Two posts in one week? I must be insane. We’ve just made it through the creation account in Genesis, and now I’m heading back to Mark – I refreshing shift, if I do say so myself. We last covered Mark 1.1-8, and you can find that post here. Today we’re looking at Mark 1.9-15, first in the ESV, and then in the NET. Small bites are good… I definitely bit off more than I could chew in that Genesis passage, so let’s start small and see how it goes, shall we? Remember, Liveblog first, no looking at notes or anything, followed by a little more depth on the second reading.
Here’s the ESV, describing the baptism and temptation of Jesus, and the beginning of his ministry.
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.10
Just like that. No introduction as to who Jesus is; he’s just Jesus, being baptized like the others that have come to John. I mean, we know Jesus is the Christ from the introduction, but there is no grandeur here. I find this interesting… it sounds… oral, if that makes sense. Like this is a transcription of how I would tell the story if I were telling it out loud. ‘and then, one day, Jesus came down to the river, and guess what happened next?’
And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
And what a thing to happen next! This makes me think of the Old Testament prophets again, of the Elijah calling down fire, of Samuel anointing David… This was a very visible proclamation of God’s approval of Jesus. Sometimes I wonder if Jesus knew who He was before this event. He probably did, but it’s an interesting thing to think about.
12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
Ok, so the Spirit descends on him, and the very first thing he does is run off into the wilderness? Yeah, great start Jesus, you’re definitely looking really sane right now. And being tempted, in the desert? You would think the city would hold more temptations – power, lust, wealth… but out in the scrub of the Judean outback, Satan tempts Jesus. And there’s Jesus, just hanging out with wild animals, and oh, by the way, angels come and ‘minister’ to him. Whatever that means. Sometimes I forget how crazy this story sounds.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
And then he returns. It’s interesting that Jesus waits until after John is arrested before coming to Galilee… the timeline is really indistinct here, I don’t really know how long it’s been since the wilderness. maybe it’s been weeks or months… all I know is that it’s after John was arrested… I’m assuming because he was seen as a troublemaker, but I really don’t know. Not a lot of detail here. And how does Jesus start? ‘The Kingdom is Here – Repent and believe in the good news!’ No word on what that good news is. I guess we’ll find out.
Now, On to the NET and looking with some depth:
1:9 Now in those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan River.
Nazareth was a hick town. It isn’t mentioned anywhere in the OT, the Talmud, or in the writings of Josephus. I like this, because I identify with it – It would be like Jesus coming from Ucluelet, where I grew up. A small town that no one has heard of.
I think it is beautiful that Jesus was baptized first and foremost in Mark. To Mark, this is where it all starts. With baptism’s connection to ritual cleansing and new starts, it makes for a beautiful picture. Of course, John was baptizing for the forgiveness of sins, but it is unlikely that Jesus had any sin to forgive… this would be more symbolic of the beginning of his ministry than anything.
1:10 And just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 1:11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my one dear Son; in you I take great delight.”
There are a couple things going on here. ‘The Heavens opening’ doesn’t describe the violence associated with the Greek – ‘splitting’ comes closer, but according to the notes I’m reading, ‘rending’ or ‘tearing’ would be even better. The heavens were torn open, and the Spirit of the Lord descended. This recalls the request of Isaiah in Is. 64.1… but God did not descend in a way that anyone was expecting. He came as a dove. the fact that the Spirit descended ‘as a dove’ is significant – the dove was the offering of the poor, those who could not afford to offer a lamb. the NET notes call it a ‘sacrifice of humility’. Interesting choice for the all-powerful God of the Universe, Lord of Hosts, King of Kings. Wouldn’t you expect it to be a mighty warrior bird or something? I don’t see a dove causing mountains to shake very often.
I love the phrasing of ‘in you I take great delight’. It just feels so much warmer than ‘I am well pleased’. God was delighted in Jesus!
The notes I’m reading also note that this gives us a baseline with which to evaluate characters in the story – only we know that he is touched by God, and so we are able to judge whether others in the story judge him correctly or not. Interesting.
1:12 The Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness. 1:13 He was in the wilderness forty days, enduring temptations from Satan. He was with wild animals, and angels were ministering to his needs.
Mark loves to use the word ‘immediately’. it adds a real sense of urgency to the text, that things are happening! And the thing that is happening is… Jesus heading out into the wilderness. It seems like Jesus is purposely trying to defy expectations – coming from a nowhere town, baptized by a guy dressed in rags, being touched by a dove, and now wandering into the desert.
Of course we know the number 40 has significance – 40 years in the desert of Sinai, Israel’s own wandering period; 40 days of flood… others I’m forgetting I’m sure. The word for ‘temptations’ implies going through a trial to prove character, rather than the more negative overtones we give it today. Jesus was proving his worth, perhaps to himself? the name ‘Satan’ is a transliteration of the Hebrew satan, which literally means ‘adversary’.
1:14 Now after John was imprisoned, Jesus went into Galilee and proclaimed the gospel of God. 1:15 He said, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!”
I don’t have a lot to say here – only that I’m enjoying this a great deal. See you next time, Dear Reader!