Voice in the Wilderness

Scripture: Mark 1:4-11

Key Verse(s): Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (v. 10-11)

Observation: The gospel according to Mark is fast-paced and tells the story of Jesus’ life using an economy of words. Mark’s telling of Jesus’ baptism is no different. The writer begins with John the Baptizer or the Baptizing One suddenly appearing in the wilderness preaching repentance and baptizing those who repent for the forgiveness of their sins. John the Baptizer is not given any other identity or backstory in Mark’s gospel. We are only told that he is the one preparing the way for the Lord according to Isaiah’s prophecy. He is the voice in the wilderness calling people to repent and be baptized. However, he also confesses that there is one coming after him who is more powerful than he is. This more powerful one will usher in a new age when baptism will be more than just getting wet but will be inclusive of receiving the Holy Spirit. As soon as John finishes speaking, Jesus shows up to be baptized. Jesus’ baptism gives us one of the few instances where all three persons of the Trinity is present together. God the Father speaks, God the Son obediently submits to baptism, and God the Holy Spirit descends like a dove. Mark does not take long to move from the preparatory voice in the wilderness belonging to John to the more powerful, Spirit-filled voice in the wilderness of God the Father.

Analysis: This passage from the gospel according to Mark is paired with a reading from Genesis 1:1-5, the beginning of one of the creation stories found in Genesis, in the Revised Common Lectionary. In this passage, God the Father is again the voice in the “wilderness” or a desolate place but in this case God speaks and all of creation comes into being. With this Genesis reading in mind, we see Jesus’ baptism not as a need for Jesus to be forgiven of sin or needing repentance but as God restoring creation to its intended purpose. In the creation story, God speaks and there is light and God calls the light good. At Jesus’ baptism, God responds to the darkness that has overtaken the hearts of human beings as a result of the Original Sin by proclaiming Jesus his Son in whom he is well pleased. Jesus, the Son of God, is the light that has come into the world to fill us with the Spirit that hovered over the waters of the deep darkness at creation. In Jesus’ baptism, we are invited back to the beginning when God the Father goes into action creating the world beginning with light. Jesus the light of the world comes to usher a new beginning for all who repent, who change their minds about living in the darkness of sin, and choose to become a new creation by the power of the Holy Spirit. God the voice in the wilderness speaks to bring light and life to all who repent and are baptized. Praise the Lord!

Prayer: Gracious God, we praise you for coming in human form to make it possible for us to receive your baptism. Help us to live into this new life of opportunity to serve you. Help us to embrace the radical disruption of our goals and plans that accompanies truly living according to the heaven splitting baptism of Jesus Christ. In the name of the Triune God we pray. Amen.


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