as we encounter our Savior.
And give us a changed heart as a result of us seeing Jesus and submitting to what Your Word has to teach us.


In C.S. Lewis' book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we're first introduced to the world of Narnia. Narnia was a once beautiful world that has grown cold and dark. The four Pevensie children enter through a magical wardrobe to a snow-covered forest in Narnia where they learn that it's been winter for over 100 years. Evil reigns and hope is dead. But with the arrival of these human children, things begin to change. The inhabitants of Narnia slowly begin to hope again.
Soon after their arrival, they meet Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. Mr. Beaver explains to the children why rumors of hope were spreading throughout the land. He shares with the children an ancient Narnian prophecy that promised before deliverance would come to Narnia, two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve would appear. These children were prophesied to be messengers of hope to Narnia. But the hopes of the citizens of Narnia are not in the children; it is clear that their hopes are in someone else: a lion named Aslan. Mr. Beaver tells the children:
“They say Aslan is on the move- perhaps has already landed."
He goes on to recite an old prophecy to the children:
"Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we will have spring again."
The Pevensie children brought hope to Narnia, not in themselves, but in the one who would follow after them, the one who would deliver Narnia from the long, cold, dark winter. In Aslan, Narnia's greatest hopes were fulfilled, their deepest longings were satisfied, and their winter was changed to more pleasant conditions!
In Mark chapter 1, we've met a man who, much like these Pevensie children, was a messenger of hope to Israel. But, as this man, John the Baptist, attests, this hope was not found in himself but in One who will come after him, One whom John proclaimed as "He who is mightier than I". John the Baptist points us to the only One who can fulfill our greatest hopes, satisfy our deepest longings, and bring real, lasting change. [[Adapted and originally from Matt Carter, Josh Wredberg, David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida. “A Messenger of Hope.” Essay. In Exalting Jesus in John, 28. Broadman & Holman Publishing Group, 2017.]]
Enter Jesus Christ onto the stage of Mark's Gospel in Mark chapter 1 verses 9 to 11.
Mark 1:9–11 ESV
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark’s Gospel does not introduce us to Jesus as a baby born in Bethlehem, but as a full grown man being baptized in a brook. Each of the four Gospels includes the event of Jesus’ baptism. Admittedly, Mark’s account is one of the shortest, containing only 53 words in the Greek. But don’t let the size of Mark’s account fool you into thinking that the baptism of Jesus is insignificant. Really, Jesus’ baptism is one of the more significant events of His life recorded for us in the Gospels. The earliest days of the Church testify that Jesus’ baptism was deemed “a defining and indispensable fact of Jesus’ life.” [[Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 34).]] When the apostles’ were trying to choose who to replace Judas as the 12th apostle, the criteria established by Peter in Acts 1:21-22 was that this man had to “have accompanied us [11] during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when He was taken up from us”. The apostles understood the significance of Jesus’ baptism to be the inaugural event that launched His servant ministry which would lead to the climax of His saving mission on the cross.
Thus, we could summarize Jesus’ baptism in this way:
Theme: The baptism of Jesus commenced His public ministry as a servant and confirmed His personal mission as the Savior.
Contrary to the other three Gospel accounts, Mark was less concerned about the theological issues of Jesus’ baptism. Mark was not concerned about the details of why it happened. Instead, Mark was more caught up in the details of what happened. For that reason, I’m going to attempt to follow closer to Mark’s pattern this morning and have us observe the details of what happened when Jesus was baptized, rather than dive deep into the doctrinal details as to why Jesus came to John to be baptized. Although, I must admit it is too tempting for me to avoid at least briefly touching upon it. The other Gospels do a sufficient job focusing more fully on the why of Jesus’ baptism, but Mark would have us meditate more fully on the what of Jesus’ baptism. Verses 9 to 11 break down nicely into four details of what transpired when Jesus was baptized.

1. The decision of the Son (v. 9)

The first detail we run into is the decision of the Son of God to be baptized by John in the Jordan. The decision of the Son. This is not so much stated directly in the text, but the implication from verse 9, as well as the other three Gospels, is that Jesus decided for Himself to be baptized. And what a momentous decision it was!
Mark 1:9 ESV
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
Just picture the scene. Imagine that you’re among the waves of people flocking out to John the Baptist in the wilderness on the banks of the river Jordan. The week before you had heard John preach a powerful message about repentance, forgiveness, and baptism. So, you’ve returned with a heavy heart, ready to confess your sins and get in line to be baptized. As you wait, John repeats the message you heard the last time about this powerful person who was coming after him. As he preaches, John’s attention is drawn to a man making his way through the throng of people. When John recognizes who this man is, he cries out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he whom I have preached to you” (John 1:29-30).
You crane your neck above the mass of people in front of you to catch a better glimpse. What you see isn’t all that spectacular. From John’s message you assumed this “Mightier One” would be some imposing figure. Instead, this man was rather inconspicuous. He looked rather average. Then you hear the crowd whisper where this nondescript man had come from. Basically Nowheresville. An obscure village called Nazareth in the region of Galilee, a region viewed by you and your fellow Jews as unclean because of its population of Gentiles and its distance from Jerusalem. “What’s so significant about this man’s decision to receive John’s baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins like the rest of us,” you wonder.
Well, Jesus’ decision to be baptized was significant for at least four reasons. As I’ve already promised, I won’t dive deep into these reasons, but it is worth mentioning a few words on them.
First, Jesus’ decision to be baptized meant He endorsed John’s ministry. His baptism was His approval of what John was preaching and doing. John’s message about repentance and forgiveness was the same message Jesus would preach later.
Second, Jesus’ decision to be baptized identified Him with sinners. Note that I’ve said identified Him WITH sinners, not identified Him AS a sinner. Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God unstained by sin. He had no need of forgiveness, but He chose to be numbered among sinners because that is who He came to save. His baptism is a picture of the gospel He came to preach and fulfill! It pictured His sacrificial, substitutionary atoning death for sinners and His glorious resurrection from the grave, granting dead sinners new life in Him!
Third, Jesus’ decision to be baptized involved His obedience. There is a distinction to be made when we talk about Christ’s obedience. There is Jesus’ passive obedience, which centers on His sufferings. He took upon Himself the sufferings necessary to pay for our sins. This especially includes the pain He suffered on the cross; pain of physical suffering and death; the pain of bearing our sins; the pain of abandonment from His Father; and the pain of bearing the wrath of God for our sin.
Then there is what is called Christ’s active obedience. This obedience centers on how He obeyed all the requirements of the law of God in our place and was perfectly obedient to the will of His Father as the sinner’s representative. [Grudem, “Systematic Theology”]. Sinners need both the passive and active obedience of Christ to be declared righteous by God. If Christ came to Earth as a full grown man and went straight to the cross to die, all that He would have done was pay the wages for our sins: death. But, because Jesus Christ was born as a baby and lived a perfectly righteous life to His dying breath, His perfect righteousness is imputed, credited to the account of sinners who put their faith in Him, thus graciously granting them eternal life in Heaven by virtue of His obedience. He not only died in our place as our representative, but He also lived obediently in our place as our representative. Amazingly, Jesus’ baptism factors into our justification!
And now fourth, Jesus’ decision to be baptized inaugurated His public ministry. His baptism was the transitional moment from a life lived in private to a life lived in public. From this point forward, Jesus is empowered by the Spirit, engaging in battle against demons, performing great miracles and healings, preaching, and resurrecting the dead.
Mark’s main focus in verse 9 is to recount the fact that Jesus did make the decision to be baptized.
Which compels me to pause for a moment and ask you an important question. If by Jesus’ baptism He willingly and publically chose to identify with you, have you willingly and publically chosen to identify with Him by being baptized as well? If Jesus Christ, the perfectly holy, spotlessly righteous Son of God desired to announce to the world and to His Father through baptism that He identified with you, then what is keeping you from announcing to the world that you desire to identify with Him? I’ll leave you to draw other applications for yourself concerning Jesus’ decision, but at the very least seriously take to heart this single application.

2. The division of the heavens over the Son (v. 10a)

Let’s move onto a second detail of Jesus’ baptism that Mark recounts: the division of the heavens over the Son. This is the first of three supernatural signs that took place at the Lord’s baptism. There was a visible rending of the heavens.
Mark 1:10 ESV
And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
Throughout the Bible, the rending of the heavens was typically a sign that God was about to speak, to reveal Himself, or do some great work. When the heavens are opened we are essentially given a window into God’s divine purposes. Such an event happened to the prophet Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 1:1 NIV
In my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.
In this opening chapter, Ezekiel witnesses the awesome approach of the glory of God.
King David, in 2 Samuel 22, spoke to the LORD on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul, singing in verse 10:
2 Samuel 22:10 ESV
He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet.
Here, the opening of the heavens is related to God’s work of deliverance. That same thought is repeated again by David in Psalm 18:9 and then in Psalm 144:5 it is actually turned into a petition:
Psalm 144:5 ESV
Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down! Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
The prophet Isaiah had a similar petition which connects well to Jesus’ baptism.
Isaiah 64:1–2 ESV
Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
The prophet viewed the heavens as this giant canopy or curtain which concealed God. So, he prayed that the LORD would rip the heavens in two, step down into this world to make His presence known and felt. Hold on to that thought. I’ll come back to this in a second.
In Matthew and Luke’s Gospel accounts, their record of Jesus emerging from the water is similar to Mark’s, except they use a different verb than Mark saying, “the heavens were opened” (Matt. 3:16; Luke 3:21). Matthew and Luke used a Greek verb that means “to open” like you would open a door or a book. In fact that is how Jesus used that verb when teaching on prayer telling us to “knock, and it will be opened to you… for… to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8). In a way, when we pray God opens the door to His throne room to answer our requests.
But Mark in his Gospel used a more violent verb in the Greek. He used the word schizo which means “to be forcefully or violently divided into parts or pieces”. This would be the proper way to translate the Hebrew word for “rend” that Isaiah used in his petition. Similar usages of that Hebrew word are used to describe the parting of the Red Sea; it’s used to describe Moses’ cleaving of the rock in the wilderness to provide water for the people; and it’s used by Zechariah to prophesy of when the Lord will set His feet on the Mount of Olives when He returns as Judge and the mountain will be split in two.
In this way, Mark describes the heavens being opened, not politely like a door or gently like a book, but rather torn in two like a lightning bolt dividing the clouds and sky above. It may not sound like it, but there is a difference between the two uses of these Greek words. What is opened can be easily closed again. But, what is torn is not so easily or quickly mended. It’s as if to say that all heaven breaks loose when Jesus came up out of the water.
What’s even more interesting about Mark using this verb is that he used it in only one other place in his Gospel. It’s right before the Roman centurion’s confession as he saw Jesus breathe His last on the cross.
Mark 15:38 ESV
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
Both of these “rendings”, the first at Jesus’ baptism of the heavens and the second of the curtain that guarded the Holy of holies in the temple, were supernatural occurences that revealed Jesus to be the Son of God.
Both acts really teach us about our access to God, too. At Jesus’ baptism we see God dividing the heavens to have access to us. That access is confirmed through the incarnation and baptism of the Son of God. God comes to us through the life of the Son. Then, at Jesus’ crucifixion, the tearing of the curtain to the Holy of holies shows us that through Christ’s death, He has now given us access to God. At His baptism, God’s presence is revealed as having come to us in Christ. At Jesus’ death and because of His death, we now have access into God’s holy presence. These are brilliant bookends to the life, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. God has made a way to make His presence known to us through Jesus’ life and Jesus has made a way for us to enter into God’s presence through His death. Isaiah’s prayer is answered marvelously in these two events in Jesus’ life and death.
This adds another dimension to Jesus’ baptism, doesn’t it? It may be the inauguration of Christ’s ministry, but it points us forward to the climax of His saving mission, of why He truly came. He came to bring God to us through His life, but also to bring us to God through His death!

3. The descension of the Spirit on the Son (v. 10b)

There is another detail Mark would have us see in the rest of verse 10. Along with the division of the heavens came the descension of the Spirit on the Son. This is the second supernatural sign at Christ’s baptism. The visible descent of the Holy Spirit.
Mark 1:10 ESV
And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
Again, this is a significant piece of information which explains more about who Jesus is and why He could do what He did throughout His ministry on earth from this point on.
One of the biggest reasons that the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus is significant is because it confirms Him to be the Messiah. Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament asserted that the Messiah would possess the Spirit of God.
There are three messianic prophecies in the book of Isaiah that especially support this.
Isaiah 11 prophesies of six attributes the Spirit will empower the Messiah with.
Isaiah 11:1–2 ESV
1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Wisdom and understanding will empower the Messiah to lead. Counsel and might will empower Him to accomplish His plan and purpose. And knowledge and fear of the LORD will empower Him for holiness. [see ESV Study Bible note on Isa. 11:2].
We’ve already read a second prophecy earlier this morning in Isaiah 42. In Isaiah 41, the LORD points to the foolishness of idol-worship and compares the failure of idols to the success of His chosen servant. Listen to the comparison the LORD made between idols and His servant.
Isaiah 41:29–42:1 ESV
29 Behold, they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their metal images are empty wind. 1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
So, the Servant’s success will come from the empowerment of God’s Spirit, which brings life, in contrast to the failure of idols because they are only powered by empty wind, which is worthless and is dead.
And a third prophecy about the Messiah possessing the Spirit is in Isaiah 61.
Isaiah 61:1–3 ESV
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
The Messiah’s anointing by the Spirit empowers Him to redeem God’s people through His message of good news and ministry of grace which will ultimately glorify God.
As we march through the Gospel of Mark we will see Jesus fulfilling these very prophecies precisely because He is the Messiah empowered by God’s Spirit. We will hear Him preach good news, see Him heal the hurting and the lame, and witness Him freeing captives from sin; we’ll listen to Him proclaim God’s grace to sinners, hear Him teach about a coming day of judgment, and see Him attend to those who mourn. And of course, we will read how He restored and reconciled sinners to God glorifying His Father.
The descent of the Spirit was an empowering experience for Jesus, but it was also a confirming and commissioning experience for Him. This supernatural act confirmed to Him His mission as Savior and commissioned Him to actively fulfill His saving mission.
At the risk of distracting us from the main focus of this particular part of Christ’s baptism, I do want to offer a word of application for us, both individually as believers and corporately as a church. If according to the perfect counsel and plan of God’s will, Jesus Christ, the sinless, perfect, Son of God was empowered by the Spirit of God to glorify God in all He did, how much more must we depend upon the Holy Spirit; us who are prone to sin, imperfect in our Christian walk, and fall short of living for God’s glory day after day?
We need to hear the Holy Spirit testify to our spirit that we are indeed children of God (Rom. 8:16). We need the Spirit’s illuminating to understand God’s Word (1 Cor. 2:10-16). We must depend upon the Spirit to equip us with spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12). We must rely upon the Spirit to teach us all things and guide us in the truth (John 14:26; 16:13). We require the Spirit to bring us to full maturity in Christ. And in our mission to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the lost, we must seek the power of the Holy Spirit, for only the Spirit can bring regeneration, renewal, and repentance to those to whom we preach. Only through the Holy Spirit will this church fulfill our Christ-given purpose to Love God, Love One Another, and Reach Others with the gospel. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).

4. The declaration of the Father to His Son (v. 11)

Mark has one final detail for us to witness concerning Jesus’ baptism. He would have us to hear the declaration of the Father to His Son. This is the third supernatural sign, which is not a visible sign but an audible one.
Mark 1:11 ESV
11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
From the rent heavens comes the voice of God. Matthew’s Gospel recounts this voice as a public announcement to the crowd around the Jordan. “This is my beloved Son”. But, Mark chose to focus on this event as a personal moment between the Father and His Son, “YOU are my beloved Son”. A similar message came to Jesus at His transfiguration from the Father, but God adds a command for the three disciples witnessing the event:
Mark 9:7 ESV
And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
To any readers attuned to the Old Testament, God’s words to His Son at His baptism allude to a couple of things.
First, these words allude to Isaiah 42:1, which we’ve already considered.
But second, this is also an allusion to Psalm 2, which is what is called an “Enthronement Psalm”. An enthronement psalm celebrates the coronation and rule of God’s King over God’s people. Often in the Old Testament a Davidic king was called by others or by himself, a son of God. The psalmist, believed to have been David, writes:
Psalm 2:7 ESV
I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
So, at Jesus’ baptism, God was personally affirming His Son as the rightful Davidic King of God’s people. We get the sense that those in the audience at the baptism either didn’t catch that or hear it at all because the next time Jesus is called king in Mark’s Gospel would be at His Triumphal Entry and then when the Jewish leaders mocked Jesus as He hung on the cross saying, “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:32).
Mark appears to be painting a picture that Jesus, although He is confirmed by God the Father as King, He would not be the triumphant King we’d expect from this moment on in His life. In fact, the Father’s words to His Son harken back to another “beloved son” in the Bible, named Isaac, whom Abraham was commanded to sacrifice to the LORD, but was graciously spared through a substitute. So, we get the picture that Jesus isn’t a King who would rule His people from a comfortable throne. Instead, as the end of Mark’s Gospel clarifies, Jesus is a King who would rescue His people through sacrifice, being crucified on a tree.
There are three truths we discover from the Father’s declaration to His Son.
First, the Father loves Jesus because He is His eternal Son. The Father did not adopt Jesus as His Son at His baptism, nor did Jesus become a god or like God at His baptism, as some heretics believe, but He was with God and is God from eternity past. God’s love perfectly existed between the three members of the Trinity since before the dawn of time. The Father eternally loves the Son and the Spirit. The Son eternally loves the Father and the Spirit. And the Spirit eternally loves the Father and the Son.
Second, the Father delights in and is satisfied in His Son because God chiefly delights in and is fully satisfied in Himself. One of God’s attributes is called His asiety, which refers to Him being self-sufficient and self-satisfied. Even before creation, God was totally pleased and satisfied in Himself. There was nothing lacking within the Trinity that compelled God to create, as if He needed anything. Rather, God desired to share His delight and satisfaction in Himself with His creation, that they too would delight in and be satisfied in Him.
And third, the Son of God pleased His Father because of His perfect and willing obedience. The LORD is righteous and is pleased with righteousness, therefore it is only proper that He should be pleased with Jesus, who is righteousness incarnate. Christ alone perfectly obeyed and fully satisfied the righteous demands of God. God the Father and God the Son enjoy a right relationship with each other and this gives the Father supreme pleasure in His Son.


To recap everything from Jesus’ baptism for us, I want to offer a few concluding thoughts.
Number one, God has drawn near to us through Jesus’ life. He literally tore the heavens in two to make His presence known to us through His Son. But also, through Jesus’ death, which satisfied God’s justice for sin and imputes to us His perfect righteousness by faith, we now have gracious access into God’s holy presence! Are you taking advantage of this glorious privilege? God did everything to draw near to you. What are you doing to draw near to God?
Number two, Jesus Christ is the object of God’s love, favor, and delight because they are in right relationship with One another. God the Father is chiefly delighted and pleased in His Son. What is Jesus to you? Jesus should be our beloved, our greatest treasure and our greatest pleasure. When we delight in Him we will experience uncontainable joy.
And number three, the only way for you to become the object of that same love, favor, and delight from God the Father, which He has for His Son, is to be in a right relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. God treats those of us in Christ as if we are His Son. In Christ we become God’s beloved. We are loved by Him, we receive His favor, and God is well pleased with us because of Jesus Christ. Come to Christ this day by faith and enjoy God’s love, favor, and delight! If you’ve already come to Christ by faith, then cultivate your relationship with Him. Conform more and more to His likeness as you experience more and more of His grace.


Lord Jesus,
We cannot fully fathom the love You have for us
or the love You have for Your Father,
which we’ve witnessed in Your obedience to Him.
We are truly blessed that in You and through You alone
God has come to us
and we can come to God.
We are eternally grateful that You chose to identify with sinners
that you chose to be our representative of righteousness by Your obedient life
and our representative on the cross, obediently suffering God’s punishment we deserved for our sin by Your death.
We desire to draw near to You today
to love You as our Savior
to worship You as the Son of God
and to trust in You as our Shepherd.
We pray this in Your most precious name.
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