By Robert Olsen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, is the man who traveled with Barnabas on Paul’s missionary journey. The early Church tells us that Mark accompanied Peter and wrote this Gospel for a Roman audience.
Mark opens with a clear, blunt statement about what his purpose is, which is to show who Jesus is and tell his readers this good news. For a people who had not heard from God in about 400 years, Mark shows how this Jesus is the One foretold by the Old Testament Scriptures, emphasizing the role Jesus would play as the Servant and Savior of Israel.
Today, we can be confident that God keeps His promises and that all of the prophecies from both the Old and New testaments will be fulfilled.
In the same way a small town wants to fix all of its potholes before a dignitary comes to town, roads would be repaired to allow for a smooth ride for the celebrity who was coming.
Malachi states that Elijah’s coming is to precede the day of the Lord, and we hear from Jesus Himself that John the Baptist is this Elijah foreshadowed in Malachi. John emphasized the need for his hearers to turn from their sin and be baptized to demonstrate that they were now clean.
Baptism is the same for us today. It is Christ who saves us, and by accepting the price He paid for us and our sins, our sins are forgiven. We are baptized to show our solidarity with Christ. Many Christians mistakenly put their trust in their baptism as a sign of their salvation, but it is putting our trust in Christ’s work on the cross for us that guarantees our salvation.
John points to the Messiah who is about to appear. John understands that his job is to get people ready for Christ, and he points his hearers to Him. This is also our job. We need to accept our position as servants of God and point people to Christ.
The baptism of Jesus is such an important event that it is written in each of the four Gospels. But Jesus wasn’t baptized to show repentance for sin because Jesus had no sin. (See 2 Cor. 5:21.) Instead, it showed His identification with those He came to save — not with their sin, but that He was truly human. It also showed He approved of John’s ministry, and it inaugurated His own ministry.
Of importance as well is that this is one of the major passages that affirms the Trinity. The Son is baptized, the Holy Spirit descends and we hear the Father’s voice. It is crucial to note that this is not a declaration that at this moment Jesus is somehow an adopted son of God. He wasn’t only declared to be God; Jesus truly is God. This is a great mystery, that Jesus is both truly man and truly God.
The question we need to ask is who do we say that Jesus is? If He is truly God, and if He is the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament prophecies, then we need to reorient our lives to follow Him and His commands, not our own or those of the culture.