Friday, Weekday of Christmas Time – Mark 1:7-11

The Gospel of today is a choice of two texts taken either from Mark or from Luke. The Lucan text of today focuses on the ancestry of Jesus going back to Adam and God. The Marcan text taken from the proclamation of John the Baptist includes a section of Jesus’ Baptism, a feast we will celebrate three days from now.

Mark is the only book in the Bible that announces itself as a “Gospel” (Mark 1:1), the ‘good news’ about Jesus. Mark’s Gospel does not focus on the birth or youth of Jesus. Mark begins his ‘good news’ of Jesus’ baptism as the beginning of his ministry.

Baptisms in our country are predominantly a family celebration unlike a wedding which has a more social celebratory focus. Today’s baptism has the Blessed Trinity in attendance; THE Father, THE Son and THE Holy Spirit; this is a family celebration and we are drawn into the embrace of the three persons of the Trinity to be joined in this family celebration.

The text of today is loaded and we need to listen carefully to its message. We are told that Jesus was coming out of the water when 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.

The dramatic revelation comes “from above”. First, the heavens are torn apart. The heavens are rent open to indicate that Jesus belongs to the divine realm. The word “torn open” (schizo) used of the heavens occurs again at the crucifixion in Mark 15:38 when the temple curtain is “torn apart” at the moment when Jesus breathes his last, implying a connection between the baptism and crucifixion.

Next the Spirit descends on him like a dove as he emerges from the water. This Spirit will remain with him throughout his public ministry and passion. In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist tells of seeing “the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove” (John 1:33). In Mark’s Gospel Jesus alone hears the voice of God at the baptism bestowing upon him the identity: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).

We identify this voice as that of his Abba, his dear Father. The Father reveals the identity of this seemingly ordinary man Jesus from Nazareth by declaring him to be his beloved Son. For other people and especially for us, to recognize Jesus’ true identity we must listen to Jesus’ words and observe his deeds. The announcement “you are my son,” is one of three moments in the Gospel where Jesus is proclaimed “son”; here, at the transfiguration (Mark 9:7), and at the crucifixion (Mark 15:39).

“Why was Jesus baptized?” After all, he is the sinless, divine Son of God, and the baptism that John the Baptist administered was “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). Why mingle with those Jews who have come to confess their sins, be baptized and receive forgiveness? Why identify with sinners? Does Jesus need John’s baptism?

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