Epiphany in St. Mark: The Baptism of Jesus

Date: 1/18/2009
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In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 1:10 Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; 1:11 and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” 1:12 Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. (Mark 1:9-12)

Someone might ask, Aren't we supposed to “follow Jesus in baptism”?—Wasn't He baptized as a believer? We are to imitate Christ's character. We are to follow the apostles as they followed Christ.

And when He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being supposedly the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, (Luke 3:23 NASB)
We have seen Epiphany through the lens of Luke and Matthew. This week we turn our attention to Mark. There is a direct reference to “light” themes of Epiphany in the narrative events in Matthew and Luke. There is the Star in Matthew and the canticles of Zacharias and Simeon (Benedictus and Nunc Dimittis) which both refer to the “light” to the people/nations. In Mark the Epiphany theme focuses upon His “manifestation” in baptism. Mark shows Jesus as the fulfillment of the Davidic kingship.

Mark 11:10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!”
Matt 21:9 And the multitudes going before Him, and those who followed after were crying out, saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”
The Baptism of Jesus was: Adamic, Messianic and Trinitarian

Then Moses had Aaron and his sons come near, and washed them with water. Leviticus 8:7 And he put the tunic on him and girded him with the sash, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him; and he girded him with the artistic band of the ephod, with which he tied it to him. Leviticus 8:8 He then placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim. Leviticus 8:9 He also placed the turban on his head, and on the turban, at its front, he placed the golden plate, the holy crown, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Leviticus 8:10 Moses then took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them. Leviticus 8:11 And he sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times and anointed the altar and all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, to consecrate them. Leviticus 8:12 Then he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him, to consecrate him. (Lev 8:6-12 NASB)

How was His baptism unique? We are told that Christ's baptism was “to fulfill (plãroõ) all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). I hope that no one else will claim that their baptism was for this purpose, especially those baptized in the Jordan in the 1990s. Matthew uses “fulfill” (plãroõ) 16 times. Except for the two cases in which it means “fill” in a quantitative sense (13:48 “full” & 23:32 “fill”), every other usage refers to “fulfilled” Scripture. In this case (Matt. 3:15) it also refers to fulfilled Scripture, though it is an entire range of Scriptural typology, not a specific text.
Thus, John's baptism of Jesus involved a cleansing ritual for the purpose of recognizing the one anointed of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament typology, Levitical priests underwent a ritual washing for their cleansing
(“sprinkle purifying water on them,” Num. 8:7). These ceremonial instructions for priests also speak over and over of “the priest who is anointed [with oil] and ordained to serve as priest” (Lev. 16:32, Ex. 28:41, Num. 3:3, etc.). The writer of Hebrews tells us, “For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever” (Heb. 7:28). This means that the fulfillment of the oath of God's Messianic promise comes in the “appointing” of a perfect high priest, who is of course, Christ (Heb. 8:5). The term “appoint” (kathistemi) is the same term used of ordaining elders (Titus 1:5) and deacons (Acts 6:3), as well as the Levitical High priest, “every high priest taken from among men is ordained . . .” (Heb. 5:1 KJV)

Christ was thus ordained and “designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:10). But when was He “designated” as this?—When He received, not the symbolic anointing oil of the Spirit, but the reality of the Spirit, at His baptism. Christ said of Himself, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel . . .” (Luke 4:18). When was anointed? At His baptism, when the Spirit descended upon Him (Luke 3:21). Hence, the final and transitional Levitical priest, John, ordained the greater Melchizedekian High priest, Jesus.
In Mark 1:9ff this passage shows that Jesus is manifested as the bearer of the Spirit or the “anointed One.” John preaches, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to st
Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more