Epiphany: How does Jesus’ baptism reveal His identity?

A riddle:
What celebration was bigger than Christmas for the early church?
(other than Easter)

I’ll wait while you ponder. [music playing]

Revealed: Jesus is the Son of God, the Lord's Anointed OneJesus’ baptism.


Yup, Jesus’ baptism.

Before Christmas was a holiday, the worldwide church celebrated the Epiphany of Jesus’ baptism.

The original church feast focused on Jesus’ baptism as well as other epiphanies like the nativity, the wise men, and Jesus’ water-to-wine wedding miracle.

If Epiphany is so important, why don’t we know more about it?

An epiphany is anything that clearly reveals Jesus’ identity.

Epiphany is defined as a revelation from above, an event that confirms Jesus' identity, a realization of Truth, or an ah-ha momentAt Christmas, God breaks into human history as an infant. Emmanuel, God with us. The virgin birth!

What event more clearly reveals Jesus as sent by God?

As you might imagine, many events reveal different aspects Jesus’ identity. My last post explored how the wise men’s visit identifies Jesus as the king, high priest, and suffering servant for all people.

Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Jesus’ baptism as the primary epiphany alongside the other three mentioned. What does this reveal?

After He was baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and settling on Him, and behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:16-17 NASB

In this dramatic scene, all three members of the Trinity are visibly active and audible: Father, Son, and Spirit.

But there’s more. Let’s stand on the shore of the Jordan River where crowds of humble, repentant Jews wait their turn for John’s baptism. Others, sopping wet, cheer their cleansing renewal.

We can guess that John the Baptist, who recognizes his cousin, allows Jesus to skip to the front of the line. The crowd probably doesn’t hear John resist baptizing the One who is greater, but Jesus insists.

Even though He’s committed no sin, Jesus humbly joins with those responding to John’s call for repentance. He is submerged in the Jordan like every other ordinary person. Onlookers pay no special attention to Him, until…

As soon as He came up out of the water, he saw the heavens being torn open. Mark 1:10 CSB

And every eye looks heavenward.

When the heavens are torn open: God appears, God speaks, and God intervenes.For many Jews at the scene, seeing heaven ripped open triggers their memory of Ezekiel’s apocalyptic vision.

Now it came about…, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God…
Ezekiel 1:1  NASB

Ezekiel describes his strange vision of four winged creatures facing every direction and moving simultaneously in every direction. Weird! But Jews understood these visions as familiar messages about God’s end time intervention.

Others awaiting baptism remember Isaiah’s prayer.

Oh, that You would tear open the heavens and come down… to make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence!
Isaiah 64:1-2 NASB

When the heavens split open,
God appears.
God speaks.
God intervenes.

God awes the riverside crowd into silence.

The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came from heaven: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.”
Luke 3:22 NASB

Breath-taking! A visible Spirit and an audible Father commending His Son. The Trinity. Can you imagine it?

And God’s words echo Psalm 2—the coronation of Israel’s King as God’s representative on earth. The Spirit anoints Jesus for divine service.

“I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”
I will proclaim the LORD’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.
Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.
Psalm|2:6-8 NIV

And since the Jews sang these psalms in worship regularly, they recognized the lyrics: Jesus is not only the Father’s beloved Son, but also the Lord’s anointed King.

It’s an ah-ha moment for sure…
Or is it?

Let’s reflect:

  • What does this multi-layered epiphany reveal to you?
  • In what way does it affirm your faith in Jesus’ identity?
  • How do the Old Testament connections add significance?
  • Why do you think Jesus’ birth and the wise men’s visitation are more widely celebrated than His baptism?

Read how discovering one intertwined, consistent story through Old and New Testament connections changed my view of the Bible

Find more fun facts by pressing the ah-ha button at SeedsofScripture.com!

Digging deeper:

During a church history class, I learned that a disagreement among leaders split the church into East (Orthodox) and West (Roman Catholic and later, Protestant).

At one time, there was one worldwide church rather than a gazillion denominations. And this unified church celebrated the same Epiphany.

Now, Western Churches celebrate the wise men. Orthodox Churches celebrate Jesus’ baptism.

So, which church is right?

Remarkably, both East and West are correct, even though they disagree.
The Magi’s visit revealed Jesus as King, high priest, and suffering servant.
His baptism reveals His identity as the Son of God and the Lord’s anointed one.

Bruce Barton et al., Life Application New Testament Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 2001)
Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997)

#seedsofscripture #readthebiblebetter #jesusbaptism #descendedlikeadove #voicefromheaven #thisismysonwithwhomIamwellpleased #epiphany #ahha


  1. J.D. Wininger on January 22, 2024 at 11:57 AM

    I liked your info, but especially appreciated the “one church” comment. We have allowed manmade denominations, ordinances, and beliefs become a wedge between Christians and true Christianity. Our relationship must first and foremost be between us and our Lord, through His Son Jesus Christ. Anything beyond that is artificial and worthless in the grand scheme of things. If our relationship is right, then our religion is right and our lives will reflect Him, not manmade, orchestrated, divisive denominationalism. Well said my friend.

    • CathyChung on January 29, 2024 at 5:16 PM

      Ah, you read all the way through the postscript bonus! Yes, it started as one church and as they disagreed, the scholars got together and worked it out. Until they didn’t. Then, unfortunately, they intentionally distinguished one from another. Politics. The Reformation, while getting back to the Bible, lost some good things along the way because they wanted to fully distance themselves from Rome. Sad. I can see why people shy away from organized religion.

Leave a Comment

Spend a few minutes to plant a quick Seed. Or stay longer and plant a whole garden.

Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts.  If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.
Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts. If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.

Receive Seeds of Scripture by email.

Please enter your name.
Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.