The Baptism of Our Lord

by Crossings

“Pulling it Together”
Mark 1:1-15
(The Baptism of Our Lord)
analysis by Lori Cornell


1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'” 4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news.”


DIAGNOSIS: Falling Apart

Step 1-Initial Diagnosis: Trying to Hold It Together
We spend much of our lives trying to hold together the extraordinary responsibilities we have. We do it for appearance’s sake — lest others think us irresponsible; and we do it for sanity’s sake — hoping that the attempt to hold life together might actually result in the same reality. But try as we may, we fail to hold our lives completely together. The bills don’t get paid on time; the new parenting method we read about — and tried to employ — failed, and we ended up yelling at the kids again; the prayer time we resolved to set aside was interrupted by too many distraction (or too much silence). Do you suppose that it is our own life in the wilderness, among “the wild beasts” (v. 13)?

Step 2-Advanced Diagnosis: Torn Apart
Even when our life seems to be humming along smoothly interruptions come. The family needs to move to a new city because mom received a promotion; and kids dread saying good-bye to long time friends. Or a family member becomes sick or dies, and efficiency and routine take a back-seat to grief. The life that we have tried so hard to hold together seems to be torn apart, and we grieve its passing. And in the midst of this we wonder: What has happened to us? Worse, we wonder, where is God while all of this is happening? God seems alien to us; hidden, distant, and unexplainable. Do you suppose that is our own beings, “tempted by Satan” into unbelief and hopelessness? (v. 13)

Step 3-Final Diagnosis: Rent Asunder
We aren’t the only ones who have been wondering, What happened? God has been doing his own wondering. Because as alien as God seems to us, our lives, our doubts, our sin are alien to God. In fact, God finds them damnable. And with that, it would seem, that the relationship between heaven and earth — between us and God — has been torn asunder.

PROGNOSIS: Pulled Together

Step 4-Initial Prognosis: The Rift Repaired
But what if the thing that is torn apart, finally, is not the relationship between us and God, but God’s judgment itself. What if God actually turned from his anger, set aside his judgment, and tore away the barriers that have come between us and him? For that is exactly what Mark tells us God does at Jesus’ baptism: Jesus “saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending” (v. 10). At Jesus’ baptism, God tears open the heavens in order to bind heaven and earth; God publicly declares his intentions for humanity: “No more wondering,” he says; and, “No more waiting.” Here, in his beloved Son, God shows his true intentions for humanity: to mend the fabric of our relationship to him, to repair the rift of unbelief that we haven’t been able to bridge by ourselves. In Christ, we have God’s assurance that God will no longer be a stranger to us; instead, in Jesus Christ, God the alien has taken up residence in our world for good.

Step 5-Advanced Prognosis: The Gap Bridged
But that is not the end of the good news. God’s binding heaven and earth together in Jesus is only “the beginning” (v. 1); because no sooner does God join heaven and earth in Jesus’ baptism, then God joins us to Jesus. In Jesus God declares that he is interested in getting personal — not just with the world in general, but with each of us. And so, the One who has been declared “beloved child” by the Father, binds himself up to our lives in our baptism. As we are baptized into Christ, the good news of the heavens being torn apart becomes ours; God is on the loose in our lives; God is inextricably involved with us. And the “us” in us who once wondered, “Where is God?” now watches, in repentance, as our doubts are torn asunder by the Messiah’s entry into our lives.

Step 6-Final Prognosis: Held Together
We, who have been trying to hold the world together on our own, now know: We can’t; instead, we have One who is holding the world together for us. His name is Jesus Christ. When he was baptized the rift between heaven and earth was bridged. And when he was crucified, and the temple curtain was torn apart to reveal the Holy of Holies, the truth of his baptism was confirmed: In Christ, God has stooped down from heaven, and he has no plans to turn back. He plans to stay with us every step of the way, until this earth passes away and heaven is our home.

Author

  • Crossings

    Crossings is a community of welcoming, inquisitive people who want to explore how what we hear at church is useful and beneficial in our daily lives.

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In the early 1970s two seminary professors listened to the plea of some lay Christians. “Can you help us live out our faith in the world of daily work?” they asked. “Can you help us connect Sunday worship with our lives the other six days of the week?”  That is how Crossings was born.

 

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