This time, from the top
Jesus is the new and better Adam, who received the Spirit of God and lived the perfect life that God requires from us.
9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And 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. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
In the opening (previous) passage, Mark gets right to the point, bypassing Jesus’ lineage, family, background and youth. He goes straight to John as the forerunner, and then directly into Jesus’ life and teaching. But Mark makes a monster-sized theological allusion in verses 9 through 11 that, despite his brevity, are as weighty as anything in the entire bible.
Jesus is God Almighty, but as a man, he chose to come from obscurity. His hometown was an area so nondescript it was almost an insult to say that someone was from Nazareth. His cousin, John, is likewise described as being “from the wilderness,” and Jesus attended John’s exploding revival ministry as the only person in history who had no need of baptism. Sinless Jesus was standing in line with sinners waiting to confess our sin and repent.
Two things were happening here: First, in terms of worldly significance, Jesus came ex nihilo—out of nothing. This is what is means to be from Nazareth.
Second, Mark is compelling us to ask, “Why would Jesus be baptized in repentance for the forgiveness of sin?” Jesus answers this question for us in Matthew 3:15, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” But if Jesus was already righteous, then we must see here that it was someone else’s righteousness that he was fulfilling. Jesus stood in our sinful shoes.
Jesus was baptized on our behalf. After he was “buried” in the water and then “rose” to new life, Jesus saw the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, hovering over his baptismal waters. There is no indication here that anyone else could see or hear what Jesus did, but from the reader’s perspective, we see the incarnate Word of God and the Spirit of God together.
The image brings to mind what is seen in Genesis 1:2, where the Holy Spirit hovered over the water of the newly-created world. This is a redeemed and restored version of the first two chapters of Genesis, with a new Adam being filled with the Holy Spirit and given life from God himself.
When the heavens opened up on the earth and the Spirit of God descended on the Son of God, the last element is for God the Father to join the scene. As Jesus saw the Holy Spirit coming to rest upon him, the first person of the Trinity—God the Father—spoke.
Jesus received an affirmation that would set his identity for the rest of his earthly ministry: “You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased.” Jesus is the new and better Adam, who received the Spirit of God and was living the perfect life that God requires from us. The pleasure of the Father came as Jesus stood in our shoes and repented on our behalf.
Jesus is our federal head. God the Father and the Holy Spirit reveal that Jesus is a new man bringing forth a new creation on earth. Mark is intentionally giving us a new version of Genesis 1-2. And then we see exactly what we would expect in the next passage—a redeemed version of Genesis 3.