A reflection on Mark 1:9-15 for the First Sunday in Lent, February 21, 2021
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.’
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
Mark 1:9-15 (NRSVA)
In the Gospel of Mark the account of Jesus’ baptism is personalised.
Here it is Jesus who sees the heavens torn and the Spirit descending. Similarly, heaven’s voice addresses this baptised one: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
Jesus’ baptism is presented not as a sign for the crowd, or even for John the Baptist. It is a witnessed sign for Jesus himself.
Perhaps it serves to remind the reader of Jesus’ sense of the Father’s call and equipping. It is not exclusively his mission. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are at work together.A formidable force.
After all, this co-operation is far from mere symbolism. It is action.
In Mark’s characteristic fast-paced telling of the story, the dove-like Spirit immediately drives Jesus into the wilderness. Forty days of temptation follow. These are not, however, conducted by the Spirit. Satan is, from the outset, the tempter. The scene is overlooked by beast and angel. A cosmic, far reaching, audience.
It is also initiated and overlooked, however, by the Spirit of God. Jesus is never alone.
Neither are you.
Compared to Matthew and Luke there is so little detail here. A skeleton story. Where is the flesh? Why not more descriptive meat?
Indeed, we are not even told the outcome of this desert temptation.
Except that Jesus emerges proclaiming the ‘good news of God’. Whatever Satan did it did not prevent the call of God being fulfilled.
A wonderful thought to take into every situation.
And now begins the proclamation of the ‘good news’: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
Jesus and the Spirit ushering in the kingdom of God!
How does this account of Jesus’ temptation give you hope in the midst of things you are tempted by?
How does it change temptation when you consider it to be initiated – and limited – by the Spirit?