As we look at these beginning verses, we are introduced to Jesus. Before Jesus says a word, we see a beautiful picture of who he is and what he is like. Mark begins his gospel story by quoting from Isaiah, indicating that Jesus is the one the OT prophets have long been writing about, speaking about, and waiting for. Then we see Jesus from John the Baptist’s perspective. John, too, has been waiting for the Messiah, dedicating his life to prepare the way for him. As Jesus approached the river where John was standing, John knew. Jesus is the one he’d been waiting for. He is the Christ, the Son of God.
Then, amazingly, we see Jesus from God’s perspective. Jesus had come to the river to be baptized by John, and as soon as John pulled Jesus up out of the water Jesus saw something beautiful. The skies opened up and the Spirit came down to him in the form of a dove. Then he heard these words: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Ahhhh… what words. N.T. Wright translates them this way: “You are my wonderful son; you make me very glad.” Have you ever heard those words from your father? All sons and daughters long to hear words like these, and, if you’re fortunate, you have. But in reality, most of us have not. We long for the approval of our parents and the people around us, but rarely get it. We are a people who walk around longing for approval but are stingy in extending it.
But Jesus had his Father’s approval and his Father expressed that approval in words in front of a large crowd of people. Of course he did, we think. This is Jesus we’re talking about! He never did anything wrong or selfish or rebellious. Of course his father approved of him. Me, on the other hand….
But here’s the amazing part. If you’ve been baptized into authentic faith in Jesus, these words belong to you, too. Because Jesus is our representative, God’s love and approval of Jesus is extended to us. Us! People who in no way deserve that love and approval. It’s ours! For free! We don’t have to prove ourselves, or earn it, or work hard to keep it. Because of Jesus, we have God’s approval forever.
I love N.T. Wright’s thoughts on this passage: “The whole Christian gospel can be summed up in this point: that when the living God looks at us, at every baptized and believing Christian, he says to us what he said to Jesus on that day. He sees us, not as we see ourselves, but as we are in Jesus Christ… it’s true: God looks at us and says, ‘You are my dear, dear child; I’m delighted with you'” (Mark For Everyone, 4-5).
Hard to believe isn’t it? But living according to the gospel means living according to this truth, even when it’s hard to believe. It means letting these beautiful words of approval sink in and change you. Everything we do from our baptism forward is a response of gratitude to these wonderful words of approval.