As we discussed last week, the church was expecting the messiah, and there were all kinds of speculations and assumptions. The culture had been waiting generations for the coming Messiah, and what should they expect? We, in our own culture, are waiting as well, and we have our own expectations.
The church in Jesus time was not just one body, but like ours had different views and gatherings. Just like we have Baptists, Methodists and such, they had a variety of believers as well, Sadducees and Pharisees to name the common groups. There is that inner desire to be right with God, to experience Him at a greater level, and the Jews were no different. If we recall, there were Jews stepping down into the river and being baptized by John. Recall, this was an oddity. Baptism in their day was for purification of the non-Jews, not the Jews. So to boldly come forward to be baptized out of tradition was a daring feat in itself. What would their family and fellow Jews say about them?
If you did not grow up in a church family, your decision to get baptized could have put you in the same situation as these daring Jews.
If you have been baptized, share what it was like in making that decision. Was it difficult? Did you have support around you? Or were you on your own? Did it seem like an act of social rebellion or jubilation?
Many of us live our lives constantly trying to please others. We work hard to please our bosses, our parents, our boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. More than these, Scripture tells us to “… find out what pleases the Lord” (Eph. 5:10). In the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel we have the ultimate example of the pleasing Christian life.
Isn’t it amazing that even Jesus himself was baptized? Don’t you think if there was one person that would defy the religious shenanigans, it would be him? Only eight verses into Mark’s Gospel, we are presented with the major spiritual characters of Scripture: Jesus, the Holy Spirit, God the Father, angels, and Satan himself. Why such a scene? Jesus is about to give us a dynamic, audio-visual model of the Christian life which is pleasing to God. In Mark’s Gospel, the dynamic beginning of Jesus’ ministry was His baptism. Why was baptism important in Jesus’ life, especially if He was sinless? A major purpose of John’s baptism was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah (vv. 1–3), whose baptism would not be with water, but with the Holy Spirit (v. 8). So, here Jesus initiates what we know as New Testament baptism. Two main purposes of baptism are clear in this passage:
Profession of Purity
Notice that John did not allow Pharisees and Sadducees to be baptized. Why? They put their faith in their ancestral roots, as Abraham’s descendants, so John exhorted them towards true repentance.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. – Matthew 3:7-9 ESV
The Jewish historian Josephus confirmed that John’s baptism was for those who had already been inwardly cleansed. Is your faith in your heritage, or maybe in your church membership? These will never cleanse you! Have you been baptized, but you’ve never put your faith in Jesus Christ to cleanse you inwardly from sin? Baptism is an important act of obedience, but repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ are matters of spiritual life or death!
Association with the Trinity
Jesus was not only professing His inward purity, but He was also publicly associating Himself with the Triune God of Scripture. John prophesied that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit in Mark 1:8 and the Spirit visually descended on Jesus like a dove in verse 10, and then the blessing.
A voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – Mark 1:11 ESV
Don’t we all long to hear God tell us that He is well pleased with us?
Baptism symbolizes a personal relationship with the Triune God of Scripture, based on the sacrifice of Christ.
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:3-4
Baptism is not just a ritual; it’s an opportunity to confess Jesus as Lord, to publicly declare your personal relationship with the Triune, living God!
Conflict and Temptation
Undoubtedly, after we confess Jesus Christ as Lord and begin to follow the Triune God of Scripture, we will face conflict.
I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world. – John 16:33 MSG
Jesus, immediately after His baptism, faced temptation. Many translations read, “the Spirit led” or “sent” Jesus into the desert. The Greek word literally means “to drive out” or “to cast out.” So the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the desert to be tempted! What temptations are you driven to? How can you resist stealing from that cash drawer? How can you avoid lust or adultery, seeing that attractive co-worker daily? Jesus models perfectly how to deal with temptation.
After you were baptized, were you challenged and/or tempted?
Comfort of God’s Presence
Do you think the Holy Spirit is only involved in your life when it’s easy? The scene in Mark 1:12-13 shows us otherwise; it is reminiscent of Adam and Eve’s temptation in Genesis 3:1–7. What was the difference? Jesus, filled with the Spirit, in the face of Satan himself, chose to obey God’s Word unlike Adam and Eve. The Spirit was there through Jesus’ baptism and even through His incredible temptation. Imagine fasting 40 days and then trying to resist bread! It was so severe, in fact, that angels came to attend to Him afterward. He showed us that with the Spirit, we can resist! God may drive us into difficult circumstances, but He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
Can you share a time when you were in turmoil, temptation or trouble, yet you were at peace?
It makes sense that God announced that He was “well pleased” with Jesus, for He gives us a perfect and dynamic model of the Christian life. Too often, Christians go through the motions; maybe that’s what you’re doing this morning. Perhaps you need to be baptized, to make public your relationship with the Holy Triune God. Perhaps you have never committed yourself to Jesus, allowing Him to cleanse you inwardly. Maybe you simply need to be reminded of God’s presence in your trials. Respond to the Lord’s conviction in your heart. A life filled with obedience to God’s guiding presence is a life with which He is well pleased.
If you have not been baptized, please consider your calling for a public profession. Please get with one of our brothers and make plans for the Celebration and inward cleansing.
- Morgan, R. J. (2004). Nelson’s annual preacher’s sourcebook (2004 Edition.). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
- Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Jn 16:33). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.