*Note – while Marie and I are done with our time at Potter’s Field Ranch, all of the interns who were sent off have a recurring assignment to complete their Inductive Bible Study through the book of Mark. I will be doing this and sharing it with the world, but it will have a slightly different flavor than while we were in Montana. Thanks for reading!
Mark 1:1-11 ESV: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'” John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
I like how Mark starts his gospel: “…Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” BOOM! It’s right there in your face. In case you were starting to think that maybe Mark was indifferent about Jesus, He starts off by saying Jesus is the Son of God. That’s a bold statement. It’s the premise of his gospel. Mark says, “Jesus is the Son of God, and I’m going to explain why that’s true.” He’s not playing games. He’s made a statement that is testable, and he has stated his presupposition up front.
His first point of defense is a passage of scripture from the Old Testament. John the Baptist (or, more appropriately, the Baptizer) is the person of whom Isaiah prophesied. He lived out in the wilderness, eating honey and locusts. He was a weirdo, and by the sound of it, kind of the ultimate hippie. John would take people who confessed their sins, and dunk them in the water. This would signify a new life, that all their old sins that have separated them from God are washed away. John prophesied that after him, someone would come who would baptize (dunk or overwhelm) people not with water, but with the Holy Spirit of God. That’s a big statement. Mark implies here that Jesus is that dude.
So, Jesus comes on the scene, and comes to his cousin (literally! Read Luke 1 for the back story) to be baptized. As He’s doing this, Mark says that Jesus saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit falling on Him like a dove. It doesn’t say that anyone else saw it, which is interesting. But Mark does imply that after this, everyone hears the Voice. This is Mark’s second point of defense in this passage: God himself speaks and calls Jesus His Son.
This has always been an interesting passage to me, because I tend to wonder why Jesus needed to get baptized? I mean, He was the only perfect person to ever walk on the earth, so clearly He didn’t need His non-existent sins washed away. The best answer I’ve heard is not that it was a symbol of His sins being washed away, but it was a symbol of Him taking on our sins. All the people that had been immersed in the river left their baggage there. Jesus put Himself in the river to symbolize that He was taking all our problems. He was bringing Himself down to our level. This is why God the father was pleased with Him, because He was taking His mission seriously.
Recently, I’ve been really taken with the though of hope. What is hope? Why do some people have it and not others? How can people get hope? Is it real? Is it worth anything? I’ll be exploring this concept more and more through this blog, but I want to link this concept into everything I do. So, two questions:
- What hope does it give you to know that the Son of God came to serve you?
- What hope does it give you to know that John the Baptizer says Jesus will overwhelm you with the Holy Spirit?
Sound off in the comments! I’d love to hear if it gives you hope, and if so, how!