And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:8-11
A New Anointing
“After me comes he who is mightier than I”
Even though John was gathering a crowd, and they were coming outside to the wilderness to hear him and be baptized, it didn’t go to his head. No superiority complex developed. He didn’t forget that he was preparing for someone else, Jesus Christ. John viewed his prominence as a tool for service. John was ready to give up his leadership status as representative to the true King (Jesus).
One of the reasons why Jesus was “mightier” than John the Baptist was that Jesus brought a baptism using something much more potent than water. Jesus would baptize His people with the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Messianic-King would bring about our adoption (Romans 8:15), enlistment into royal service (John 15:13-15), and help from God’s heavenly court (John 15:13-15).
New-Elijah and the New-King
John the Baptist did not get a “big head,” or become “full of himself.” The success of his ministry did cause him to get distracted from his purpose, to prepare the people for the one “who is mightier than I.” John viewed his prominence as a tool for service and was ready to give up his leadership status to the true King (Jesus).
The reason John gives for why Jesus is “mightier” than him is because, as the Messianic-King, He will “…baptized you with the Holy Spirit.” The messianic baptism will bring us adoption (Romans 8:15), royal service (John 15:13-15), help from God’s heavenly court (John 14:26). There are many others that could be listed.
During the time when John was faithfully executing his ministry (in those days) is when Jesus finally comes onto the scene in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus was coming from the Nazareth of Galilee, which was an area of ill repute.
The significance of Jesus coming from Galilee to meet these people coming for all over Israel to meet John the Baptist is easily lost on us. Let’s consider some information we have on Galilee.
- First, Joshua conquered the area during the conquest of Canaan. Afterward, it was given to the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun.
- Second, the Assyrian empire invaded the area in the 9th century B.C., took many of the locals into captivity, and repopulated the area with Gentiles.
- Third, in the 2nd century, a few hundred years after Cyrus granted freedom and protection to the Israelites, the Jews attempted a forced conversion and circumcision of the Gentiles who lived in Galilee. The short story is that their attempt failed.
- Fourth, after the event listed above, Galilee remained a mixed population until Jesus’ days.
The origin of Jesus ministry is another hint of God calling people out of the institutional religion of apostate Jerusalem. It also shows in seed form what will later be revealed in redemptive-revelation (Scripture) – the kingdom of Jesus is not antithetical to Gentiles. A diligent student of the Jewish Scriptures should have seen this fact as a “proof” of Jesus being the Messiah.
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. – Isaiah 9:1
Anointing the King
In the last post, we talked about a previous baptism in the Jordan River: Joshua and the Hebrew people crossing into Canaan.
Baptisms were not only used for cleansing ceremonies, but also for consecration to service for God. Jesus was anointed for the office as the King of God’s Kingdom. Although no one recognized Christ’s kingship at the moment, it did not dimish the reality that He was considered by God to be the anointed king of Israel. This is not the first time where a king was anointed without public recognition from those holding the high positions. Just like how Samuel anointed David as king before God’s people followed him, so John anointed Jesus as King before His people followed Him.
Excursus: A Theological Fetish
There is a theological fetish regarding the word ”Baptism.” Many obsess over the necessity of this word having to mainly do with “mode,” how one is physically baptized. And this usually comes with the need to prove the connotation of the word is immersion baptism. Besides Old Testament baptisms being by sprinkling, and the fact that God baptizes by pouring or sprinkling (Acts 2:3 – rest upon; Acts 10:44, 11:15-16 – falling upon; Luke 3:22 & John 1:32 – descending upon; Acts 2:17 & 10:45-46 – pour out upon; Acts 19:6 – coming from above), here are a few other reasons why Jesus being baptized by immersion is untenable:
- The Jordan River during that time period would only have been knee-deep.
- The Greek word for “baptism” here connotes a permanent state. If baptism means immersion, then the Greek word would require the person baptized to stay under the water for the rest of their life, which wouldn’t be very long.
New Creation & New Israel
When Jesus came out of the river to the banks of the Jordan, the Spirit came to rest on Him “like a dove.” During the time while waiting for the water level to go down after God flooded the world for the punishment of sin, a dove sent out by Noah brought an olive tree branch. During biblical times, an olive tree was a sign of peace. The fact that the Spirit came down like a dove on Jesus Christ was an indicator that He is the prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6).
Where else has the Spirit of God descended, and where did He rest? First, we have the Spirit descending on the Hebrew people in the wilderness. God was leading and protecting them in the wilderness until they arrived at their inheritance, Canaan. Second, we have the Spirit descending and hovering over the face of the waters at the beginning (Genesis 1) during the creation process. Jesus is both the New Creation and New Israel. Jesus is the New Creation in that He is restoring man to his ethical calling to build the Kingdom of God as representatives (Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 1:5; 16:26), and is the New Israel because He is restoring the covenant between God and His people.
The Messianic-Son commissioned
Jesus is God’s “beloved Son” and God is “pleased” with Him. This Messiah-King is publically approved and commissioned by God Himself. We also see that the ministry of the incarnate Son of God is a Trinitarian activity. The ascending of the Son to faithfully carry out His mission, the Spirit descending and coronating the Son for His mission, and the Father proclaiming His pleasure in, and love for, the Son and His ministry. This beautiful event should strike fear in rules, kings, prime ministers, ministers, presidents, legislators, governors, and mayors who have not bowed to the knee of Jesus, the Messianic-King.
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
– Psalms 2
What does this tell us about Jesus?
- He is the King, who can be unnoticed for a time (like David being made king secretly while Saul was still king), but everyone will face the reality of His Kingdom in due time. Kings will kiss the Son (Jesus) because He will, and has, inherited the nations.
- He is the new Israel crossing into the promised land (Israel), to do battle with the evil inhabitants (unbelieving Jerusalem and her leaders).
- He is the new Elisha, receiving the Spirit from the new Elijah (John the Baptist).
- He is the new Adam (new creation) and is bringing in the new creation now.
If you have been a baptized, then you are also a royal representative of the Son. Your actions represent your King.
- Having taken on the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through baptism, your actions are describing the character of God to others. To describe God wrongly or uselessly is to break the 3rd Commandment.
- As God’s representative, God cares about the treatment you receive. If you receive harsh treatment, unethical judgment, and persecution, then God is your avenger and protector. If you are received with honor and diginity, God will bless those who bless you.
Do not fall into the error of Genealogical Fallacy (that origin determines right or wrong). Just because someone came from a certain background does not make them inherently evil, unethical, or unimportant in God’s Kingdom.
- Jesus was written off just because of the area He was coming from, do not let yourself fall into making similar ignorant judgments.
- If you are written off because of the Genealogical Fallacy, then stay humble as you serve God. Jesus was written off, yet He effectully brought about the Kingdom of God by humble service to His Father. You calso can extend God’s Kingdom through humble service, even when written off by others.
We must judge according to God’s standard, which is ethical in nature (John 7:24).
- If a man is guilty of breaking God’s Law, acknowledge them as so and treat them as such.
- Do not create your own list of rules with resulting categories of guilt. If you do this, then you are acting as your own god, judge, and jury.
We must not think ourselves central to God’s plan in growing the Kingdom. We play a part, but we are only servant-sons and -daughters.
- God can grow His Kingdom and advance His victory without us, but He has chosen us to the feet that rests on his enemies, if only we faithfully and humbly serve Him.
- Celebirty status and group respictibility should not be the measure of our impact. Many inflated-heads have popped with little good while enlisted in God’s army.
- Like John the Baptist, we should not take the success of our ministry as a cause for self-importance or big-headedness.