Pastor's Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 1:9-11 bible study (August 8, 2023)
Updated: Oct 4
May the Lord's Light shine in, with, and all around you today.
Today we launch into the content of chapter one of our Bible Study of Mark, and interestingly enough, Matthew and Mark have extended birth narratives, and include extensive lists of the line of birth for Jesus, Matthew through Joseph, and Luke through Mary that Mark does not have. Luke also contains material about Mary's visit to Elizabeth who will give birth to John the Baptist. However, in Mark's typical much shorter version we have a few words about John in 1:5 and 6. It is just enough to know that John is a prophet who has been called to announce the coming Messiah, and then Mark, in the material about John the Baptist jumps to the arrest of John in Mark 6 ff. (remember please that an ff means "and following" without designating a specific number of verses in which the material is contained) In this section of material John remains voiceless about the birth narrative for either Jesus or his cousin John.
The first part of our passages from Mark today tell us quite a bit of detail about Jesus' cousin John in a precise way. John really lived his message. You and I know about that, we see in our religious leaders in the church how important it is for their lives to represent what they preach. Of course, clergy, like everyone else, fall short sometimes. I can tell you, in all humility, that in my call, my marriage, my parenting, in our family generosity, and especially in our lives of faith, we try diligently to be the presence of Jesus Christ through what we say and do with our lives, we see ourselves as beacons of Christ's love and hope in this difficult world. And yes, we have also sacrificed in our lives for Christ. John lives his call to prophetic ministry in the very same way.
He lived in the wilderness so that the things of the world might not draw him away from the work to which God had called him.
The clothes he wore showed in an outward way the place of his humble heart before God's call. He wore a garment of camel's hair with a leather girdle around his body.
The food he ate was simple. He ate locusts (bugs or beans) and wild honey available for John to find in the wilderness. There were apparently no prepared foods which he ate.
These are the reasons that the people listened to John the Baptist. In his life there were no trappings of the world were most people live, and the Jews were hungry for a true prophet to come before them with God's Word of Truth.
John's message was also effective, because he told people what they knew to be right in their hearts. Everyone in John's time knew that they failed, no matter how hard they tried, to keep the Jewish rules for every day living, and that they also failed in their devotion to God. We are really not much different in our day, are we? We never have to look very far to find some place in every day where we have sinned and offended God, forgetting the great sacrifice that Christ has given for our very lives and hope.
The Jews had a saying that if everyone would only keep the law of God perfectly, then one day the Kingdom of God would come. The Jews were hungry for the truth which John the Baptist imparted, including the coming of the one whose sandals John would be unworthy to touch. The saw in John who, to them at least, appeared to be more than worthy.
The Jews were also aware that the voice of the prophets had been silent for over 300 years. That's a long time to be led by those who found their wealth and power in the place of God's Temple Presence. We are fully aware of that person who deserves our attention and devotion in our lives - they are morally upright, ethically appropriate all of the time, and they have a heart for bearing forward only truth in their lives rather than power for personal gain.
John's message was effective because he was completely and totally humble in his life. That humility only fell away when John was speaking on behalf of God.
John's message was so well received because it always pointed to something outside of himself and to someone who was not him, to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
In this section of chapter one of Mark, vs 9-11, we have Jesus coming to John at the river Jordan, and being baptized by John for the repentance of sin. When we think about the Christology we understand, we know that Christ was sin free. So why did He come to John at the river? For Jesus this baptism meant four things.
This was His moment of decision. Jesus had stayed in Nazareth for 30 years. He had learned Joseph's trade as a carpenter, and he had borne the responsibility of the first born son to the family. Yet we must know that Jesus knew his time would arrive, and as He watched for a sign, John was the obvious sign that it was time to get started. I guess you and I might call that age of 30-40 years a time when mid-life crisis can hit us pretty hard. For me, it was the time that brought me to the decision to head off to seminary to train to become an ordained minister in our Lutheran Church. For me, this message came in the midst of the faith community at Lebanon Lutheran Church in Whitehall, Michigan, but even more so, in the readiness of my wife and life partner to meet the challenges that this choice would make in her life too. Had we chosen to stay in teaching, we would have been done at age 50 on full retirement, possibly working yet another position in some other area to bolster our retirement, But instead, at age 30 we headed off with our little ones in tow, to spend $115,000 dollars for graduate theological education and all of the surrounding expenses. We never chose to receive God's call on my life to serve the Gospel based on the security it might bring us, rather, like John, we rejoiced in the opportunity to share the Light of Christ where ever we went, confident that God's care would always surround us no matter how hard it might get as we grew old. We adopted 5 children, four of them late in our lives, knowing that the resources we would use to raise them would make retirement much more difficult, and yet we always knew in every decision that the Love of God in Jesus Christ was with us. We still know the great joy of being in Christ's service in our lives every day.
For Jesus this was a moment of identification. In this time when John was getting people to be mindful again about their relationships with God, this also became the time for Jesus to be identified by those who received John's baptism for the repentance of sin. This movement was already gaining momentum, and it was a good time for Jesus to step forward to become a part of what John had already started.
For Jesus, who had already made his decision to boldly step forward in His ministry for the Truth of God in the Messiah to begin, approval of His choice would really be helpful. That descending dove and God's spoken word were just the affirmation Jesus needed.
This was also Jesus' time for equipment. The Holy Spirit descended upon Him, encompassed Him, and brought Him into the fullness of God's presence, giving Him the confidence to move forward boldly to heal, teach, and save all of God's children with loving kindness and Grace, leading Jesus to His final sacrifice for us all on the Cross.
Next Monday we will move forward into verses 11 and ff. In this section, we will discover if Jesus is going to do a power grab, or if he will remain humble as he is tested in the wilderness.
With Grace and Love, Pastor Taylor