Mark is the first Gospel written, likely circa the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. It is the shortest of the synoptic Gospels, sharing narratives with Matthew and Luke—and it is full of the Greek term euthys which means "immediately." Euthys is used forty-one times in Mark, unlocking this Gospel writer’s tenor and tone that stands in sharp contrast to Matthew and Luke, and ultimately—John. Like the New Year, Mark's Gospel begins at breakneck speed: launching itself into Jesus’ baptism and then his wilderness journey.
After having completed Advent and Christmas, we are now hurled immediately into this urgent and profound opening. It demonstrates Mark’s get-to-it-ness, while Matthew is eager to make an Old Testament-based claim of the lineage of Jesus from the House of David. Though we appreciate Matthew’s pacing, sometimes we need a push from Mark.
The New Year is conducive to this nudge, and baptism is always an excellent place to dive in. It is the cornerstone of Christian theology. Therefore Mark’s opening passage is pivotal to our faith, demonstrating the power and majesty not just of God but a Triune God—Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit in one scene. This Gospel sheds light on a common theme we have encountered this week: the bold, mystical intrusion of God’s presence. This is not intrusion in the negative sense of the word. Rather, it is a presence that is pronounced, the glory of which is impossible to ignore.
God, help us to remember the significance of the immediacy of Jesus’ baptism and what that means for our lives. Amen.
This week’s readings use both water and wind (Spirit) in a variety of ways. Water and wind are present in the Genesis story of God's bringing order out of chaos. Both the epistle and Gospel bring images of water in baptism and with the Spirit present. The psalmist invokes the voice of God thundering over waves and causing trees to shake. In the account of Jesus’ baptism, that same voice breaks through to proclaim that Jesus is God’s Son, the Beloved. Also, in the middle of this week, we celebrate Epiphany with Isaiah's inspiring vision of dawn breaking and the invitation to arise and shine because Light has come to us.
Read Genesis 1:1-5. Where have you seen God bringing order out of chaos in your life? What are the situations in your life or in our world that seem formless or chaotic now? Can you see God working to bring order in those situations?
Read Psalm 29. How do you respond to the powerful images of God’s action reflected in this psalm?
Read Acts 19:1-7. How would you answer Paul’s question: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became [a believer]?” How do you see the Spirit active in your life?
Read Mark 1:4-11. Can you hear God saying to you, “You are my child, the beloved; with you I am well pleased”? How does it feel to imagine God saying those words to you?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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