At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9- 

This is an unembellished record of Jesus’ first public appearance – baptism by the hand of John. This practice of ritual washing was a recognised part of Jewish religion. It happened on many occasions and for many different reasons. It was a symbol of old and new, cleansing and initiation into something new. For Jesus, a big part of its meaning was identification – full participation with the human race so that He could be a faithful high priest (Hebrews 4:16).

According to Mark, the voice from heaven that accompanied Jesus’ baptism was heard by Him, not necessarily by the crowd, and yet the message was an affirmation of His sonship and God’s total approval of phase 1 of His human existence.

Three times in the gospels, God, the Father, speaks audibly. The first time He acknowledges His Son’s flawless hidden years, at His baptism; the second time His equally flawless public ministry, on the mount of transfiguration; the third time the Father responded to Jesus’ prayer “Father, glorify your name,” (John 12:28), at the end of His public life and on the eve of His crucifixion.

The Father’s affirmation is accompanied by the Holy Spirit’s manifestation – again seen and experienced by Jesus as a visible and personal presence. Why did Jesus need the Holy Spirit? As always, the triune God functioned as ECHAD, indissolubly intertwined in their salvation plan. Jesus was the last Adam, created in the image of the first Adam, innocent but not righteous. He had every potential to fail, like the first Adam but, like the first Adam, He also had the Spirit of God to empower His choices.

Jesus had to navigate the treacherous path of life under the total focus of the enemy without one slip into self-sufficiency or independence. He offers to all who believe in Him the same Spirit that empowered Him, to live the same life of obedience to the Father and complete trust in Him, and He showed us how it was done.

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Luella Campbell

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