Mark 1:10, 11
Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Down is an interesting word. It’s used to describe lots of different conditions in life. People feel down. The stock market turns down. Athletes and sports teams find themselves down in the standings. Individuals sometimes are down on their luck. You get the point.
In the above Scripture passage, we see a down moment in the life of Jesus. We are taken to the shores of the Jordan River to observe Jesus’ baptism. We see Jesus going down into the water and coming up again. When Jesus’ face broke through the surface of the Jordan, something incredible happened. The Holy Spirit fell on Him, and God the Father spoke to Him from heaven.
As I read this recently, I reflected on something I had never before considered. In this story, nothing supernatural happened to Jesus until the moment He came up out of the water. When He came to the surface of the Jordan River, Jesus experienced an incredibly divine, miraculous moment. He saw and heard something wonderfully encouraging, affirming, and spiritually sustaining.
“Coming up” was the key moment. However, there was no “coming up” moment without a “going down” moment.
There’s a spiritual principle in this for us. “Up” cannot be understood apart from “down,” and vice versa. One defines the other.
“Down” is an inevitable part of life. It’s part of our human journey. We can’t avoid times of feeling down, being knocked down, and falling down. It happens. We all find ourselves, by way of circumstances, or our own sins, mistakes, and failures, under proverbial water at times.
Underwater is only dangerous or deadly if you stay there. When down, it’s important to find a way back up.
Being stuck underwater is quite scary. I recall a hot, muggy summer afternoon almost 60 years ago when I had my first and most traumatic experience with underwater
terror. My grandfather had a lake cottage where we would occasionally have family gatherings. There was a dock at his waterfront where we would load and unload from his boat and where the grandkids would enjoy the water.
On that particular day, I was standing alone near the end of the dock. I noticed a tube floating nearby and had a quick thought. My young mind challenged me to do a flying leap into the middle of it. In a flash, I was off into the air, completely unaware of the depth of the water. I never considered what would happen if I missed my target. One additional fact that never crossed my mind — I couldn’t swim!
You guessed it. I missed! I found myself sinking deeper and deeper, with no idea of how to get back to the surface. These many years later, the frightening memory of tossing about under the dark, muddy water is real. I can still feel the panic I felt, wondering if I was going to drown.
Fortunately, one of my uncles observed the whole process. He immediately jumped into the water to help me. As I struggled underwater, I suddenly felt his strong arms around me, pulling me to the surface. I remember how great it was to have my head above water again. When I surfaced, I remember seeing the blue sky, feeling the warm sun rays on my face, and experiencing the assurance that everything was now ok. I had been down, but I was up again! There’s nothing like “coming up” out of the water! Senses are heightened, hope returns, and joy rises.
When Jesus came out of the waters of baptism, amazing things happened. He, too, saw something. He “saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” He saw the Father’s anointing come upon Him.
He also heard something. When Jesus’ face parted the surface of the Jordan River’s flow, His ears heard His Heavenly Father’s voice speaking words of love and blessing. This affirmation from Father God would carry Jesus through His wilderness testing, ministry life and ultimately sustain Him in His crucifixion and resurrection.
What’s the message for us?
Obviously, this passage is about the confirmation and affirmation of Jesus as the Messiah. It was the launching point of His ministry. It sets an example for us of the importance of baptism in the life of a believer.
However, allow me to extract one additional and practical point to remember. If you’re down, there’s a way up for you. Supernatural moments are waiting for you on the up side. While baptism takes us down, we’re not designed to stay there!
Underwater should never be a permanent location for you. You were not designed to live under the waters of hopelessness, despair, guilt, shame, regret, failure, disappointment, discouragement, or defeat. Jesus wants to bring you to the surface so you can see and experience His supernatural grace and hear His loving, comforting, and restorative voice.
Feel the arms of Jesus surrounding you today, helping you rise up and out of the murky waters that have held you down. Let Him open your eyes and show you His Spirit, His power, and His amazing grace. Let Him revive your hope by opening your spiritual ears to the affirming voice of your Heavenly Father reminding you, “You are mine! I love you! I am pleased with you!”
It’s time to come up and out of the water!