John’s Gospel: The Baptism of Jesus, Part 3


Now, I’m sure it seems I’ve gone far afield of the question about Jesus’ receipt of the Spirit. But you can’t interpret these passages in a vacuum. Long before you bring your own questions to them, you have to ask: what questions did Matthew and John intend to answer? What is the point they were trying make?

And they were placing Jesus in historical context. They were explaining how he fulfills the promises made by God to the Jews, and they were showing what his ministry was going to be about.

We’ve earlier mentioned the fact that the Messiah was to be anointed with the Holy Spirit. Anointing was part of the Israelite coronation ceremony. But David was anointed three times. Samuel anointed him while yet a shepherd boy, long before he ascended to the throne. Later on, he was anointed by the “men of Judah” to be king over that tribe, immediately after the death of Saul (2 Sam 2:4), but it wasn’t until seven years later that he was anointed king over all of Israel (2 Sam 5:3).

First, Jesus himself had at least three extraordinary encounters with the Spirit. He was conceived by the Spirit in Mary’s womb. He was begotten by God himself in the most literal way possible.

Second, God anointed him with the Spirit when he was baptized by John (also Acts 10:38). But Jesus wasn’t truly made king until his resurrection. After all, he didn’t ascend to the “right hand of God” until then (Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Heb 1:3-4).

(Eph 1:20b-21 ESV)  he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,  21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

(Rom 1:3b-4 ESV) his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh  4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

And this brings us to the third encounter with the Spirit — the resurrection. Jesus was resurrected “in power according to the Spirit.” Indeed, the working of the Spirit to resurrect Jesus “declared” him to be King [= “Son of God” in Psalm 2].

Thus, like David, Jesus received three anointings — declarations as king — the first two announcing his kingship in prospect, only partly realized, with the third making him a fully realized king over all creation.

God’s testimony

In 1 John, John argues (as most commentators understand him) that God testified to Jesus as God’s own Son at his baptism —

(1Jo 5:5-9 ESV)  5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  6 This is he who came by water and blood — Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.  7 For there are three that testify:  8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.  9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.

“Water” is surely a reference to Jesus’ baptism when God testified that Jesus is his Son. “Blood” would be his death and resurrection, which is also taken by the apostles as God’s declaration of his Sonship. And both were accomplished by God by means of the Spirit.

Again, the emphasis in Jesus’ baptism is on Jesus’ Sonship and on the working of the Spirit.


Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. He was considered by the people to have “authority” (Matt 7), which translates s’mikeh, according to Ray Vander Laan. Only a few rabbis had authority in this sense. Rather, most rabbis could only teach the Law and the Oral Law as handed down to them.

But a rabbi with s’mikeh could teach new teachings, as Jesus, of course, did. His new teaching was often challenged, as leaders asked, “Who gave you authority?”

A rabbi, to have s’mikeh, had to memorize the entire Tanakh — the Old Testament — and had to be anointed by two rabbis with s’mikeh. Who anointed Jesus?

Well, John the Baptist and God, by means of the Spirit, would be one very good and sufficient answer.

Hence, the baptism of Jesus would show to a  Jewish audience his authority — from God himself — to bring new teachings. And since Jesus would disagree with much of the Oral Law, proof of s’mikeh would have been very important.


Finally, I have to mention this. An anointing in the Bible could also indicate the giving of a mission or a task. Hence, when Aaron was made high priest, he received an anointing (Ex. 28:41). It’s no coincidence that Jesus was anointed by the Spirit immediately before beginning his ministry.

Just so, we Christians are also anointed (1 John 2:20, 27), not only as kings, but as having a mission from God.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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