Who Do You Think You Are?

Last week, many churches celebrated the “Baptism of the Lord”.  In churches that follow a liturgical calendar, the readings that follow the Christmas season focus on the baptism of Jesus, the start of His public ministry.  One of the readings that is often used is a passage from the beginning of Mark’s gospel that describes Jesus’ baptism. (Mark 1:9-11)  This passage reveals a stunning truth that, for most of my life, I always missed.

Immediately after Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan river, Mark tells us that, as Jesus comes up out of the water, He sees the Heavens split open and the Holy Spirit coming down on Him like a dove.  Then, God the Father speaks from Heaven, declaring to Jesus: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”.   What’s so stunning about this passage?  What did I always miss?  Before Jesus does anything, the Father declares that He is well pleased with Him. 

This is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  He hasn’t healed anyone.  Hasn’t performed any exorcisms.  Hasn’t delivered any brilliant teaching.  Hasn’t spun any thought-provoking parables.  Hasn’t shown any of His radical compassion and mercy, or served others in any way, or become the quintessential “man for others”.  No, at this point in time, Jesus hasn’t done any ministry, any good thing. 

And yet, the Father declares that He couldn’t be more pleased with Him.  In other words—and here’s the thing that went right over my head for so many years—the Father loves the Son for who He is.  Not for what He will do.  Not for the perfect life He will live.  He is beloved because He is His Father’s Son.  Not because He is perfect.  Or performs great deeds.  Or is holy.  Or is a good person.  No, the Father simply delights in who He is. 

What is implied in this sequence—the Father’s declaration over His Son before He begins His public ministry and all the amazing things He will do—is that the Son’s “goodness” flows out of who He is in His Father’s eyes.  It flows out of His identity as the Beloved Son.  The Father’s love is unconditional.  The Son is loved not because He is good.  He is good because He is loved. 

What I had always missed in this passage was the stunning way it reveals the nature of the love that exists within the Trinity, the unconditional love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share.

By the way, in case there is still any doubt that the earliest Gospel writers—of which Mark is the first—saw Jesus as God, this is yet another place where Mark clearly presents Jesus as the fully divine Son of God.  The Father’s declaration over Jesus as His beloved Son is, for Mark, a revelation of Jesus’ identity.  How do we know?  Because in the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by Jews back then, the term “beloved” is almost always used of an only son.  For example, in Genesis Abraham’s one and only son Isaac is customarily referred to as his beloved son. 

So, with all due respect to The Di Vinci Code and those scholars (mostly of previous generations) who claim that Jesus’ divinity was a later invention of the Church, here in Mark, the earliest Gospel, Jesus is clearly declared to be the one and only, unique Son of God.  In other words, Jesus is presented as the ontological—the big word scholars use to describe it—Son of God, truly God in His very being.

So what?  What does any of this have to do with our identity?  Well, as Paul makes clear in two places: Galatians 4:4-7 and Romans 8:14-17, those who put their trust in Jesus become adopted daughters and sons of God.  Through faith in Christ, the one and only Son of God makes us beloved children of God too.  When we invite Him into our lives, this becomes our true identity. 

And here’s what is so stunning about this: God is well pleased with us too!  Before we do anything good, He delights in us too!  He loves us not because we are good but because of who we are.  When this dawns on us, the natural response is gratitude.  The natural response is to love the same way He loves us.  The natural response is to want to do great things for Him.  But, we aren’t loved because we are good.  We become good because we are loved.

It truly is stunning: The moment you put your faith in Him; the moment you allow Him into your life, you become His beloved son or daughter.  You become His precious child.  In whom He delights.  With whom He could not be more pleased.  And, praised be Jesus Christ, that’s your true identity!

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback I’d love to hear from you!  You can go to the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website and leave them there.  Please like our Facebook page and subscribe to our YouTube channel.  Thank you for all the continued support!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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