Thursday, January 5th. Mark 1:9-11

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And 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. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  Mark 1:9-11 

And just like that….the deed was done.  Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan.

Washing.  Tearing.  Blessing.

So many images come to mind in reading these three brief verses as Mark not only opens the story of Jesus but ties it together as well. 

The image of the heavens being torn apart and our mind jumps to the odd reference to the temple veil at the crucifixion of Jesus.  “Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:13-14) 

Something is happening in Jesus – God is changing the nature of things.  The inaccessible – heaven, the inner court of the temple – has become accessible.  God will not be locked away, out of sight, out of mind. 

We hear the stirring words of affirmation that Mark tells us only Jesus could hear: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  And then our mind jumps to the other places we will hear these words in Mark.  First, on the mountain of the transfiguration in Mark 9, and then from the mouth of one of the Roman centurions who did the dirty work of the crucifixion, “Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’” (Mark 15:39)

Only Jesus hears the words…then Jesus, James, Peter, and John…then the truth of Jesus’ identity as Son of God was revealed even to an accursed Roman centurion.  This is how the Jesus story will spread.  This is what “tearing open the temple veil” will look like in people’s lives as the Holy Spirit works through the good news of Jesus in the years to come.

And between the tearing and the blessing there is a strange reference to a dove.

I have no memory of learning the story of Noah and the ark, it just feels like one of those stories that I have always known.  And I remember as one of the best parts the dove that returned to the ark with an olive branch, a sign of new life, a promise that the waters of death would recede and life would start anew.  As a child I didn’t get caught up in the particulars of the story.  (I certainly didn’t think it might be necessary to send an expeditionary force in search of ancient ship boards.) 

I only remember Noah being obedient in building a large boat in a very dry place, looking foolish to his neighbors.  The adventure of gathering up animals.  The rain falling.  The water rising.  (I do remember thinking the fish were lucky.)  Then the dove.  And soon after…the welcome sight of dry land.

Thus, Jesus entered the water of the Jordan River.  Identifying himself with sinners, the ministry of Jesus begins in the water of baptism.  In this baptism – as in our own – heaven is torn open, the dove of peace and promise descends, and words of affirmation are spoken.  You are my beloved child.  With you I am well pleased.

In that, we are born anew.

Let us pray:  Gracious Lord, by water and the Holy Spirit you bring new life in our world by raising us to new life.  May we ever see baptism, not as a once upon a time event, but as a daily dying and rising, a daily homecoming and sending forth, a seal of our identity and a sign of our calling.  May we live, not in the bondage of seeking to earn your love, but in the freedom and lightness of knowing that nothing can ever separate us from your love for us in Christ Jesus.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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7 Responses to “Thursday, January 5th. Mark 1:9-11”

  1. Orlin Hanson Says:

    Very good reading from the Holy Bible. I need more like this one so that I may live like Jesus says. Orlin

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