Monday, January 17, 2011

God sends the promised Lord

In Mark 1:1-13, the gospel writer introduces us to the “gospel of Jesus Christ.”

His first step is to recall Old Testament prophecy regarding God’s promise to send a messenger to prepare the way before the Lord/LORD (the Old Testament passages use both terms). So we have both a promise from God that he will send the Lord, and also a promise from Him to the Lord that he will prepare the way.

In comes the vivid imagery of John the Baptizer, dressed in camel fur and eating bugs in the desert. Obviously, from the text, he is the messenger preparing the way. But how? And why would the Lord come from God into the desert?

John prepares the way by baptizing people and preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins. These are radical departures from the norm for Israel: baptism was for Gentiles and Israel secured forgiveness (atonement) through the sacrifice of animals. John’s preaching included the admonition that there was ‘one greater’ who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Then appears Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee: a nobody from nowhereville. He comes to the desert and gets baptized by John in the Jordan, just like everyone else. Could this be the ‘one greater’? Certainly not. But Mark confirms Jesus’ status by recording what he saw: the heavens opening, the Spirit descending, heaven talking. Then a curious thing happens: Jesus is expelled to the desert.

If everyone was in the desert already listening to John, how bad must it be if you are expelled from there to the desert?

Mark doesn’t leave us wondering at Jesus’ status, though. Even while he is in the wilderness being tempted, angels are tending to him.

So in Mark’s introduction we have Old Testament prophecy regarding the messenger and the Lord; John’s appearance and prophecy that ‘one greater’ was coming; the ‘one greater’ would baptize with the Holy Spirit; Jesus of Nazareth is baptized by John and baptized (to a degree) by the Holy Spirt; Jesus’ baptism is attended by eschatalogically significant events of heavens opening and heaven (God) speaking; Jesus is personally attended by angels.

Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah (Christ), but not only is he flesh and blood — nobody from nowhereville — he is the Son of God, a kinship confirmed by miraculous and prophetic signs

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