by Sue Towne
“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: ‘Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased’” (Mark 1:9-11, NAS).
We see baptism as a sign of a person’s repentance from sin and their commitment to living a new life in Yeshua. We also know from references in the gospels and in Acts that John preached “a baptism of repentance.” What then was this baptism of Yeshua’s in the Jordan River? Why did He, who was without sin, have John baptize Him, and what did that baptism signify?
One thing we know from a study of Jewish culture of that period is that this baptism is also described by a Hebrew word, mikvah, which means “ritual cleansing by immersion in water.” We don’t have room here to do a study of mikvah. But, mikvah was practiced in Yeshua’s day in a variety of contexts, all of them having this in common: that the mikvah was a preparation to enter into a different activity or season of life. In that sense, mikvah is a sign of—repentance! What!? Yeshua knew no sin and had no need to repent of any. Why then undergo mikvah?
First, we must understand that repentance is not limited in Scripture merely to the renouncing of sin. God Himself is described many times in the Old Covenant as “repenting” from something He was about to do or had done. In this sense “to repent” fundamentally means “to change one’s mind or course of living.” When Yeshua stepped into the Jordan River that day, He was changing the course of His earthly life by embracing the ministry He had come to fulfill in the earth. No longer would He remain hidden in a Nazareth carpenter shop. He was stepping into His mission in full. And because of this “repentance,” Mark says, the heavens opened!
The heavens opened—isn’t that what many of us long for, living life on earth under an open heaven, where the power and love of heaven is ministered through us into the world we live in? What “course change” or “repentance” is God calling you to right now? What course change is He calling for in the Church? As we say, “Yes” and step into our new season with Him, it could be that we are turning the key that opens the heavens over our lives, bringing the flow of heaven’s power to earth.
Scripture marked NKJV taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Emphasis added.