I. Jesus Publicly Submits to His Ministry as a Substitute for Sin (v. 9)
II. Jesus is Publicly Confirmed for His Ministry as the One Sent by God (vv. 10-11)
a. The anointing of the Spirit
In verse 9 Jesus publicly accepted his ministry as a representative for man. Now, in verses 10-11, Mark makes sure to point out that Jesus was also publicly confirmed by the Father for this ministry. This public confirmation of Jesus’ ministry can be seen in two different events found in verses 10-11. First, Jesus was publicly confirmed for this His ministry as the Messiah when He was publicly equipped for this ministry through the anointing of the Spirit. Mark tells us that “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.”
Can you imagine this scene? Immediately after being baptized Jesus came up out of the water and the first thing that He saw was the heavens being torn open. I am not real sure what this would have looked like, however there are several other passages that might help us to understand this scene a little better. In Mark 15:38 this same word translated as “torn” is used to describe the “the curtain of the temple [that] was torn in two.” You can almost imagine the sky being torn open like a curtain being torn in two. It is almost “as if God were coming in from outside of earth’s sphere and invading its space.” This is a significant point not just because it demonstrates the power of God over nature, but also because it is an allusion to Isaiah 64:1. There the prophet Isaiah is praying for God to come down and deliver his people. In Mark 1:10 we see the answer to this prayer.
The heavens being torn open was not the only thing that Jesus saw. Mark tells us that Jesus also saw the Holy Spirit coming down on himself out of the sky like a dove. Mark does not tell us how the Holy Spirit was like a dove, and so there are many theories on exactly what Mark meant (did he look like a dove? move like a dove? is the dove just an analogy from Jewish literature? etc.). However, I think that we can safely say that when Mark tesll us that the Holy Spirit came down like a dove he means that the Holy Spirit manifested Himself as a dove. Remember, in His normal state the Holy Spirit does not have a body like we do. However, it says that Jesus saw the Spirit descending. This means that Spirit appeared in a form that was different from His normal form so that He would be visible to the eye. In all likelihood the Spirit had taken the form of a dove when He descended down on Jesus. This leads to two questions.
First, if Jesus was God then why did He need the Holy Spirit to come upon Him? Jesus needed the Holy Spirit because He had become a man. He willingly gave up His place at the right hand of the Father in order to take on all the limitations of being a man. Because He gave up His right to exercise many of His divine attributes He needed the aid of the Holy Spirit in order to perform His ministry. Isaiah 11:1-2 predicts this very thing when it says:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
In this prophecy we see that the Holy Spirit would come to energize and aid the Messiah in His task. This point is so important that soon after beginning His ministry Jesus went His hometown of Nazareth and read this from Isaiah:
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.
After reading this Jesus told the people that “Today the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Bruce Ware, commenting on this verse, points out that “it is astonishing that Jesus not only knew that he was the Spirit-anointed Messiah, but he knew that the fact of his being Spirit-anointed was so crucial that he selected this text to read—and announced its fulfillment.”
Keep in mind that just because we read on the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus does not mean that He did not posses the Spirit before this event. This passage is recording for us a special and public anointing of the Spirit. This anointing of the Spirit signifies that He is being equipped for His task, and it is confirmation that He is the Messiah. An anointing such as this is not unusual in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. For example, in 1 Samuel 16:13-14 Daniel was anointed and the Spirit came upon him in order to equip him to be the King. At the same time the “Sprit of the Lord departed from Saul.”
The second question that arises from this passage is how did the people present know that this was the Holy Spirit if He looked like a dove? Couldn’t it have just been an average run-of-the-mill dove? The answer to this question is found in verse 11.
b. The affirmation of the Father
In verse 11 Mark tells us that “a voice came from heaven.” And this voice said: “you are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” This is clearly the voice of God the Father, and He is affirming the fact that Jesus is His Son with who he is well pleased. Additionally, this is confirmation that Jesus is the chosen Messiah. In Isaiah 42:1 the Lord spoke through Isaiah and described the coming Messiah in this way:
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
This is very similar language to what we find in Mark. In fact, the second half of this verse goes onto say:
I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
From this we see that the Father will be pleased with the Messiah, and will put His Spirit upon Him. This is exactly what we find in Mark, and confirms that Jesus is the Messiah and that the dove was the Holy Spirit. Because of the significance of this statement it deserves a closer look.
The Father first says that Jesus is His beloved Son (Psalm 2:7). In this we find one of the clearest examples of the biblical teaching of the Trinity. That is, there is one God who exists eternally in persons—The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. Each member of this Trinity is God, and as such possesses the Divine nature along with all of its attributes. Each member is equally God in every way; however each is also a distinct personal expression of that Divine nature. So there is one God expressed in three persons. Therefore, when the Father declares Jesus to be His son it means that Jesus is a part of this Trinity—He is God. He existed along with the Father and the Spirit in eternity past, and all three possess the same Divine nature. Although He is of the same nature as the Father and the Spirit, the Son is distinguished by his role (as is the case with each member of the Trinity). Specifically, the Son role is distinguished by His submission to the Father. In this case this submission is seen in Jesus’ willingness to take on the limitations of man in order to make salvation available. It is because of this submission that the Father also says that He is “well pleased with the Son.” Before the foundation of the world the Father chose the Son to be the Messiah who would come and save sinners from wrath. The Son accepted this ministry, and publicly submitted Himself to it by being baptized. This of course pleased the Father, and He in turn publicly anointed the Son with the Holy Spirit to confirm Jesus to be the Messiah and equip Him for His work. This is quite an amazing passage, because in it we get to see the inner-workings of Trinity – all three persons working together for our salvation. In light of this work it is not surprising that Paul would pen these words in Ephesians 1:3-14:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption 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. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
III. Jesus is Publicly Initiated into His Ministry as the Conqueror of Evil (vv. 12-13)
a. Sent out by the Spirit
Now that Jesus has been affirmed by the Father and equipped by the Spirit it is time for Him to begin His ministry. In verses 12-13 Mark tells us that this is just what he does: “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.” In verse 9 we read about the Spirit coming to equip Jesus for His ministry, now here in verse 12 we see the first instance of the Spirit’s help. Mark tells us that he “drove” Jesus out into the wilderness. This word that mark uses is a very strong word. In fact, if I were to use a Greek word to describe someone throwing a baseball this is the word that I would use. It is the same word that Mark uses to describe Jesus “casting out” demons. Mark uses it here not to imply that Jesus didn’t want to go out into the desert, but rather to demonstrate the strong sense of compulsion from the Spirit. You see, Jesus had to go out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He was taking upon Himself the role of a representative for man, and upon the inauguration of this ministry it is obvious that He had to be tempted. Jesus was not the first representative for the human race. The Bible teaches that Adam first represented mankind. However “Adam, when tempted, failed. So Christ ‘the last Adam’ must now be tempted, in order that by his victory over the tempter he may, for all who believe in him, undo the results of the first Adam’s failure.” This is exactly what Paul meant in Romans 5:19 when he said, “For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by one man’’ obedience the many will be made righteous.”
b. Tempted by Satan
From God’s perspective Jesus had to be tempted by the devil so that Jesus could undo the failure of the first Adam. However, Satan had a different aim. All the way back in Genesis 3:15 God promised to send One who would defeat Satan. Now He had arrived, and Satan was fighting for His life. He knew that if he could get Jesus to sin he would win, and so he pulled out all the stops. Mark tells us that Jesus was in the desert for forty days undergoing this temptation. This temptation was not from within, but was solely an attack from the outside by Satan. When we are tempted it is usually because of our own sinful nature, and the conflicting thoughts that we have. But this was not the case with Jesus because, as God, He was sinless (James 1:13). Even though He faced temptation from the outside—just like we do—He never desired to succumb to this temptations. Consequently, He was successful in overcoming Satan’s temptation. Jesus was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan. The idea here is that not only did Jesus experience this temptation, but he also overcame it. If Satan’s temptation had been successful then it would not have lasted forty days. If I had been tempted in the wilderness it would have only lasted about one day before I would have succumbed to the temptation. However, Jesus did not succumb. Even though He was tempted in every way as we are, He never succumbed to this temptation. Not in the wilderness, or ever! What an amazing thing to have a Savior who has experienced what we have experienced, and overcome what we were not able to overcome. Mark adds a couple of details that may seem insignificant, but they bring out this very point. Mark says that Jesus was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to Him. Why do you think that Mark adds this to the details of the event? Mark adds this to emphasize the difficulty that Jesus faced. This was an area full of boars, jackals, wolves, hyenas, and all sorts of dangerous animals. Additionally, Mark tells us that the Angels were ministering to Him in order to point out that there was no one else there with Jesus. Jesus was all alone while he went through this trial. This is why Hebrews 4:15 says that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is our representative and High Priest. He overcame temptation, lived a perfect life, and provided a cleansing sacrifice. Apart from His work we will never be able to overcome the effects of sin in our lives, however through Jesus we can bee freed from sin and death and made alive to Him.
As we look back on the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry it is clear that He is the Messiah who came to save us by becoming a perfect sacrifice. He submitted to this ministry by being baptized, He received confirmation of His ministry from the Father, and He was initiated into His ministry by being tempted in the wilderness. This is the person that we must put our faith in. We must trust Him with our lives because He can identify with us in our times of trouble and more importantly because he can save us from our sins.
 Darrel Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: The Gospel of Mark (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, ILL: 2005), pg. 407.
 Bruce Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, roles, and relevance (Crossway Books, Wheaton, ILL: 2005), pg. 90.