We saw in our study last week that John the Baptizer was a messenger sent by God to call attention to Jesus and His ministry. John says:
Mark 1:7 (NASB) And he was preaching, and saying, "After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.
Now in verse 9, John introduces us to Jesus. Mark tells us nothing of His birth or childhood but begins the story at His baptism:
Mark 1:9 (NASB) And it came about in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
The advent of Jesus is described in very matter-of-fact terms. There were no trumpets or fanfare. One day He simply arrived from His home in Nazareth and was baptized like anyone else who had come to be baptized. What made this baptism significant was what took place AFTER the baptism.
All four gospels record the baptism of Jesus. Therefore, it evidently was very significant in the life of our Lord. Yet, there is something strange about this baptism. As we saw last time, a remarkable thing was happening in Israel. Literally thousands of people were leaving their homes, their jobs, their families, and streaming out of the cities down into the desert to listen to this strange man, John the Baptist. They were coming out of the cities because it had been 400 years since they had a word from God, and they believed that John was the forerunner of the Messiah. John baptized all who repented, acknowledged their guilt, and sought forgiveness of sins. As we saw, this was the emphasis of John's ministry. He granted baptism as a sign of the cleansing of God only to those who genuinely acknowledged their need before God by confessing their sins. And there were thousands of them.
Yet, when Jesus came out of Galilee to John to be baptized, John protested. Matthew tells us that when Jesus came, John said to him:
Matthew 3:14 (NASB) But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?"
That is a remarkable statement, especially if you understand that John did not know at this time that Jesus was Messiah:
John 1:33-34 (NASB) "And I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water 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.' 34 "And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."
John had most likely known Jesus ever since boyhood, for they were cousins. And if you can't find fault with your relatives, whom can you find fault with? Yet it is most remarkable that when this relative comes, John says of him, "I have need to be baptized by You". There was nothing in Jesus' life that John had seen which required repentance and confession of sins.
Jesus answered John in a most remarkable way:
Matthew 3:15 (NASB) But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted^ Him.
Why did Jesus need to be baptized?
Jesus did not come to be baptized because He was repenting of His sins. He had none. By John's own admission, Jesus did not need to be baptized. But He came anyway. In coming, He said that it was necessary to fulfill all righteousness. But what did that mean "to fulfill all righteousness?" How could Jesus' coming to submit to a baptism He did not need fulfill all righteousness? In order to understand that, we must realize why He came. What was His motive in coming?
The question is a valid one seeing that Jesus was the sinless Son of God:
Hebrews 4:15 (NASB) For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
So why was Jesus baptized? It was an act of identification. Some teach that at His baptism Jesus took our sin, He identified with our sin. But the problems that this raises are how Jesus taking upon Himself at that time the sin of the elect could still maintain in a perfect relationship with God. Did Jesus, in fact, take upon Himself our sin at this point in His life and so "carry it" for the next three years of His ministry before finally paying its price on the cross at Calvary? That Jesus was made to be sin is clear from Scripture:
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
But I Peter states plainly that He bore our sins on the cross:
1 Peter 2:24 (NASB) and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
Jesus took upon Himself our sin on the cross and not before. This is also the apparent interpretation of the darkness which spread itself over all the land:
Matthew 27:45 (NASB) Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.
God the Father could no longer look upon His own Son, because of the sin He'd taken upon Himself. It is wrong to see Jesus as bearing the sin of the elect from the moment of His baptism onwards. I like the way Dr. H. A. Ironside explained Christ identifying with us in His baptism:
We are like paupers who have accumulated so many debts that we cannot pay them. These are our sins. These tremendous claims are made against us, and we cannot possibly meet them. But when Jesus came, He took all these mortgages and notes and agreements we could not meet and endorsed them with His own name, thereby saying that He intended to pay them, He would meet them. This is what His baptism signifies, and is why Jesus said to John the baptist, "...thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness," (Matthew 3:15b RSV). He declared His intention to meet the righteous demands of God by Himself undertaking to pay the debts of men. So the baptism was clearly an act of identification.
Mark 1:10 (NASB) And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him;
"Immediately" - The Greek word is eutheos, and this is the first of more than 40 times this word is used in the Gospel of Mark.
"Heavens opening"- It is unfortunate that the translators used the word "opening" here. When you read the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke, it says that "the heavens were opened," and that is a very accurate translation of the Greek word. But Mark does not use that word; Mark uses a completely different word. He uses a word schizo, that is much more dramatic; it's much more graphic. It is a word that means: "the heavens were ripped open; the heavens were torn in two." It is much more dramatic, because it is relevant to the point he is trying to make, as he establishes the wonder of this mission that Jesus was on. He says, "When Jesus was baptized, the heavens were ripped in two"--indicating that the mission of Jesus would rip open the heavens and make it possible for a holy God to have a relationship with sinful men and women.
This Greek word schizo, is used by Mark at the beginning and end of Christ's earthly ministry. Mark uses this same word when Jesus died on the Cross and the veil in the Temple was torn apart from top to bottom (Mark 15:38).
This idea of tearing open the heavens is probably related to Isaiah, a favorite author of both the early Christians and the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls:
Isaiah 64:1 (NASB) Oh, that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, That the mountains might quake at Thy presence
Mark goes on to say, "He saw ...the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him"
Luke puts it this way:
Luke 3:22 (NASB) and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased."
It doesn't mean that the Holy Spirit was a dove, but appeared like a dove. We also know that John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit coming down on Jesus:
John 1:32 (NASB) And John bore witness saying, "I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him.
Was there a literal dove or was the visible descent of the Spirit shaped like a dove or was the descent of the Spirit in the fashion of a dove's graceful fluttering without the shape? Those are good questions, but ones that we cannot answer dogmatically. There was something visible, and that is unquestionable. But "as" or "like" [hosei] implies that it was not a dove but had the resemblance of a dove or at least a dove-like fashion.
What did the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus actually symbolize? In the Old Testament, the
anointing of the Holy Spirit that came upon believers was that which set them apart for a specific
ministry to the Lord, earmarking them for some special service. In simple terms, this anointing
was seen to be an influence on the life of the individual concerned so that what took place both in
and through the person upon whom the Spirit had come could be seen to be none other than the
work of God Himself.
Isaiah foretold of the Messiah in words that Jesus Christ accepted for Himself:
Isaiah 61:1-2 (NASB) The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives, And freedom to prisoners; 2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,
The coming of the Holy Spirit tells us of the initiation of Jesus Christ's Messianic work.
This raises problems in many people's minds. After all, wasn't Jesus God incarnate - that is, God in human form? Why did He need the provision of the Holy Spirit when He could do everything He needed to do as God, rather than as man reliant upon the provision of God?
There is indeed a mystery here, but we need to envisage God the Son as allowing Himself to be totally dependent on the Father in everything in order that He could show mankind that this way of life was possible to live and so be perfectly obedient to God with all the provision mankind had at his disposal.
Jesus, then, was God in human form, but He didn't use the provision or authority of His deity to perform or do any of His works. Rather, submitting to the will of the Father, He followed the moving of the Holy Spirit as a man, lived life as a man, and died on the cross as a man in order that, as a man, He might redeem mankind.
Therefore, the anointing of the Holy Spirit is an important event to occur for, without it, Jesus could not have been God as man, moving on earth and operating out of His manhood rather than His deity.
I know that this is hard to grasp - and, perhaps, it's not something that we need to get our heads round too intricately - but, when seeing Jesus walk upon the earth and live as He did, we should always consider Him primarily from the viewpoint of a man, listening to God, dependent upon God, and obedient to God.
Mark 1:11 (NASB) and a voice came out of the heavens: "Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased."
It's rare in the Bible when we read that God speaks audibly from heaven, but this is one of those glorious occasions.
Now let me ask you a couple of questions here: Who saw the Holy Spirit descend from Heaven in the form of a dove, and, secondly, who heard the voice call from Heaven?
According to Mark, it was Jesus who saw the heavens ripped open. It was Jesus who saw the Spirit descending as a dove. It was Jesus who heard the voice of the Father. The voice of the Father did not say, "This is My Son." It said, "You are my Son." As far as we know, nobody else, except John the Baptist, actually saw this or heard this. We know John the Baptist did, because he tells us that in John 1.
John was given the responsibility of announcing to the nation who it was that was to follow after him (John 1:33), and it was not relevant for the phenomenon to be revealed to those standing around. Indeed, no other people are said to have witnessed it, and the early disciples who followed after Jesus did so because they believed the word that John spoke, not because they saw the things that he saw (John 1:35-37).
"Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased" - Jesus Christ is the "beloved" of the Father. Contemplate for a moment the Father's love for His Son before the creation. "Beloved" is an endearing term showing that Christ is the object of the Father's affections from all eternity. He is the One in whom the Father delights. And it is this One that has been sent by the Father as our Redeemer.
"In whom I am well-pleased"- Isaiah makes a similar Messianic declaration:
Isaiah 42:1 (NASB) "Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.
The Father finds eternal pleasure in the Son. He found pleasure in the Son's Incarnation, in His sinless life, and in His faithfulness.
So God said to Jesus, "Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased." And, you know, God is still well-pleased with His Son. And if you have been united through faith with His Son, then He is well-pleased with you, too. The glory of this gospel message is that God sees all who have trusted Him as in Christ.
Ephesians 1:6 (NASB) to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Ephesians 1:6 (YLT) to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He did make us accepted in the beloved,
Every one of us ought to say to ourselves every morning, "This is what my Father is saying to me: 'Thou art my beloved son, or daughter, in whom I am well pleased.'" That is what gives us a sense of security and identity, a place to stand, which means we can be calm and unthreatened when everything goes to pieces around us.
These three verses in Mark give us a strange scene! You have the humble beginnings: "Jesus," a common, unremarkable name; "from Nazareth," a small and insignificant place in the Galilean hills- His background is unassuming; not only a despised Galilean (see John 7.41, 52), but from an insignificant village. Of Galilee- the "unspiritual" region, not the "Bible belt" of the area at that time; "was baptized," identifying with sinful man; "in the Jordan," an unremarkable - often even unpleasant - river. "Early rabbinic tradition explicitly disqualifies the River Jordan for purification, [according to] The Mishnah, Parah VIII. 10."
Then you have the great glory: "The heavens parting": This phrase is strong. It has the idea that the sky was torn in two. "The Spirit... descending": The Spirit of God was present, and in some way His presence was discernible. "A voice came from heaven: 'You are My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.'" What could be more glorious than to have God the Father praise and affirm you publicly?
The relevant point that Mark is making here is that this was an event that was so spectacular and so earth-shattering that when Jesus began His mission, the heavens were literally ripped open. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit--the holy Trinity of God--were all involved in the launching of this eternity-changing mission.
Our text for today is one of the familiar passages of the New Testament that show us the entire Trinity in action. God the Son is baptized, God the Father speaks from heaven, and God the Holy Spirit descends like a dove.
We see all three members of the Trinity in other texts as well:
Matthew 28:19 (NASB) "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
2 Corinthians 13:4 (NASB) For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we shall live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.
The Very first mention of God in the Scripture is in the plural:
Genesis 1:1 (NASB) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
"Elohiym" is the Hebrew word that we translate as God in Genesis 1:1. the ordinary sense of the word is "gods."
Though the word "Trinity" is never found in the pages of Scripture, it is a doctrine that is taught throughout the Scripture. "Trinity" is a word used to express the unity of God subsisting in three distinct persons. It is a word describing the unity of the Godhead as three co-eternal, co-equal Persons, each having the same substance, but distinct persons. It is a word that describes a purely revealed doctrine, indiscoverable by reason, but clearly taught in Scripture.
As Christians, we affirm that there is one eternal being known as God. Yet this one eternal being exists in three individual persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Logically, in our human minds we cannot entirely understand how one Being can exist in three persons. Yet, as Christians, we affirm both truths to be true. The 1689 London Baptist Confession of faith, Chapter 2, paragraph 3 states:
In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him. 1 John 5:7; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Exodus 3:14; John 14:11; 1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:14,18; John 15:26; Galatians 4:6 )
The Trinity is one of the distinctive doctrines of Christianity. Just because it's hard for the brain to understand it doesn't mean we should pretend it's not there. Matthew tells us that we should love God with all our mind:
Matthew 22:37 (NASB) And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'
Christianity is intellectual. We're expected to think through the teachings of Scripture. We are expected to be Bereans.
As we look to the Scriptures, I see 4 things that are true about the Trinity.
Number one: we see the Divinity of the Trinity. This is the ultimate question behind the difficulty of accepting and understanding the Trinity. It is ultimately a question of the deity of Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Now the Bible is crystal clear that there is only one God. One divine being:
Deuteronomy 32:39 (NASB) 'See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded, and it is I who heal; And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.
Isaiah 43:10 (NASB) "You are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "And My servant whom I have chosen, In order that you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.
But the same Bible that says that there is only one God also says that the Father is God. The Son is God. And the Holy Spirit is God. So these persons must be the one true God.
The Scripture recognizes the Father as God:
John 6:37 (NASB) "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
If you look at Paul's letters, he starts almost every one by saying, "Greetings in the name of God the Father."
So we know that the Father is God. But there are also a bunch of verses that teach that Jesus Christ is God. In a prophecy about the coming Messiah, Isaiah calls Him "Mighty God":
Isaiah 9:6 (NASB) For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Do you remember the story of doubting Thomas? Do you remember what he said when he saw and touched the risen Christ for the first time?
John 20:28 (NASB) Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
And Jesus responded to Thomas, Good answer! You got it right!
Hebrews 1:8 (NASB) But of the Son He says, "THY THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.
And there are also a few verses that teach that the Holy Spirit is God. You remember in Acts 5 when Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit about how much money they gave to the church? Remember what Peter told them?
Acts 5:3-4 (NASB) But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God."
So lying to the Holy Spirit is the same thing as lying to God, because He is God!
The second thing I see is the Unity of the Trinity. Especially in the creation of the world:
Genesis 1:26 (NASB) Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
Notice that it doesn't say: Let ME make man. It says, "Let us!" The triune God is involved in the creation of mankind. How do we know He's not referring to the angels? Because in Genesis 1:1, you have God creating the heavens and the earth. And in verse 2, you have the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters. And in Colossians, we're told that Christ made the heavens and the earth!
Colossians 1:16 (NASB) For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created by Him and for Him.
The Trinity working together in unity is a beautiful picture of how things should be in the church:
John 17:11 (NASB) "And I am no more in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are.
John 17:20-21 (NASB) "I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.
Unity is what God wants for His people. Baptists, Lutherans, Evangelicals, Pentecostals,
Reformed - all united around the person and work of Jesus Christ with the goal of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christian unity should be a reflection of the unity
that already exists within the Trinity.
The third thing I see is the Diversity of the Trinity. The members of the Trinity work together, but they don't always do the same things. Look at salvation. The Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power, and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people. The Father elects, the Son fulfills the Father's will by redeeming, the Spirit executes the purpose of Father and Son by renewing - three very different roles; but all for the one purpose.
Within the body of Christ, the church, there is also great diversity, and yet there is unity. To help us understand this, Paul uses the analogy of a human body. He stands before us a human body and draws lessons from it as to its parallel to the functioning of the Body of Christ:
1 Corinthians 12:12 (NASB) For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
The human body is an amazing organic creation of God. It is marvelously complex, yet unified, with unparalleled harmony and interrelatedness. When the members of the human body do not function in harmony, it is due to disease. It is a sad sight to see a body that, because of disease, will not respond to its head.
1 Corinthians 12:14-16 (NASB) For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
God deliberately made us different so that each one of us can contribute something unique to
society. It works the same way with the Trinity. Each member of the Trinity
contributes something special and unique to our lives. Romans 8:28 says that God works for our good. Verse 34 says that Jesus prays for our good. And verse 26 says that the Holy Spirit helps US pray for our good. This shows the diversity of the Trinity in our lives.
We've seen the divinity of the Trinity, the unity of the Trinity, the diversity within the Trinity, and fourthly , I see the Intimacy within the Trinity.
John 3:35 (NASB) "The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.
John 14:31 (NASB) but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go from here.
This tells me that our God is personal. He's intimate. He's a God who exists in relationship.
And the beautiful thing is that God wants to have the same intimacy with you that He has within Himself.
So the Bible is very clear that there is one God, eternally existing as three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now how do we explain this to people? Let me caution you by saying that there is no way that feeble human beings can know all that there is to know about God. You can go to my office, and read every single one of my books, and you would still barely scratch the surface of what God is all about. Paul put it this way:
Romans 11:34 (NASB) For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?
Isaiah put it this way:
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NASB) "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
The bottom line is that it is very hard for a human being to totally comprehend the Trinity. It's too big for us. An all analogies really break down.
I accept the doctrine of the trinity, not because I can completely understand it, but because I can see that it is taught in the word of God. The word of God doesn't stop being true just because there's something in it we don't understand. The word of God is true whether we understand it or not. I'm perfectly alright with the fact that there are mysteries and puzzles in the Bible - things that I won't understand until I'm dead. I'm okay with that. I've got enough on my plate with things that I DO understand! I'm more concerned about doing what God says than I am in figuring out all that He is.
So far in the Gospel of Mark we have seen four witnesses, each testifying to the identity of Jesus. What more evidence do we need?
1. Mark said Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 1:1).
2. The prophets said Jesus is LORD (Mark 1:2-3).
3. John the Baptist said Jesus was the One after me who is mightier than I (Mark 1:7-8).
4. God the Father said Jesus is the Beloved Son of God (Mark 1:10-11).
John 20:30-31 (NASB) Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
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