Mark 1:9-11: The Baptism of Jesus

John’s baptism was designed for sinners–penitent and confessing sinners whose sins were forgiven through baptism.

Jesus was baptized by John. What’s up with that?

It is rather startling actually. Jesus undergoes a ritual designed for sinners. But, perhaps, it is not so startling. Jesus ultimately died a death designed for criminals (sinners) as well. Jesus was numbered with the transgressors, both in his death and baptism. Jesus identifies with sinners through his baptism.

More specifically, Jesus identifies with Israel. He joins the penitent community that awaits the in-breaking of the kingdom of God. He submits to God’s command as part of believing Israel. The parallel between 1:5 and 1:9 is striking.

1:5  All Judea and Jerusalem went out and was baptized by John in the Jordan river.

1:9  Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized by John in the Jordan river.

Jesus joins other obedient believers in submitting to God’s command as preparation for the coming kingdom. Moreover, Jesus actually represents Israel as the faithful remnant, just as he will on the cross.

But there is more.

Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit.  The heavens are split open and the Spirit descends. The language is reminiscent of Isaiah 64:1–God rends the heavens and descends to bring his presence among his people. The Spirit is poured out on Jesus–this inaugurates the eschatological presence of God, a kingdom presence, in the world. The  Father announces Jesus’ sonship and his delight–reminiscent of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1 (both texts include Messianic ideas but they also have a wider meaning and application to Israel–and to us!).

And it is that story we enter through our own baptism.

This is the first Christian baptism; it is paradigmatic for our own baptism. Jesus is immersed in water, the Spirit is poured out on him, and the Father declares his relationship with Jesus as he delights in him.

That is our baptism, too! When we are baptized, we too experience the pouring out of the Spirit–we, too, are anointed. When we are baptized, God says over us, “This is my child.”  When we are baptized, God delights in us and rejoices over us. Baptism is a serious act but a moment of celebration as well.

The baptism of Jesus is our model. Jesus invites us to follow him, and if we would be disciples of Jesus, we will follow him into the water and experience God’s gracious delight and gifts. It is an act of discipleship but it is also a moment when God acts–God delights, God declares, God anoints with the Spirit, and, in our case as with other sinners who came to baptism, God forgives.

10 Responses to “Mark 1:9-11: The Baptism of Jesus”

  1.   Jeff McVey Says:

    Interesting…. and good job.

  2.   Aisha Amenra Says:

    I like the fact that you made the correlation between Jesus and Israel. I believe the Body of Christ certainly needs to better understand the relationship we have with Israel.

  3.   Jeff McVey Says:

    Aisha, when you say “Israel”, do you mean the present-day nation-state of Israel ??? And, if so, just what is the church’s relationship to present-day Israel ???

  4.   Randall Says:

    Another interesting post. While it is hard for me to think of a a physical act having so many spiritual dimensions, it is easy for me to think of it as being so closely associated with the spiritual dimensions as to make it difficult to make a distinction. I knew a five point Calvinist who taught that water baptism/Christian baptism is so closely associated with regeneration (in time and space) that one could speak of regeneration taking place in the water, even though he believed regeneration logically preceded baptism.

    Changing topics, I don’t mean to speak for Aisha in reply to Jeff question. For myself, if I had made a statement about the church’s relationship to Israel I would be referring to the Israel that Paul refers to in his letter to the Romans – particularly chapter ll. I’ll quote a bit of it from ESV Bible Online but would suggest the entire chapter is applicable.

    “The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation

    25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: [4] a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

    “The Deliverer will come from Zion,
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
    27 “and this will be my covenant with them
    when I take away their sins.”

    28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now [5] receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

    33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

    I think it is obvious he is not talking about a political “nation-state” of Israel, but Paul seems to have little difficulty in making a distinction between Israel and the Gentiles.


  5.   Jeff McVey Says:

    Randall, as I reread the portions that you posted from Romans 11, it is “obvious” (to use your word) to me that he IS talking about the nation-state of Israel, at least as it existed around 50 AD… The really interesting question is whether what Paul said about Israel ca. 50 AD also applies to the nation-state formed in 1947 AD. I tend to think not, but could be wrong… Jeff

  6.   Randall Says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I’m no scholar, obviously, but I thought he might have had in mind a faithful remnant rather than a political “nation-state” that is, the elect. Here is the first half of Romans 11 from the ESV Bible Online:
    “Romans 11
    The Remnant of Israel

    11:1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, [1] a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

    7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,

    “God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that would not see
    and ears that would not hear,
    down to this very day.”

    9 And David says,

    “Let their table become a snare and a trap,
    a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
    10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
    and bend their backs forever.”
    Gentiles Grafted In

    11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion [2] mean!

    13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

    17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root [3] of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.”


  7.   Jeff McVey Says:

    So, Randall, who are “the rest” (who have not been saved by grace) ??? They are the Jews who have rejected Jesus, who (also) make up the nation of Israel, as it existed ca. 50 AD.

  8.   Randall Says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I think the “rest” are the Jews who rejected Jesus as their messiah, the non Christian Jews. Today they have been broken off b/c of unbelief, but God is able to graft them in again if it pleases him to bring them to faith.

    Perhaps you have it right that Paul is referring to a nation state but I am of a different opinion. I’ll allow you yours and I’m sure you will allow me mine.

    It strikes me that Paul is referring to Jews, the descendents of Israel, no matter where they were/are physically located – in the land of Israel or in the Hellenistic/Gentile world. Paul was writing to the Jewish and Gentiles believers in Rome, not in Israel. I do not understand the necessity of identifying Israel with a political entity, especially nowadays.
    Over and out.

  9.   Jeff McVey Says:




  1. Preparing the Way | Peter's Patter

Leave a Reply