The authors of the gospel accounts in the Bible—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—regularly refer to Jesus as the Son of God, a title that’s connected to the theme of the firstborn. In this episode, Tim and Jon explore what it means that Jesus is God’s Son through the stories of his baptism and testing in the wilderness. Listen in to find out how Jesus uses his power in a way we’ve never seen another human do before.
There’s two ways that Jesus is the Son of God. One is through his human lineage that goes through Joseph and Mary and links back to Adam, and that’s crucial for him coming as a human to do for humans what no human seems to be able to do. But the baptism reveals this other aspect of his identity—that though he appears among us as a son of Adam, he is, at the same time, the eternal Son of the Father.
Jesus is the ultimate firstborn (a title applied to him by Paul). The gospel authors never refer directly to Jesus as God’s firstborn, but they do refer to him as the Son of God, a title that connects to the theme of the firstborn.
The opening lines of Mark are a claim about Jesus’ identity—that he is the Messiah and the Son of God (Mark 1:1). The rest of the gospel contains story after story of how other people come to a realization of who Jesus is.
In part two (12:44-26:31), Tim and Jon explore Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him; and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased.”
Though Mark’s retelling of Jesus’ baptism is relatively short, it’s packed with references to the Hebrew Bible and loaded with meaning.
The phrase “son of God” is first used in the Hebrew Bible to refer to any spiritual being—any of the elohim (gods). However, throughout the story of the Bible, God repeatedly chooses one person to be a son of God in a special way, meaning that he chooses people to accomplish specific purposes, specifically David and the line of kings that follow him.
God’s words about Jesus in Mark 1 combine three hyperlinks to the Hebrew Bible. The phrase “you are my son” comes from Psalm 2, “in you I am well pleased” comes from Isaiah 42, and “you are my beloved son” comes from Genesis 22.
Jesus’ status as God’s Son is not a new identity for the second person of the Trinity—it’s who he has been all along. Jesus’ baptism is similar to the ceremony where a king is anointed; it’s a commissioning for the work he will now begin doing.
In part three (26:31-40:14), the guys explore Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism, which is immediately followed by a genealogy.
… the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased.” When he began his ministry, Jesus himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph … the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”
Here, Luke gives us yet another dimension of Jesus’ sonship. Not only is he the Son of God because of his position within the Trinity, but he’s a human son of God, born to Mary, adopted by Joseph, and descended from Adam. Luke’s word choice indicates that being a human image of God overlaps with what it means to be God’s Son. Jesus is both a human image of God and the image of God in which humans were made.
After Jesus’ baptism, he is led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he’s tested by the Slanderer (Matt. 4; Mark 1; Luke 4). Jesus overcomes the test and the tester, making him a Son of God who relies on God’s word—the very test that Adam and Eve failed.
In part four (40:14-54:41), Tim and Jon conclude by talking about what happens immediately after Jesus’ testing in the wilderness. Jesus goes back to Nazareth and reads in the synagogue from Isaiah 61.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.
Jesus reads these words from Isaiah, which marks a major turning point in the theme of the firstborn. Throughout the story of the Bible, even God’s chosen ones have failed when tested. And those with power have all, at some point, abused their authority for their own gain. But Jesus defies both of those categories. He passes the test and relies on God’s word, and then, with the power of the Spirit and the power that is his as the firstborn Son of God, he proclaims himself the liberator of the oppressed, the one who brings good news to the poor and overlooked.
Show produced by Cooper Peltz with Associate Producer Lindsey Ponder. Edited by Lead Editor Dan Gummel and Editors Tyler Bailey and Frank Garza. Mixed by Tyler Bailey. Podcast annotations for the BibleProject app by Hannah Woo.
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