Saturday, January 2, 2016

The significance of the Divine testimony of Jesus in His baptism in Mark 1:10-11

Mark 1:10-11 "Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; 11 and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

In yesterday's post we considered some testimonies about the life, Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark begins his Gospel with this statement: "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." We've noted in prior posts that Mark's introduction has us meeting Jesus as-it-were for the first time. Each of the titles ("Jesus", "Christ" and "Son of God") tell us something about the humanity, mission and majesty of Jesus. In yesterday's post we saw testimonies from prophecy and the personal testimony of John the Baptist. Today we continue on with another testimony - a testimony which is the most important one - namely the Divine testimony about Jesus in Mark 1:10-11. Below is an attempt to capture what all is entailed in Mark 1:10-11, and why this Divine testimony is vital in our first contact with Jesus in Mark's Gospel.

How God in all His fulness is captured in just two verses
Mark 1:10-11 is a rare jewel in the whole of scripture - being that within two verses we discover the fulness of God. To quickly summarize the Bible's teaching on God, the reader needs to consider three foundational doctrines: 
a). The oneness of God or monotheism
b). The Deity of Jesus Christ, the Son
c). The Personality of the Holy Spirit

The Oneness of God, monotheism
First, God in both Old Testament and New Testament is consistently revealed as One God - or what theologians call "mono-theism" (see Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Isaiah 43:10-11; 1 Corinthians 8:6; James 2:19). Biblical monotheism is rich in that although God is unquestionably One in His being or essence, yet there is something plural about His identity. That is to say, God is "One" in one sense and "plural" in another sense. The Old Testament early on hints at this notion as early as Genesis 1:26, wherein we see God (singular) reasoning within Himself to create man "in our image and in our likeness". 

So in what way is this One God plural? The answer is found in the context of how God relates within Himself - i.e God is plural in His identity. God begins to reveal Himself further on into the Old Testament in the language of relationship. Deuteronomy 1:21 states - "and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place." As God (also know as Yahweh or Jehovah in His covenant dealings with His people) repeats the nature of His relatrionship with His people in terms of "Fatherhood" (Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16, we discover that this is also how Yahweh identifies something true about Himself apart from His people (see Proverbs 30:4). 

This One God reveals Himself as "The Father" or simply as "Father" nearly ten times in the Old Testament. Again, hints appear here and there in the Old Testament that God, being one in being, is also somehow plural in identity. Psalm 2:7 has David recording the following conversation that Yahweh has with Himself, presumably the Father speaking to a second Personage called "the Son" - “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You." We already mentioned Proverbs 30:4, and now notice what the verse says concerning God the Father and this second mysterious personage "The Son" - "Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name or His son’s name?
Surely you know!" 

How Biblical monotheism also affirms the deity of the Son, Jesus Christ
So "who" or "what" is the writer in Proverbs referring to? The Old Testament develops the concept of "One God with possible plural identity", with stress on God's monotheistic existence. It is when we come to the New Testament that we find the answer to the question posed in Proverbs 30:4. The "Son" in question turns out to be a second Person from within the Trinity, with the Father not being just another name for Yahweh, but actually the first Personality being revealed! 

Now to underscore the continuity of the Bible's revelation of God being "one" in His being, the New Testament stresses such truth in passage we already referenced (1 Corinthians 8:6; James 2:19). The challenge facing the early Christians, who had been converted from Judaism, was in how they could consistently confess both the deity of Jesus as God in human flesh (John 1:14), whilst also asserting the Biblical monotheism of the Old Testament. It is at this point where the New Testament writings and the early church begin to focus in on the fact that Jesus Christ - the embodied revelation of God in the Person of the Son, co-shares the One, monotheistic nature with the Personage known as "The Father". So many scriptures could be cited at this point, however one will suffice in showing how the New Testament progressively handled this truth. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8:6 - "yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we existthrough Him."

Thus we see then the complete picture emerging in the New Testament regarding the following three concepts: a). God is still "One God"

b). The Father is understood to be the first Person that makes Himself known to His people as the fulness of God is progressively revealed from Old to New Testament

c). The Son is progressively revealed to be the second Person within this One God who shares in the fulness of the being of God along with the Father.  

The Personality of the Holy Spirit
So then, with the monotheistic nature of God revealed as the Person of the Father, sharing such nature with the second Person - the Son, is there any further revelation about God to be known? As Jesus ministered for three and a half years on this earth, His identity as Messiah has been predicted and witnessed as being empowered by the Holy Spirit (see for instance Isaiah 61:1-2 & Luke 4:18). The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was primarily conceived as the Shekinah presence of God revealed in the temple, speaking through the prophets or guding God's people (1 Samuel 15:29; 2 Peter 1:10-11). 

As Jesus nears the cross, He delivers a final sermon to His disciples on the night of His institution of the Lord's supper. In that final message (called the 'upper-room discourse'), Jesus reveals that He will be leaving them - however, One of like-nature will come in His place to minister to, through and in them. In John 14:16-17 we read -  "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." This third Personage is of like-substance and nature to the Divine Son and the Father.

Bringing together what has been said thus far...
Now mind you, all that has been said thus far is but a sketch of the Biblical material. In short, the Bible presents God as "One" God, not three gods. Second, we find Jesus of Nazareth to be the decisive revelation of God in the Person of the Son in true humanity (i.e the incarnation of God). Thirdly, as both the Father and Son share in One divided nature, they do so with a third Person - the Holy Spirit. All three-persons comprise what the scripture and Bible teachers call "The God-head" (see Romans 1:18-20; Colossians 2:9).

Now it is hoped the reader has hung in there, because everything just mentioned above is jammed packed into Mark 1:10-11. The "voice from heaven" is none other than the Person of the Father, testifying about Jesus - the Son. Two observations are in order at this point. 

First, the Father's testimony reveals that the man Jesus of Nazareth still was and ever remained truly God - otherwise the Father would never had proclaimed what He did. 

Then secondly, in-as-much as the Son was still truly God, the Father was equally affirming and expressing approval of the Son's decisive revelation of the fulness of deity in his humanity. In other words, Jesus never lost His co-equality with the Father nor did the Father view the Son's assumption of a human nature as denegrating. 

The significance of the Divine testimony of Jesus in His baptism in Mark 1:10-11
The descent of the Holy Spirit (in the likeness of a dove) upon Jesus signals His Messianic empowerment and official beginning of His public ministry. Both the heavenly testimony of the Father and the earthly manifestation of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus communicates all at once the inseparable union shared between all three Persons of the God-head. Truly Mark's introduction of Jesus is powerful and profound. Would it be that we would endeavor to know this Jesus!

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