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Now we're turning to, first of all, Mark's Gospel chapter 1 - but we've another two readings in Matthew chapter 3 and Luke chapter 3 - as we consider this morning 'The Servant's Baptism', the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The humble Carpenter of Nazareth pushes His way through the throng, and joins the candidates for baptism...

First reading, chapter 1 of Mark, beginning at verse 9: "And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased".

Then Matthew chapter 3, for Matthew's account of the same incident, beginning to read at verse 13 of Matthew 3: "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased".

Then Luke's Gospel chapter 3, for Luke's account of the baptism of the Lord Jesus, Luke 3 verse 21: "Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased".

For the last time, the door of the carpenter's shop in Nazareth swings shut, and the Carpenter makes His way toward the river Jordan, where the multitudes are beginning to gather. A gruff, rustic, unorthodox preacher is proclaiming and administrating a baptism of repentance for sins. His cry is: 'Repent ye, and be baptised for the remission of sins, for the kingdom of God is at hand!'. He is a prophet like unto Elijah. He is as fearless as Elijah.

A gruff, rustic, unorthodox preacher is proclaiming and administrating a baptism of repentance for sins. His cry is: 'Repent ye, and be baptised for the remission of sins, for the kingdom of God is at hand!'

The humble Carpenter of Nazareth pushes His way through the throng, and joins the candidates for baptism. Now I'm sure you can imagine John the Baptist's shock as he sees the face of his next candidate for the baptism of repentance: the holy, sinless face of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let me say that Mark does not record, as Matthew, that John protested and attempted to prevent the Lord Jesus Christ being baptised, saying 'I have need to be baptized of You, and do You come to me?'. Jesus humbly replies, according to Matthew, that it is appropriate, necessary for Him to be baptised, in order that - as one version puts it - 'Permit it at this time, for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness'.

But Mark does not record these features, Mark records no objections to the baptism of the Lord Jesus by John the Baptist. I believe that here is a significant feature because Mark, of course, as we found out in our introduction, and last week through this study of the Gospel, Mark is emphasising the servanthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, rather than the Kingship and the royalty of Jesus - so there is no objection for the Servant to be baptised.

Now our consideration, of course, in these studies, is Mark's Gospel - but if we were to look briefly just now at Matthew's account in Matthew 3, and Luke's account in Luke 3, you would find some profound thoughts and lessons in the differences, the distinctions in their accounts as compared to Mark's. Just look at two with me: first of all, in Luke chapter 3 we find that Luke records that Jesus was praying when the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove. Now we don't know what His prayer was, it's not recorded for us. His prayer may have been, indeed, that He would receive the Spirit of God without measure. Whilst we don't know the exact details of His prayer, the answer to whatever the prayer was, was that the heavens were opened, and the Spirit did descend and enable Him for His Messianic ministry. So He got an answer, and that's what the answer was - which may give us a clue as to Jesus' prayer.

Here's the significance of what Luke is emphasising when he talks of the Lord Jesus praying at His baptism. Luke often emphasises, if you're familiar with his Gospel, Jesus praying, and specifically Jesus praying as a man, a human being who is in absolute dependence upon God. We know that Luke emphasises the humanity of Jesus. Take Luke 11 for instance, verse 1: 'It came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples', and then He teaches them the Disciples' prayer 'Our Father, who art in heaven'. In verse 13, then the Lord Jesus, having taught them a little bit more about prayer, says: 'If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him'. Praying for the Holy Spirit is emphasised in Luke's Gospel, and here we see Him at His baptism, and Luke records Him praying, the heavens opening, and the Spirit of God descending. There's a great lesson in Luke's Gospel when we look at the prayer life of our Lord Jesus, because it teaches, I believe, that our dependence on God is directly proportionate to the quality of our prayer life. I wonder how we measure up?

Then secondly, if you look at Matthew's account of the baptism of Jesus, Matthew tells us that when John saw Jesus coming, he looked at Him and said - recorded in verse 14 of Matthew 3 - 'I have need to be baptized of You, and do You come to me?'. Bible teacher and commentator G. Campbell Morgan says these words: 'It is of supreme importance that we understand that when John said that, he did not know who Jesus was, he did not know that He was the Messiah'. Now that might strike you as incorrect, but I ask you the question: how well did John the Baptist really know the Lord Jesus? Of course, they may have been companions in childhood, we've no record of that. They certainly were related, as second cousins. John's mother Elisabeth seems to have been informed about who the Lord Jesus was - she refers to Him in Luke's Gospel chapter 1 as 'My Lord'. We are left with conjecture, asking the question: did Elisabeth convey to her son, John the Baptist, some of the knowledge that she had about who Jesus was? Nazareth, where Jesus lived, and Hebron, where John the Baptist was brought up were separated, but it is not impossible that they crossed paths in their childhood, and certainly it is likely that they met up as a family as they went on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem at various festivals in the year.

G. Campbell Morgan says these words: 'It is of supreme importance that we understand that when John said that, he did not know who Jesus was, he did not know that He was the Messiah'

Yet the fact remains that on two occasions in John's Gospel chapter 1, John the Baptist says distinctly that he did not know the Messiah until the Spirit of God descended and lit upon Him. So from John's own mouth we've the confession that he did not know that Jesus was the Messiah - yet, according to Matthew chapter 3, when John looked into the eyes of this One who came to be baptised, he said: 'No! I'm not going to baptise You! I should be baptised by You, not me baptising You!'.

Now I believe that the only answer to that seeming dilemma is the fact that when John refused to baptise Jesus initially, that this was a revelation, a prophetic declaration given to John by God, to show the sinlessness of Jesus as the Son of God. There's no other explanation - for on the one hand, John says 'I didn't know who the Messiah was', and yet he refuses baptism to Jesus because he feels unworthy. Of course John himself in chapter 3 of John's Gospel, that is John the Baptist, says: 'A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven'. John, we know, was given a sign to know who the Messiah was, in John 1:33 we read he says: 'I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost'.

Now let me say that this is very important: this was not John the Baptist's opinion of Jesus, but it was a divine revelation and declaration that this is the sinless Son of God. Here's why it is important: because the whole crowd would have assumed that Jesus was coming to be baptised with the baptism of repentance for the same reason that everybody else was coming - because they were sinners in need of God's forgiveness - but by this divine declaration and revelation it was clear that Jesus was different.

Now this brings us to the salient issue, I believe, when we consider the baptism of Jesus. Whatever Gospel record we read of Jesus' baptism, the big question the careful reader is left asking is: why was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, baptised? It has to be said that the baptism of Jesus does seem to cause problems for many. Someone has said: 'This could not have been the baptism of repentance, as Jesus had nothing to repent of'. What do you think? How would you answer? Here's how Campbell Morgan answers that question, and I favour his explanation though it seems a little shocking in the first instance, he says: 'He was baptised', that is, Jesus, 'as a repenting soul. His, also, was a baptism of repentance. His, also, was a baptism of the confession of sins. In that hour He repented, He confessed sins, but the repentance was not for Himself, the sins were not His own. In that hour He identified Himself with the multitude who had been thronging out to the baptism, identified Himself with them in the consciousness of sin, in repentance for it, in the confession of it. In that hour of baptism we see the most solemn and wonderful sight of the Servant of God who had come from the silence and seclusion of Nazareth, taking upon Himself the burden of human sin, counting it as if it were His own sin, doing that to which an apostolic writer ultimately referred by declaring: 'He was made sin''. This is perhaps why Martin Luther, the reformer, in his book 'Table Talks' said that our New Testament really begins here at the Jordan.

Now let's see Mark's, in particular, fourfold emphasis concerning the baptism of the Servant of Jehovah - how Mark gives it to us. First of all, the significance of the baptism of Jesus is explained in that it is the Servant's identification with sinners. Why was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, baptised? It is the Servant of Jehovah's identification with sinners, and we've touched on this a little bit. Let me expand, Hebrews chapter 2 and verse 17 says that the Saviour had to be made like unto His brethren in all things. Isaiah 53 and verse 12 tells us that the Messiah had to be numbered with the transgressors. So, as in His incarnation, so also Jesus in His baptism - mark this - was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. Now, when Jesus came as a man, there was no difference that you could have seen between Him and any other member in humanity. There was no beauty in Him that we should desire Him, He wasn't a foot taller than everybody else, there wasn't a halo around His head or an aura about Him. He looked like any other man, He lived like any other man apart from sin. That is why He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, and in the same sense the reason why He is being baptised as any other sinner is that He is coming in the likeness of sinful flesh.

There was no beauty in Him that we should desire Him, He wasn't a foot taller than everybody else, there wasn't a halo around His head or an aura about Him. He looked like any other man, He lived like any other man apart from sin...

'Jesus' was a very common name in Palestine during the time of Jesus' nativity - it was like 'John' or 'James' today. He came from Nazareth, and we know from Nathaniel's confession, he asked the question: 'Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?'. Incidentally, in Matthew's record of the baptism of Jesus, it just says that Jesus came out of Galilee to be baptised. Whereas Mark emphasises more specifically, he says: 'He came out of Nazareth of Galilee'. Despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief - now why is He being baptised? It's all, just like His incarnation, that He might identify with humanity and the sinful, fallen depravity of humanity.

Of course our Lord did not come confessing His own sins, He had no sins of His own - but this is the point: He came to make Himself one with those who were confessing their sins. In other words, He was allying himself with the race He had come to redeem, and the preliminary step to becoming the substitute for sinners was to be baptised in this baptism of repentance. What the Lord Jesus Christ is doing as the Servant of Jehovah, is He is identifying with sinners, He is symbolising how He will take the sinner's place in physical death. So, just as John the Baptist in his preaching and his baptism was preparing the way of the Lord, by baptising the Lord Jesus Christ he is actually preparing the way of the Lord's substitution.

The explanation is clear from Luke 12, from the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, where He says Himself in verse 50: 'I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!'. He had been baptised already by the baptism of John, but the baptism He is speaking of is the baptism of Calvary, where He would be baptised, 'immersed' is the literal word, drenched in the judgemental wrath of God as the substitute for sinners. Isaiah 53:6: 'All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all'. Remember, it wasn't long after this baptism of Jesus that John the Baptist said, recorded in John's Gospel 1 verse 29, 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world'.

The baptism of Jesus, first of all, is explained as the Servant of Jehovah's identification with sinners. Now there's great comfort there in that thought to all of us, or at least there ought to be, because this means that though sinless, though perfect, though holy, the Lord Jesus Christ is able to sympathise with our struggles with sin and with temptation, because though He never sinned, He has actually entered into the shame of sin. That is profound, and it is very comforting for us as sinners! But there is also a challenge in this thought, we need to ask the question of ourselves: how do we behave towards those who are struggling in sin around us? We often are at great pains to disassociate ourselves from sinners and from the type of sins that they sin in, but this causes us to consider: what was it for Christ to identify with sinners? It was a greater cost than it would ever cost us to identify with them! But His great cost to Himself meant great gain to us, His utter selflessness in being willing to lose all reputation to be identified with sinful men.

There's two lessons I want to give you out of this. First of all there's a lesson for us in our evangelism: what does it cost us to reach the lost? I've often said, and I think it's correct, if you want to know how much evangelism is done by a church, analyse their finances as to how much is spent on it - but you know, there's more than money involved in the cost to reach the lost, there often is inconvenience, there can even be a loss of reputation. Whatever the cost is to reputation or self-serving purpose, Jesus is giving us an example that whatever the cost is, however high it is, or broad, or deep, we ought to identify with sinners! If He could do it, ought we not to do it?

I often think of Ezekiel, where he sits by the river Chebar with the exiled people of Israel in Babylon. There they are, dejected, away from their Holy Land, and he says in chapter 3 and verse 15 of his prophecy: 'I sat where they sat'. Alexander Whyte, speaking of General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, says this of him: 'The General sits down on the same form, himself beside the off-scouring of the city, thus it is that he gets his penitent form so well filled, and his Salvation Army so well recruited. It was something not very unlike that when He, who knew no sin, came to the Jordan waters along with the Roman soldiers and the Jewish publicans who were there confessing and forsaking their sin'. What a lesson in evangelism!

This is the Lord of heaven, the Creator of the earth, the Son of God, and He comes to hear the preaching of John the Baptist and undergo his baptism!

There's also a lesson in appreciation, that is, appreciation of other men's ministries. This is the Lord of heaven, the Creator of the earth, the Son of God, and He comes to hear the preaching of John the Baptist and undergo his baptism! One old commentator called William Burkitt put it like this: 'Thence learn that the greatest persons should neither think themselves too great nor too good to come unto the ministers of God to hear the word from their mouth; for Christ, the Son of God, was content to be baptised of John, a mean person in comparison to Himself. How dare, then, the greatest upon earth despise the ministry of a man being appointed of God?'. Christ appreciated the ministry of John the Baptist - do we appreciate other men and women's ministries, even if they don't always agree with us?

Well, the Servant's identification with sinners is, I believe, what Mark would first teach us. Then secondly, we see, I believe, outlined here the Servant's consecration as Saviour. What I'm talking about is that there is a decision made here by the Lord Jesus, a commitment, dedication of Himself to God. For 30 years He had stayed in Nazareth faithfully doing His days work, discharging His duties in the workplace, probably at home after the decease, we think, of Joseph. He must have longed for a sign to lead him out into the Father's will for His life's purpose, His Father's business. As we see from the Gospels, the emergence of John the Baptist was that sign, and the moment He knew John was there He launches Himself out upon His life's task. His baptism by John the Baptist signifies His entire consecration of Himself to be the world's sin-bearer.

In other words, by being baptised He is yielding Himself up without any reserve to do His Father's will, even if it involved the cross. We know that this Gospel is an apology, an explanation of Christ's cross. Now the issue faces us, the applicative challenge is: do we as the servants of the Lord, the servants of Christ, surrender ourselves to God, whatever the consequences may be? This is what the Lord was doing, consecrating Himself to be the Saviour, to fulfil all righteousness as He says in Matthew. It is the spirit that we find in Esther when she says: 'If I perish, I perish! I'm going in to save God's people, and this man could chop my head off with the drop of a word, or even a gesture, but if I perish, I perish!'. Like Luther, standing before that great court in Worms, indicted by the Church of Rome, he explains the reason why he believes in this doctrine of grace, and justification by faith, and after outlining it and the fallacies of Rome, he says: 'Here I stand, I can do no other!'. That is the spirit of the Lord we see in His baptism.

Prophetically it's outlined for us in Psalm 40, where He is shown as saying to the Father: 'Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.  I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest'. He is consecrating Himself as Saviour. Though He is truly God, He was a man; though He was a Son, He became a Servant; and now as He is about to enter into His life's ministry, He consecrated Himself to do the will of the Father, whatever that may be. I think that's a tremendous commentary on a commonly misunderstood verse in Hebrews 5 verse 8 which says: 'Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered'.

My friend, in every life there come moments of decision, and they have to be accepted or rejected. Do you know what God's will for your life is? Has it been made clear? I know it's a very profound subject, the will of God, but perhaps there's someone here this morning and you know what God's will is - but have you submitted to the will of God and consecrated yourself to be the servant of the Lord? Verse 10 uses that phrase 'straightway' or 'immediately', which is right throughout the whole of Mark's Gospel, and it's speaking specifically of how Jesus came out of the water. What Mark is describing is the promptness in His service after He consecrated Himself to serve the Lord as Saviour to the world. Immediately after that consecration He is engaged in the act of service.

How long is it since you have been saved? Or how long is it since you consecrated your life to the Lord? How is your service now?

How long is it since you have been saved? Or how long is it since you consecrated your life to the Lord? How is your service now? This baptism of Jesus was the Servant's consecration as Saviour. But thirdly, see that it is also the Servant's recognition by the Father. So there is identification with sinners, there is consecration as Saviour, but thirdly there is recognition by the Father. The heavens open and He says to the Son: 'You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased', and the Spirit descends as a dove. What this is is approval from God, it is God's ratification - in other words, God is owning Him. W. Kelly, the brethren writer, says: 'Could heaven behold unmoved such grace? Impossible!'

What meaning had the act of baptism in the mind of God? Who could understand what the tearing of the heavens meant to Jesus as the Son of God? Who could understand what those approving words: 'This is my beloved Son', or 'You are my beloved Son', what that meant to the Son of God? What it meant even to the people of Israel, who it says, at least John the Baptist, heard it in the record of the other Gospels? Because God had not spoken in such a manner since the law of God was given at Sinai's Mount! What did it mean?

Of course, these words are a combination of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1: 'This is my beloved son'. But notice that Mark records not as Matthew, Matthew says God said: 'This is my beloved Son', whereas Mark records: 'You are my beloved Son'. Mark presents the story as a personal experience which Jesus had, not in any sense a demonstration to the crowd: 'You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'. What I think that is signifying is that at the baptism Jesus submitted Himself to God, and at that moment He was approved by God, and this was a personal approval of the silent years of Jesus' life for 30 years in obscurity - but it is also an approval of the work that He's about to embark on, the work of the cross! The significance of the Father's ratification of the Son here is that He is saying: 'I love you, in spite of the humiliation that you've gone down into, I love you no less because of it'. Equally so, He honours Him all the more because He was willing, He who was rich, to become poor that He might make poor sinners rich through His humiliation and through His death.

The Father ratifies His identification with sinners and His consecration as Saviour going to the cross. What a lesson! 'What is it?', you say. It's what we find in 1 Samuel 2:30 - God says: 'Them that honour me I will honour'. The Son was, as the Servant, doing the will that pleased the Father. Mark's understanding, I believe, of the meaning of Jesus' baptism is: a willing acceptance of the task that the Father had given to Him. What has God given you to do? I'll tell you one thing: He has commanded you to be baptised - are you? He has commanded you to remember the Lord around His table - did you? There are many other commands, and principles, and precepts in God's word; and we please God when we obey Him - but the challenge is, we see from the rest of the Gospel of Mark that Jesus' followers were unwilling to accept this path for Jesus. 'You're not going to the cross! What are you talking about, suffering and dying?' - not only were they unwilling to accept that as His path, but they were unwilling to accept it as their own path, that they would have to suffer, that they perhaps would have to die because of Jesus. Yet, as Paul tells us, this is something that all of us must grapple with as believers - Romans 6:3: 'We are all baptised into the death of Christ'. Some martyrs were literally baptised by their own blood in the death of Christ!

What Mark is setting forth for that there is no other path in Christianity except death to self...

What Mark is setting forth for us, showing the Lord Jesus in His recognition of the Father for doing His will, is that there is no other path in Christianity except death to self. Remember that this book was probably given to believers who were suffering under Roman execution, many of them to the point of death. What Mark is communicating is that just as our forerunner, Jesus, deliberately took on God's will and suffered for it and was honoured in it; if we suffer, we will reign with Him; but if we deny Him, He will deny us.

Fourthly and finally, not only in the baptism of Jesus could we see the Servant of Jehovah's identification with sinners, His consecration as Saviour, His recognition by the Father, but we see His preparation by the Spirit. In other words, His equipment for the work as Messiah and Saviour of the world. We see that the whole Trinity is involved here. Of course, at the beginning of creation the whole Trinity was involved, God said: 'Let us make man in our image'. Now, as we come to the new creation, the whole Trinity again, at the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is involved, saying as it were: 'Let us save man'. One commentator put it like this: 'Not only the Son loves His followers enough to suffer the pangs of hell in their stead; but also the Spirit fully cooperates by strengthening Him for the very task; and the Father, instead of frowning upon the One who undertakes it, is so very pleased with Him that He must needs rend asunder the very heavens, that His voice of delightful approval of God might be heard on earth. All three are equally interested in our salvation, and these three are One'. Of course, it's a wonderful demonstration of the doctrine of the Trinity - the Spirit coming in the form of a dove, the Father's voice speaking, and Jesus in the Jordan being baptised.

But see the significance of it, verse 10 says that this dove, the Spirit in the form of a dove, lit upon Him. Now that word in Greek for 'upon' is 'eis', which literally should be translated 'into'. It is not the word for 'upon' in Greek, which is 'epi', but the word for 'into', so the Spirit came into Jesus there in some sense at His baptism. Not as the Gnostics believe, that this was just the man Jesus, and when the Christ Spirit came upon Him He became the Christ, and that Spirit left Him before the cross - that is heresy of the most damnable kind. But what is being taught here is that this Spirit of God descending upon the Lord Jesus and actually going into Him was the act of the Holy Spirit, giving to Jesus the dynamic equipment which would enable Him as Messiah to discharge His duties.

Now please don't misunderstand what I'm saying, I know He is the Son of God, but we underestimate His condescension and humiliation when we fail to realise that He did not come to earth as God walking among men, but He came to earth as a man walking among men, to be the Saviour on behalf of God as God's Son. We know from His own words in Luke 4 that He was coming with the Spirit of God upon Him: 'because he hath anointed me', Jesus said, 'to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord'. He's coming as the Servant of Jehovah, as a man among men to save men, to satisfy God on God's behalf - and He did it as a man.

Now here's the big issue: if He needed the Spirit of God to fulfil His ministry, how much more do we need Him? How much more do we know Him?

Now you might ask the question: why did He need the Spirit of God? Let me say: there was never a time in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ that He was not filled completely with the Holy Spirit. Though He was God's Son, to be the Servant of Jehovah filled with the Spirit already, this was something more, this was something to enable Him to do this great eternal work. We read in the book of Hebrews chapter 9:14 that all the Servant's earthly ministry was, I quote: 'through the eternal Spirit'. Now here's the big issue: if He needed the Spirit of God to fulfil His ministry, how much more do we need Him? How much more do we know Him?

Why is He symbolised as a dove? That's another common question. Thomas Goodwin, the puritan and one-time president of Magdalen College, Oxford, says: 'All apparitions that God at any time made of Himself were not so much made to show to men what God is in Himself, as to show us how He is affected towards us, and to declare those effects that He will work in us'. If there is a creature that symbolises how the Holy Spirit is to affect us and work in us, surely it is a dove. Goodwin goes on to say: 'For a dove, you know, is the most meek and the most innocent of all birds, without gall, without talons, having no fierceness in it, expressing nothing but love and friendship to its mate in all its carriages, and mourning over its mate in all its distresses. Accordingly, a dove was a most fitting emblem of the Spirit that was poured out upon our Saviour when He was just about to enter on the work of our salvation, for as sweetly as doves converse with doves, so may every sinner in Christ converse together'.

I think it suggests more than that, more than just His harmlessness and meekness. It was, I believe, in itself a suggestion of the sacrifice that He was going to undertake on the lowest terms - now not in its intrinsic value, it is beyond measure, the value of the sacrifice of Christ - but as to the capacity of a worshipper. What am I talking about? Well, the poorest Israelite, who couldn't afford a lamb, could come with their offering for sin with a dove, and they were permitted to bring a dove as a sacrifice for their sinfulness. Here is the lowly Servant of God, and it is a dove that lights upon Him.

Isaiah, the Old Testament evangelist said: 'Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence'. What is the baptism of Jesus? The heavens were opened to show that the heaven that once was closed because of our sin, shut against us personally, is now opened by Christ undertaking His role as the Servant of Jehovah. Coming from obscurity and isolation for 30 years from Nazareth to Galilee, coming and in His baptism identifying with sinners, consecrating as the Saviour, having recognition from the Father, and preparation by the Spirit, we see Him entering His work.

Our Father, we thank You that the Lord Jesus Christ identified with us. We thank You that He consecrated Himself in Your will to be our Saviour, and was recognised in that consecration by Thee, and by the Spirit's enduement for the task. Lord we thank You, those of us who are saved, that He set His face to go to Jerusalem. Yet Lord, there may be others here this morning, and they have never seen the wonder that Christ was made sin for us. May they see it today Lord - but for all of us, You have given to us Christ as our example, may we in turn identify with those lost in sin, may we consecrate ourselves to see them won. May we know the recognition of God in that task, as You honour us and endue us with an outpouring of Your Spirit personally and corporately in this place. To the glory of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.

Don't miss part 4 of our Studies In Mark: 'The Servant's Test - Part 2'

Transcribed by:
Preach The Word.
September 2006

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the third recording in his 'Studies In Mark' series, entitled "The Servant's Baptism" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.

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