This is My Son!

The Spirit of God and the divine voice from heaven confirmed the calling and identity of Jesus - Son of God and Messiah of Israel – Mark 1:9-11

Wilderness Stream - Photo by Eugene Kuznetsov on Unsplash
In the gospel of
 Mark, Jesus appears first at his baptism in the Jordan. The passage identifies him with his hometown, Nazareth, a small village of no importance. But its very insignificance plays a part in the larger narrative - Jesus is the Messiah who does not fit popular expectations - even as he is anointed Messiah in fulfillment of Scripture - [Photo by Eugene Kuznetsov on Unsplash].

"In those days.” At the time, John was baptizing suppliants in the Jordan River. But rather than recount the details of Christ’s baptism, the text stresses the events that accompanied it – The “rending” of the heavens, the divine voice, the descent of the Spirit “like a dove,” and the temptation by Satan.
  • (Mark 1:9-11) - “And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. And immediately, as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens being rent asunder and the Spirit as a dove descending to him. And a voice came out of the heavens: You are my Son, the Beloved. In you, I delight.”
The heavens “being rent asunder” translates the Greek verb schizō, which means to “split, rip open, tear apart; to rend asunder” (Strong’s - #G4977). The same term occurs only once more in Mark when the veil of the Temple “was rent” in two when Jesus died. The verbal link is deliberate:
  • (Mark 15:36-39) – “But Jesus, sending out a loud voice, ceased to breathe. And the veil of the Temple was rent into two from top to bottom. Now the centurion who was standing near, seeing that thus he ceased to breathe, said: Truly, this man was God’s son!
The “rending of the heavens” meant the arrival of the Son of God was an event of cosmic significance. “Heaven,” the realm of God was opened, and therefore, is now accessible in Jesus to all men and women.

It was Jesus who saw the Spirit descending “like a dove” and heard the heavenly voice. That he saw the Spirit and heard the voice demonstrate this was an actual event, not a mystical or visionary experience.

The preposition applied to the Spirit’s descent stresses movement “into” or “onto” something or someone (eis). Perhaps the Spirit entered Jesus at this point, although the verb and preposition more probably point to it coming to rest upon him. This was the moment when he was anointed for his messianic mission.

The gospel account employs a simile. The descent of the Spirit was “like” that of a dove. It does not say the Spirit was a dove or looked like a dove. Instead, its gentle descent was analogous to a dove landing on the earth or a perch.

Jesus heard the voice call him “Son.” God’s voice is heard only once more in Mark when it made a similar declaration. In the present passage, the heavenly voice combined words from two Old Testament passages to present the correct scriptural understanding of just who and what the Son of God is, for he came to fulfill the promises of Yahweh:
  • (Psalm 2:7) - “I will surely tell of the decree of Yahweh: he said to me, You are my Son, today, I have begotten you.”
  • (Isaiah 42:1) - “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.”
Both passages are messianic. By combining them, Mark clarifies the identity and mission of Jesus. He was God’s “Son” and the ‘Suffering Servant’ from Isaiah. Unjust suffering would characterize his messianic role and his sonship.

The descent of the Spirit meant Jesus was now equipped to proclaim the kingdom of God. The heavenly voice demonstrated divine approval of this mission, not just because of who he was, but also because of his submission to the baptism of John.

Thus, his ministry began with an act of obedience to God, and in fulfillment of Scripture. Whether his contemporaries understood his calling or messiahship, Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel sent to save his people from their sin.




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