The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus – Mark 1:9-13
Good morning! And Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers and stepfathers and men. We hope you have a blessed day. If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark. This morning, we are going to be in Mark 1.
Last week, we started this sermon series on the Gospel According to Mark, where we are looking at this picture of Jesus as the Suffering Saviour and Conquering King. Over the next little while, we will be breaking this book down, passage by passage, gaining this rich picture of Jesus as the authoritative yet suffering Son of God.
And my hope for us as a church is that this study in Mark will help us to know Jesus better. I’m not talking about simply knowing about Jesus and all the things that Jesus said and did. We’re not reading through Mark, going, “Look, Jesus healed another blind guy.” No, we’re reading through Mark to see what Jesus healing this blind guy tells us about Himself as Saviour and King.
So, that’s the thrust behind this series. Last week, we looked at how Mark opened his Gospel with the words, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” and how this statement is the defining line in Christianity. What we realize from the outset is that this Jesus is not only the promised Messiah who would come to save God’s people from their enemies, but this Jesus is deity—very God of very God.
This then requires us to make a decision. Do we believe that Jesus is the good news, or are we still holding out for something or someone greater? This is not something that we can simply take a backseat on. We will either believe it or not.
And so, as we dive into our text for this morning, we need to keep this statement, this claim, about Jesus at the forefront of our thinking. This morning, we are going to look at the baptism and temptation of Jesus.
And this is an interesting passage for me to preach on because, for the longest time, I didn’t like the idea of baptism. I wanted to be baptized when I was like 8 or 9 years old, but my parents didn’t think I was ready, so I just wasn’t baptized.
Later on, my parents started asking me if I wanted to get baptized. And at that point, I wasn’t interested anymore and I didn’t see the point of it, because it wasn’t necessary for salvation. So, I fought my parents on it for years, and I had all the arguments down, and nobody was able to convince me that I needed to be baptized. But then, I went to Bible College and realized that I knew very little.
And it was actually at Bible College that I was convicted of my need to be baptized. And so, the following summer, I was baptized by my dad in front of the church upon profession of my faith in Jesus. And it was one of the more humbling moments in my life, as God had clearly done a work in my heart.
And now, I have the privilege of preaching on the baptism and temptation of Jesus. And since this is Father’s Day, we are going to look at how Jesus pleased His Father by what He did and did not do, and what this means for us, today.
And just so that we can clearly see that these are not my words, but that this is the Word of God, let’s read Mark 1:9-13: “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 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. 11 And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’ 12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.”
I said last week that Mark is a very fast-moving book. Mark goes from one thing to the next, rather quickly, giving us this basic narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus. And we see that Mark dives right in: “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”
Mark doesn’t tell us the birth story of Jesus, like Luke does, but what Mark does tell us is that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee. And if you’re wondering what that has to do with anything, then you are responding like how the original readers would have responded.
You see, the people of Jesus’ day were all expecting the Messiah to come in splendour and majesty. And Mark saying that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee wouldn’t have been very glamourous or eye-catching. Maybe if Jesus was born in a palace, or maybe if Jesus had the appearance of power, then maybe they would have believed it. But to come from No-wheres-ville in rustic Galilee doesn’t sound very appealing.
In fact, in John 1, as John is giving his account of Jesus calling the first disciples, Philip, one of the disciples, goes and finds Nathaniel, and he says to him, in verse 45, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
And you have to love Nathanael’s response, because he’s just like us, right? He says to Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” It’s not what I expect out of the Messiah, the promised One of God, so it must not be true. And Philip says to him, “Come and see.”
And this is exactly what Mark is drawing us to do, as well. Mark is inviting us to come and see this Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee because of what happens next, and that is, Jesus comes to be baptized by John in the Jordan.
If you remember from last week, John is this strange character out in the wilderness, wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts, calling people to repent of their sin. He isn’t holding anything back. It’s not like he’s trying to be sensitive to where people are at. John is saying that the people are sinners and that they need to repent of their sin. It’s a bold and simple message.
And it works. People were coming out in droves from all Judea and Jerusalem, confessing their sins and receiving this baptism of repentance. It is reported that a few hundred thousand people were baptized by John during this time.
But now, Jesus has come to be baptized by John. And we’re all wondering what He’s doing there, because John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, and Jesus obviously had nothing to repent of. He had no sins to confess. In fact, He is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.
In Matthew’s account, John actually tries to prevent Jesus from being baptized, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” And Jesus says to John, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” I mean, we’re talking about the truly righteous One. What is Jesus doing coming to be baptized?
Look at the next two verses: “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.’”
Jesus did not need a baptism of repentance. It’s not like Jesus needed to repent of any sin that He had committed. Instead, by being baptized, Jesus is identifying Himself with the lowly sinners He came to save. He humbly stepped down into the waters of baptism and showed Himself to be the perfectly obedient Son of God, even though He had done nothing wrong Himself.
1. And Mark writes that there were three things that happened when Jesus came up out of the water that confirm this for us. First, the heavens were torn open.
This imagery would have brought the minds of the original readers back to Isaiah 64:1, which says, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence.”
The tearing open of the heavens signified that there was now nothing in the way between God and man. It meant that God was going to make His presence known among His people.
The only other place Mark uses this word is at the crucifixion of Jesus, when the temple curtain is “torn in two, from top to bottom.” But notice that Mark uses this word in both instances, surrounding the Person of Jesus Christ. He uses at Jesus’ baptism and Jesus’ crucifixion.
And what this means is that God is going to do something among His people, and it’s going to happen through Jesus, the Son of God. As the heavens are torn open, the people are waiting to hear what God is going to say and do.
2. And this leads to the second thing that happens, and that is, the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.
Later on, when Jesus gets back to Nazareth, he reads a portion from Isaiah 61, which says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
And when Jesus sits down, the eyes of everyone are on Him, and He says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
And what Mark is drawing our attention to here is how the Spirit has come down upon Jesus to enable Him and strengthen Him to fulfill the office of the Mediator between God and man.
With the heavens and the temple curtain torn open, Jesus is now the One who stands in the gap between God and man. 1 Timothy 2:5 says that “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” The Holy Spirit has come upon Jesus to do what only God can do.
3. And this brings us to the third thing that happens when Jesus comes up out of the water, and that is, the declaration from God the Father in heaven.
Look at verse 11: “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”
You can see this beautiful Trinitarian exchange, as God the Father speaks from heaven and as God the Holy Spirit descends upon God the Son. The three Persons of the Trinity are involved in this unmistakable declaration of Jesus as the Son of God.
Those who say that Jesus was just a prophet—a guy who lived a good life and said some good things that we should live by—have clearly missed out on who Jesus is. Jesus was no mere prophet.
One commentator writes, “To no prophet had words been spoken such as the words to Jesus at the baptism. Abraham was a friend of God, Moses a servant of God, Aaron a chosen one of God, David a man after God’s own heart, and Paul an apostle of the gospel of God.”
This declaration enables Jesus not only to speak and act for God, but as God. As we go through this book, we are going to see that this is how Jesus is able to do the crazy things He does, like forgiving sins, calling tax collectors to discipleship, healing the sick, casting out demons, and challenging the Jewish religious system. All of it, Jesus is able to do, because He is the Son of God.
The reason why Jesus was baptized was so He could be the perfectly obedient Son of God. He didn’t need baptism, but He submitted Himself to it, anyway, so we could see that our Saviour has been there and has met us in our weaknesses and has come out victorious. He has accomplished all that we could not.
That’s what Jesus did that was pleasing to His Father. But let’s look at what Jesus didn’t do that was pleasing to His Father. Look at verses 12-13. “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.”
After I was baptized, I went through some of the hardest trials that I have faced in my life. It’s like identifying with Christ through baptism puts a target on our backs, so that the devil knows who he needs to attack.
But it was right after I was baptized that I headed back to Bible College for my second year of biblical studies. I was part of Student Leadership, so I needed to be there a few days before the rest of the students arrived, in order to get things ready. And I just remember this dark presence hanging over the College when I arrived on campus.
And that first week, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I was having panic attacks, and I was convinced that Helena was going to break up with me. I was a nervous wreck. I couldn’t handle it. Until finally, the peace of God which transcends all understanding came to me, and I had peace.
And I can look back now and see how God brought me through, but at the time, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. But then, I read what it says here in Mark. Notice who it is who drives Jesus into the wilderness. It says, “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.”
So, Jesus comes up out of the water, the heavens are torn open, the Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove, and the Father speaks the words: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” And then, the Spirit drives Jesus out into the wilderness, where He would be tempted by Satan for forty days.
There seems to be some miscommunication here. I thought the Father was pleased with the Son, and yet, it seems like the Father is willing to send the Son into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. What's going on here?
Well, notice where Jesus is being driven to: The wilderness. Last week, we saw how the wilderness is a picture of deliverance—how God meets His people in the wilderness and draws them to Himself. And we’re going to see that here. But we also need to see the wilderness as a picture of fallen creation.
At the end of Genesis 3, God punishes the man and the woman for the sin by casting them out of the Garden of Eden—the place where there was communion with God. Verse 24 says that God “drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”
There was now no more access to the Garden and no more access to God. The man and the woman were now driven out into the wilderness—the chaos of fallen Creation. So, follow this, when Jesus gets driven away from the Jordan River, He isn’t driven out to the Garden, He’s driven out into the wilderness.
Jesus came to a fallen world in order that He would redeem it. We look around at the disease and the wars and pain and the death, and we are keenly aware that we live in a fallen world. But this is where Jesus came to bring redemption. In order to restore what Adam lost, Jesus had to win the battle in the wilderness.
Now, again, Mark doesn’t include the details of the temptation of Jesus, like Matthew and Luke do. We don’t read here about what Jesus said in response to the temptations of food and power and authority. Instead, Mark simply says that Jesus “was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.”
Forty days is a long time to be tempted by Satan. Satan doesn’t have to do much to bring us down. Our sin nature often creeps back into our lives and rears its ugly head. But not Jesus. There was nothing that Satan could do to trip Jesus up. Jesus didn’t have a sin nature. He wasn’t fallen like you and me. The good news that we read here is that Jesus did not give in to the temptations of Satan. He didn’t give Satan a single inch.
But then, notice that the Father did not abandon the Son in the wilderness. He didn’t leave Him there. It says that Jesus “was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.”
Now, this isn’t the only time that angels ministered to Jesus. In Luke 22:43-44, as Jesus is praying in Gethsemane before He would be taking away to be falsely tried and crucified, it says, “And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
You want to know how much agony Jesus went through to secure your salvation? This right here. This is intense agony for your soul. Up until Jesus’ crucifixion, we see Satan going after Him, trying to tempt Him to abandon His role as the Mediator between God and man. But Jesus doesn’t give in. He doesn’t, because once again, He is shown to be the perfectly obedient Son of God. Jesus pleased the Father by not giving in to the temptations of Satan.
And what this means for us is that the same Father who did not abandon His only Son in the wilderness will not abandon us, His children. How comforting is this is for us as followers of Jesus? In Romans 8:7-8, the apostle Paul gives us a picture of the natural state of man. He says that “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
This is where everyone initially finds themselves. We are hostile to the things of God. We do not naturally submit to God and His Law. Every part of us is incapable of pleasing God.
But then, Hebrews 11:6 gives us the remedy. The author writes that “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
And again, we are confronted with our natural state, that without faith, it is impossible to please God. But the question we rightly ask is: Faith in whom? And the answer that we see here in Mark is: Faith in Jesus.
The declaration from heaven is that the Father is pleased with the Son. So, as followers of Jesus, we can look back to when we were saved by grace through faith, and we can rejoice that though it was impossible for us to please God, there was One who did please Him, and His name is Jesus.
This Jesus, who was completely innocent Himself, would eventually go to the cross to pay for the sins of the guilty. The righteous would die for the unrighteous, thus fulfilling the role as Mediator between God and man.
And what this does is it essentially frees us up to stop trying to earn what we could never earn. If we are going to church, or giving away our money, or volunteering our time, or not smoking or chewing or dating girls who do, if we are doing all of these things to try and please God, it’s not going to work. In fact, it will only exhaust us, because we are trying to earn what has already been earned for us.
What this does is it simply exposes works-based righteousness for the fraud that it is. It won't ever get you what you want in the end. Instead, it will only leave you tired and angry with God, because you’ve missed who Jesus is.
I remember asking Jesus into my life at the age of 4. It was after our church’s Thanksgiving service and I just felt like it was something I needed to do, so I asked my parents to help me become a Christian, and they joyfully did.
But as I grew up, there was always this creeping uncertainty that I had not done it right. And so, whenever my dad would conclude his Sunday sermons by putting a version of the Sinner’s Prayer on the powerpoint, I would pray that prayer, because I wanted to make sure that I was a Christian.
And I did this all throughout my teenage years. Whenever my dad, or any preacher, said to pray this prayer, I would do it. And I never had this assurance of salvation, because I wanted to make sure that what I did was enough.
Instead, listen to these words from Ephesians 1:5-6: “In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
The King James Version says that “he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Do you want to know where acceptance is found? It’s found in Jesus, who is the pleasing Son of God. It’s not found in your efforts or in my efforts, it’s found in the Person of Jesus Christ.
We are not enough and that’s the point. Jesus is enough and what Jesus did was enough. What we need to realize, this morning, if we have not realized this already, is that our faith in the pleasing Son of God means that we are well-pleasing in the sight of our heavenly Father.
When I have declared that Jesus is Lord and I believe that what He did was enough for me, then when the Father looks at me, He doesn’t see my weaknesses and shortcomings, He sees His pleasing Son.
And that’s hopeful. That’s comforting. And if you are here this morning, and you are struggling with assurance of God’s salvation of you, I hope you will take a step back and see the glory of God’s acceptance of you, in and through Jesus, because that’s where true life is found.
And if you are here this morning and you have never made that commitment, I pray that you will make that commitment today. If Jesus is not Lord of your life, or if you are still trying to earn what you can never earn, there is freedom found in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He will give you the peace that your heart longs for and the assurance that you crave, if you submit yourself to Him, today.
This is where God wants to meet you, but this isn't where God wants to leave you. And this is why our aim, as we go through Mark, is to know Jesus better. When we submit ourselves to the Sovereign rule and reign of King Jesus, then we will know Jesus on a level of greater intimacy than ever before and we will go where He wants us to go and we will do what He wants us to do and we will say what He wants us to say.
1. This means that we pursue baptism, not because the act itself is saving us or that it’s washing away our sins, but because our Saviour and King was baptized. Though He did not need it Himself, He submitted Himself to it, as the perfectly obedient Son of God. So, for us to desire baptism is to desire to follow Jesus.
And I’ve actually been approached by someone who is interested in baptism for the Fall. So, if this is where you know God is leading you, if you want to identify with Jesus in His baptism, then I encourage you to come talk to me and we will walk through what that will look like.
2. This means that we embrace the wilderness. After Jesus was baptized, where does our text say that the Spirit lead Him? To the wilderness. And if we have submitted ourselves to King Jesus and are following Jesus, then where should we expect to go? To the wilderness.
And our worldly inclination is to say that our God, if He is truly a good Father, would not send us, His children, where we will encounter temptations by Satan, and agony over what is to come, and persecution from those who oppose Jesus, and ultimately leading us to the cross that we are called to bear.
But then, we read these words from 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
If we are following Jesus, it should give us hope that the power of God is at work, even in the wilderness. Through the perfect obedience of the Son of God, we can know that our heavenly Father will not abandon us in our wilderness.
My prayer is that we will have eyes to see and ears to hear the glorious truth about this Jesus. Will we follow Him where He leads us? Let’s pray…