Preparation: Baptism & Temptation, 7 May 2017

Preparation: Baptism & Temptation
Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus\
Mark 1:9-13

Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

Big Idea: Baptism and temptation prepared Jesus for the ministry that would follow.


One of the most rewarding parts of my childhood was Boy Scouts. As a scout, I learned about nature, how to tie knots, rappelling, wilderness survival, and so much more. The Boy Scout motto is short yet powerful: Be prepared.

Preparation. It’s one key to success in life. Anything worth doing is probably worth preparation which is why doctors devote more than a decade of their lives to education before performing their first surgery. It’s why an athlete will train for four years before entering Olympic competition. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden famously said, “When the opportunity arises, it is too late to prepare.”

What kind of preparation would be necessary to revolutionize the world? No human has had a greater impact on our planet than Jesus Christ did in the three years of His public ministry. We know almost nothing about the first three decades of His life, but Mark tells us about two significant events in Jesus’ preparation—baptism and temptation. And it leads to one truth that will blow your mind!

We’re in week three of an extensive series on The Real Jesus based upon the gospel or good news of Mark. This biography of Christ is short and sweet, the headlines, so to speak, of the life of Jesus.

In week one, we saw Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfillment of hundreds of prophecies, the Son of God, one of three Persons of the Holy Trinity, yet fully human.

Last Sunday we looked at the messenger, John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin who prepared the way for Christ. Today we see Jesus encountering John—and satan.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. (Mark 1:9)

John Mark, the writer of Mark, finally brings Jesus to the stage. His message is short and sweet. Jesus comes from an obscure village in Galilee and gets baptized.

Last week we said baptism had several possible purposes in the first century. It was used for cleansing the body, publicly demonstrating one’s faith, or perhaps symbolically purifying one as they turn away from their sins. It can also represent turning toward God, not just away from evil.

Baptism doesn’t remove sin. Jesus had no sin to remove. John had been baptizing in the Jordan River in the wilderness drawing crowds from the countryside and the city of Jerusalem, preparing the way for Jesus of Nazareth who finally arrives in Mark’s narrative, baptized by His cousin, John.

Today, baptism is a ceremony we do for people who want to go public with their faith in Jesus. They enter the water and are dunked in what is symbolically a water grave, dying to their own selfish will and desires before emerging out of the water resurrected as a new creation, seeking to devote their lives to following Jesus.

Jesus is dunked by John, and the original Greek clearly puts John in the background. The spotlight is on Jesus.

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. (Mark 1:10)

Notice the details here. First, Jesus saw heaven being torn or ripped open as He was coming out of the water. The verb for “torn open” will be used again by Mark when he describes the temple veil being torn in two from the top to the bottom. What is opened can be closed, but what is torn is more permanent. Both episodes give us a glimpse into God’s kingdom. Remember, heaven is where God is. In the Bible, it often means God’s dimension behind ordinary reality. All heaven breaks loose when Jesus is baptized! The hope of Isaiah has come to pass: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you” (Isaiah 64:1).

The Holy Spirit is then introduced, descending on Jesus “like” a dove. Can you think of any doves in the Bible? One brought an olive branch after the flood (Genesis 8). This doesn’t say a dove landed on Jesus, though. It says the Spirit descended on like a dove. It is as if the Spirit came upon Jesus, perhaps entering Him. We clearly see God the Son and God the Spirit together. The same Spirit that hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation in Genesis 1 now descends on Jesus as a sign that new creation has begun.

The dove never came back: he was looking for some place to land. He tried to land on Noah, but Noah got drunk. He tried to land on Abraham…Moses…David…Solomon…Isaiah…Jeremiah…landed on Jesus.

And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

The voice of God the Father is heard. It will later be heard at the transfiguration when He says, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him! (Mark 9:7). As one might expect, Jesus’ baptism was special. Heaven was torn open, the Holy Spirit came on Him like a dove, and the Father spoke, announcing Jesus as His Son.

The Trinity

One of the great mysteries of the Christian faith is the Trinity, one God in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They exist in community.

When we say, “God is love,” it’s not abstract. God is the community of love. The Father, Son, and Spirit interact as one. God rooted God’s communal identity in the core of our being as humans. We were made by community, for community. (Ruth Padilla Deborst)

I can’t emphasize this enough— we struggle in our individualistic culture to understand and appreciate the community of love that is the Trinity.

Artists have long depicted the Trinity with visual art. Some see a dismembered relationship between the three Persons while others see Them as a family, a community, relating to one another (Rublev).

(art examples)

How do we understand one God in three Persons? It is a mystery. No metaphor is adequate to describe God, but I like to think about an egg. The yolk, whites, and shell are all equally egg, yet distinct. We pray to the Father in the Name of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.


There is a sect of Christianity which denies the Trinity. It’s called modalism. They believe in one God in one Person who changes modes, one moment being the Father and then shifting to become the Son and then suddenly appearing as the Holy Spirit. I can’t begin to tell you how troubling this belief can be, especially when considering this text. How can God be in the water, in heaven, and a dove at the same time? Although the word “trinity” does not appear in the English translations of the Bible, the concept is vivid, especially here. It’s why we sang, “Holy, Holy, Holy” last week instead of “Holy.”

The doctrine or belief in the Trinity is a beautiful picture of community, cooperation, and complementary collaboration.

John the Baptist introduces Jesus.
The Father identifies Him.
The temptation will initiate Him.


At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Mark 1:12-13)

There’s no mention of a baptism celebration, but rather the Holy Spirit sends Jesus into the wilderness for forty days. That’s a long time, friends. The wilderness is a harsh, rocky desert region. The wilderness was a place of testing for the people of Israel, and they often failed. Jesus never fails.

Forty is a special number in the Bible. It rained forty days and forty nights during the great flood (Genesis 7:12). The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Moses spent forty days and nights on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:18; 34:28). Elijah spent forty days and nights journeying to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:8).

Jesus has been prepared for ministry by baptism and now it’s time for testing, for a face to face encounter with satan. Have you ever encountered satan? I doubt it. He has bigger fish to fry than you and me, I believe. He does, however, have an army of demons—fallen angels—who tempt and wreak havoc on our lives and world. The Greek word peirazo can mean tempt or test. In Hebrew, satan means adversary or enemy.

And what about the wild animals? Some see them as satan’s allies in contrast to the angels that attend to Jesus. Some see an allusion to Psalm 91:11-13.

For he will command his angels concerning you 
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent. (Psalm 91:11-13)

I like animals, but not necessarily “wild” animals. They don’t usually make good pets!

Matthew and Luke tell us more about the temptation but Mark simply gives us an image of Jesus and satan, angels and wild animals, good and evil. It will be a constant theme in the book…and all of human history.

Jesus has been baptized and tested. He’s prepared and next week we’ll see Jesus’ ministry begin.

One More Thing

Occasionally I come across as reading so profound it’s not worth paraphrasing; it simply needs to be read. Listen to N.T. Wright:

It happens all the time, in families, businesses, all over. Many children grow up in our world who have never had a father say to them (either in words, in looks, or in hugs), ‘You are my dear child’, let alone, ‘I’m pleased with you.’ In the Western world, even those fathers who think this in their hearts are often too tongue-tied or embarrassed to tell their children how delighted they are with them. Many, alas, go by the completely opposite route: angry voices, bitter rejection, the slamming of doors. 

The whole Christian gospel could be summed up in this point: that when the living God looks at us, at every baptized and believing Christian
, he says to us what he said to Jesus on that day. He sees us, not as we are in ourselves, but as we are in Jesus Christ. It sometimes seems impossible, especially to people who have never had this kind of support from their earthly parents, but it’s true: God looks at us, and says, ‘You are my dear, dear child; I’m delighted with you.’ Try reading that sentence slowly, with your own name at the start, and reflect quietly on God saying that to you, both at your baptism and every day since.

How does this come about? It will take the whole story, particularly Jesus’ death and resurrection, to explain. But this is what the Christian gospel is all about.

It is true for one simple but very profound reason: Jesus is the Messiah, and 
the Messiah represents his people. What is true of him is true of them. The word ‘Messiah’ means ‘the anointed one’; and this story tells how Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit, marked out as God’s son. The Messiah is called ‘God’s son’ in a few biblical passages, including the one that the heavenly voice seems to be echoing here (Psalm 2.7). Though the early Christians realized quite quickly that Jesus was God’s son in an even deeper sense, they clung on to his messiahship for dear life. It was because Jesus was and is Messiah that God said to them, as he does to us today, what he said to Jesus at his baptism. And without that word from God all we often hear, in our mind’s ear, is doors being slammed.

N.T. Wright, Mark for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) Westminster John Knox Press; bold are my highlights

Your Team

How can that be? Let me tell you a story about two men named Chris—Coghlan and Bryant. Last fall, they both played for the Chicago Cubs who finally won the World Series. Kris Bryant is arguably the best player on the team. He hit two home runs during the World Series and was the National League’s Most Valuable Player. Chris Coghlan batted three times in the World Series, struck out twice, and never made it to first base. There’s a tradition in baseball where every player on the championship team gets a diamond-covered ring worth tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Every player gets the same ring, whether they are superstars or bench-warmers.

That’s how I like to think about what it means for us to be “in Christ,” a phrase used more than a dozen times in the book of Ephesians to describe followers of Jesus. We are on His team, we wear His uniform. The Chicago Cubs are World Champions which means every player on the team is equally a World Champion. When we are in Christ, everything the Father says about Jesus He says about us.

Author Bob Goff said,
"On the day of your worst screw-up, Jesus sees you and still calls you 'Beloved'!"

That’s good news, friends. That’s great news!

His baptism and temptation were preparation for a greater test…and a greater victory. Today is a great day to reflect upon your own journey, your own baptism if you’ve followed Jesus’ command to go public with your faith, something you can do next Sunday if you haven’t. It’s a great day to reflect upon your own temptations—those you overcame and those tests you failed. Jesus’ body was pierced and broken on the cross, His blood was poured out to offer forgiveness of your sins; past, present, and future. Hallelujah! Because of Jesus, the Father says, “You are my dear, dear child; I’m delighted with you."

Credits: some ideas from Matt Carter (Austin Stone Community Church), Warren Wiersbe, NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, Richard Niell Donovan, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Coronation, 3 April 2011

    Big Idea

    Who is God? Who is Jesus? This passage beautifully reveals the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus at the beginning of HIs ministry.

    Text (Matthew 3:13-17)

    Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

    Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

    As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”


    Before we can appreciate the text, we must set the scene. This account is one of the few accounts that is found in all four Gospels—Matthew, Mark (1:9-11), Luke (3:21-22) and John (1:29-34).


    The word “baptism” sparks different thoughts in our minds. You may think of an infant being baptized or a public confession of faith by a believer.

    The Greek word for baptism is “baptizo” which means “immersion.” This was not a sprinkling or a pouring or a squirt gun fight but people getting dunked in the water.

    What was the purpose of John baptizing people? Mark 1:4 says

    Mark 1:4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

    People would come to John and ask to be baptized for the remission of their sins. As we said a few weeks ago, repentance is agreeing that we have sinned against God (and often others) and turning away from our sins to live a new life.

    “But Jesus had no sins (Hebrews 4:15)” you might say. That’s what John said, too!

    But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

    So why would Jesus insist on getting baptized? He came to do the will of the Father and to “fulfill all righteousness.” In other words, Jesus was baptized in obedience to the Father.

    The entire third chapter of Matthew is the fulfillment of prophecy from the Italian prophet, Malachi!

    Malachi 3:1 “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

    Malachi 4:5-6 See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”


    Sometimes God calls us to do things that don’t make sense. That’s where trust comes in. Imagine being Abraham and God telling you to grab your knife and start cutting foreskins. God told the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute. He told Moses to speak to a rock and expect water to flow out.

    Ultimately it’s a trust issue.

    God is good. All the time.
    God is sovereign and in control. All the time.

    He can be trusted, even when it might not make sense at the moment.

    John didn’t understand why Jesus would seek baptism, but God had a purpose that was revealed in the following verses.

    The Coronation

    There is tremendous fanfare and festivities that surround the coronation of a king or queen. The closest thing we know of in our country is a presidential inauguration. Did any of you see President Obama’s inauguration? It cost donors and our government more than $170 million for the weekend...all to formally acknowledge a new leader.

    Jesus, our great King, had no such pageantry and spectacle. He had something far greater, however.

    As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

    I’d call that a pronouncement! What does the Father say?

    • this is His Son
    • He loves His Son
    • He is well pleased with His Son

    It kind of reminds me of a story Jesus told about three men given sums of money to invest (Matthew 25; Luke 19). At the end of the story, the master says, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

    I live for two words—well done. That’s it. Although it seems crazy, I long for my heavenly Father to announce someday

    • I am His Son
    • He loves me
    • He is well pleased with me

    Let me be clear, I’m not saying I am anything like Jesus. In fact, only by dying to myself and letting Jesus live through me do I even have a chance!

    The Trinity

    One of the most radical distinctions between orthodox Christianity and other religions is the Trinity. The Jewish Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4 proclaims

    Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

    Our one LORD exists in three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This, admittedly, is a mystery that analogies fail to adequately express, but we worship one “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity” as the great hymn announces.

    Church father Tertullian (155-220 ad) was one of the first to use the term ‘Trinity” and it wasn’t until the Council of Nicea in 325 that the doctrine became firmly established within orthodoxy.

    To say that God exists as a Trinity is to say that there is one God with a unified essence who exists in three equal persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By person it is meant that God thinks, feels, acts and speaks. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) summarizes the doctrine by saying, “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.”

    There are some Christians who deny the Trinity. They believe that God is a single Person who reveals Himself in three different modes or forms, but that the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time, only one after another.

    Do you see a problem with this passage for the modalist?

    We don’t have time to even begin a full treatment of Trinitarianism, but suffice it to say that our text today is one of several that reveal our one God existing simultaneously in three Persons.

    Have You Been Baptized?

    While we are on the subject, have you been baptized? It’s not only something He experienced, it’s something He commanded. Last week we saw His final words to His followers:

    “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    - Matthew 28:18-20

    Oh, did you notice the Trinity there?


    To summarize, this text reveals Jesus’ submission and obedience to the Father. His baptism is Christ’s coronation as He begins His ministry. The Trinity is in full view, showing one God existing as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s also a reminder that each of us—unlike Jesus—is a sinner in need of God’s grace and forgiveness, something only available through Jesus, His life, death, and resurrection. Finally, it underscore the need for all Christ-followers to follow Him in baptism, publicly declaring their faith, dying to their old life, and becoming resurrected with Jesus in new life as a new creation.

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