The text (Mark 1:9-11):
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And 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. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark presents this event much earlier in the text than do Matthew and Luke (occurs in the third chapter of each of those texts), and in the process does not get into too many other details about the event. It has already been established that this Jesus was no ordinary man, and the telling of His baptism continues in that theme.
It has also already been established that John was baptizing people in order to prepare the way. He used the baptism as a method of cleansing with the repentance of sins. Then along comes a man, but something unusual happens this time. It was something that had never happened before. As Jesus comes up from the water there is (as I would imagine it) a break in the clouds letting the sun shine through.
I have seen something like this once before, and while I do not want to compare the event that I have witnessed in any way to what happened with Jesus, but getting the picture here does help with understanding what this event must have been like. I was recently helping with some water baptisms at a local beach, and our senior pastor decided to have some of the elders of our church baptize him again. I remember that it was a very overcast day, and it was windy and the waves were making it a little difficult to stand out there at times. But as our pastor went down, there was a break in the clouds, and what seemed like a single beam of sunshine broke through just for a moment as he came up out of the water. It was amazing at how that single, momentary beam of sunshine changed the whole atmosphere as this event was happening. Everything was suddenly warm, new and fresh.
I imagine that this must be what it was like when the “heavens split open”. Everyone there must have been amazed at what just happened in the atmosphere. Then, as this change happens in the air, there is more. The text says that “like a dove” the Spirit descended. It wasn’t an actual dove, but people saw the Holy Spirit himself coming down with the grace and beauty of a dove…
The atmosphere must have been absolutely electric! Then finally, the voice comes. Imagine standing around at an event that is probably pretty life changing for you (if you were there getting baptized by John while repenting of your sins), then this dude comes along, and all of this happens. Then suddenly, this audible, and probably majestic, voice comes from this new atmosphere, and says… “This is my Son.” I cannot imagine how incredible this event must have been! Regardless, it continues to send the statement to the reader of the original audience of this document that this was no ordinary man. Amen to that…