Year B: Baptism of Jesus
Mark 1: 7 – 11
Father, you gave St Jerome and St Paula delight in their study of Holy Scripture. May we find in your word the flood of salvation and the fountain of life that you have promised, through Christ Our Lord. Read the text a number of times. As you read try to forget the holy pictures you have seen of this event. Mark is not trying to give us a TV news account of what actually took place. Yes, he sets the scene; but more important, he uses symbolic language and links to the Old Testament to help us to understand what took place in Jesus’ life. The last prophet died three hundred years before. No prophet had appeared among the Jewish people for a very long time. When John started to preach and to offer his baptism to repentance an excitement swept through all Israel. This coming of a prophet brought a revival of interest in things religious. God’s long silence was over. He was once again speaking directly to his people. No wonder people came from far and wide to hear this prophet and answer his call to change their lives. No doubt the news that a prophet was among the people reached Jesus in Nazareth. Jesus must also have been caught up in the excitement and decided to visit John and even possibly become one of his disciples.
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Mark describes what happened to Jesus and the impact of this encounter with God had on his life.
9It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised This baptism to repentance was surely not necessary for Jesus. Here he identifies himself with the ‘sinners’ of this world. He was to continue this practice right through his public life. Luke 15: 2 Jesus has not changed. He continues to befriend us even in our failures. We immediately feel our bond with Jesus growing. In the Jordan by John. I am sure there is much more to this phrase than that it was the only sizeable river around. Take a moment to read Jos 3: 7 – 17. Mary, Jesus’ mother, would have called him, Jeshua. Mark is introducing Jesus as the new Joshua and the new Moses.Jos 3: 7 ‘I will begin to make you a great man in the eyes of all Israel … and I am going to be with you as I was with Moses.’‘By this you shall know that a living God is with you.’ (v10) These words are also addressed to us.
15-16 ‘As soon as the bearers of the ark reached the Jordan and the feet of the priests who carried it touched the waters … the upper waters stood still and made one heap over a wide space.’ The link here with the crossing of the Red Sea is obvious. Once again we have a momentous moment in the history of the Jews. This time, it is clearly the transition from the slavery of sin to the freedom offered by Jesus.
10No sooner had he come out of the water than he saw the heavens torn open.
There was no gaping hole in the sky. Isaiah uses these same words. Read Is 63: 15 – 19.
16 You, Yahweh, yourself are our Father.17 Return for the sake of your servants,19 Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down.We can only presume that Jesus was troubled, undecided about his future when he set out to join John. At this moment he experienced God in a very special way. He came to a realisation that his future did not lie with John but rather he had to follow his own call.
16 You, Yahweh, yourself are our Father.17 Return for the sake of your servants,19 Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down. Make these words your prayer. Spend some time with this text gently repeating these words allowing their meaning to filter into your being, your life.
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and Spirit, like a dove descending on him. In Gen 1: 1 “.. God’s spirit hovered over the water.” This is the moment of a new creation. In Gen 8: 10-11 the dove heralds peace and reconciliation between humanity and God. Imagine the gentle landing of a dove and you will recognise how gently God encourages us to be the best we can.
Once again we find ourselves drawn into God’s presence – a time of peace, quiet, contentment with our gentle loving God. This is a time to savour, to just be with your God.
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11“You are my Son, the Beloved; I have chosen you.”What an extraordinary realisation this must have been in the life of Jesus! Hear God saying to you, “You are my Son, the Beloved; I have chosen you.”What and extraordinary realisation for us!
Listen to these words again and again. Believe them.
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We have become aware of the depth of meaning in this text. However, for this really to impact on us it needs to become a reality at the level of our relationship with our God.
9It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised (1) in the Jordan by John. 10No sooner had he come out of the water than he saw the heavens torn open (2) and Spirit, like a dove (3) descending on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; I have chosen you. (4)
(1) Do I accept that God will not allow my failures to prevent me from growing in a deep and lasting relationship with him?
(2) Give thanks and praise to our God for the new insight that that you have experienced.
(3) Does my understanding of God reflect the gentleness of the dove?
(4) Take time to repeat again and again, “You are my Son, the Beloved; I have chosen you.”
Allow yourself to hear God addressing these words to you.