Immersion in Christ – Mark’s Gospel
I discuss the Bible in a couple of Yahoo Groups, one in particular. I have learned an enormous amount in the 3 years I have been on this list especially but the same topics seem to be discussed ad infinitum. I have some quite different views from many on the list and I enjoy presenting my views and interacting with the list members, some of whom are close friends and I consider them mentors (even if we don’t have identical perspectives).
Recently as some of my views have changed, I have been reading Christian blogs more, searching for different approaches that make sense to me and that I can accept intellectually as well as spiritually. As one of my favourite bloggers, Michael Spencer – the Internet Monk, said in a post today:
I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot recently, but I’m far more interested in a person coming to a position of honesty and integrity than I am in maintaining labels that aren’t working. The choice between a phony Christian profession and honest doubt is not a hard one for me.
I can’t maintain the label of “strictly evangelical” any longer. However, some of my friends see my change of perspective as the beginning of a slippery slope towards a loss of faith. This is far from the truth – my journey is towards a more authentic faith where I am not forced to try to reconcile interpretations which I cannot accept. I was challenged to spend as much time in the gospels as I do in the blogs. Now this is a fair comment (I spend too much time blog reading and not enough in the Word) and one I have taken to heart. I need to feed on spiritual bread and drink of the living water. I have been inspired by Nick Gill’s commitment to blogging his way through the Bible and decided to blog my way through the Gospels. I will post in my group (Berean Spirit) as well as here. And as my blog is networked to facebook, it will post there too.
For various reasons I have decided to stick with looking at one gospel at a time. (Some in Berean Spirit suggested a chronological study of Jesus’ life). It is more manageable, and I don’t want to commit to something I have neither the time, the discipline nor the skills to complete. Immersion in one gospel at a time (pun intended) will enable us to discern the intent and voice of that author and it’s message for us. I chose Mark to begin with for a few reasons. It’s most likely the first gosepl that was written. It has more of Jesus’ deeds and less of his teachings than Luke and Matthew do, so it might make sense to look at Jesus’ teachings later after looking at a framework of his life in Mark first. And, I don’t want the discussion to go offtrack by being distracted by the genealogies in those gospels (I have different views on the historicity of the genealogies to many in Berean Spirit) or discussion of the virgin birth. Plus the profundity of the Sermon on the Mount scares me – I need to work up to discussing that. And Mark is the least “literary” of the gospels so I have spent less time in Mark than the other gospels so far. This will address that lack.
I am going to post my comments after reading, prayer and reflection. I am not intending to make this an indepth study so will try not to get distracted (as I am wont to do) by commentaries or tangents. I’m using the ESV to paste here (thanks Biblegateway) but am reading the NIV, TNIV, ESV and NLT each day before commenting. And I will make each post short so it’s more manageable.
Mark 1 (English Standard Version)
1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ,(A) the Son of God.[a]
The gospel is ongoing beyond Mark’s account (into Acts and beyond). The gospel not limited to a written account or to this account. My Bible tells me that the Son of God was added later. Is that significant? Probably not… it doesn’t contradict anything.
2(B) As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,[b]
(C) “Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3(D) the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
(E) ‘Prepare[c] the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,'”
Mark indicates that Jesus is the fulfilment of Israel’s prophecies in quoting here from Isaiah and Malachi. A reminder that Jesus cannot be understood in isolation but in the context of the whole of God’s story.
4(F) John appeared, baptizing in(G) the wilderness and proclaiming(H) a baptism of(I) repentance(J) for the forgiveness of sins. 5And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan,(K) confessing their sins.
We should not be limited to “this” baptism. We need to embrace baptism in all it’s richness and spiritual complexity. If we limit baptism to the “remission of sins” we miss much of what Jesus is all about.
Note that “all” is used here in a hyperbolic sense, not literally. It is obvious (from the rest of the gospel story) that not everyone in Jerusalem and Judea were baptized by John.
6Now John was(L) clothed with camel’s hair and(M) wore a leather belt around his waist and ate(N) locusts and wild honey.
Does this description have echoes of the 40 years the Jews spent in the wilderness? I know it links John to Elijah and other prophets.
7And he preached, saying,(O) “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
John’s foreshadows the servant leadership of Jesus.
The poetic language of the prophets Isaiah and Malachi and John contrasts with the prosaic language of Mark.
8(P) I have baptized you with water, but(Q) he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
The importance of Holy Spirit baptism. Water baptism is insufficient unless we are immersed in the Holy Spirit too. We need to base our theology of baptism on the gospels and the whole canon of Scripture, not just Acts 2:38.
I was wondering how this line would be translated with immersion instead? (Berean Spirit group has been discussing how the Greek word baptidzo should best be translated into English – by the transliteration baptism or immersion.
8 I have immersed you in water, but he will immerse you in the Holy Spirit.”
It loses something, I think. Baptism is much more than immersion.
Verse 3 makes me want to sing. Handel’s Messiah is one of my favourite pieces of music.
I invite your comments. And your prayers for my perseverance with immersion in Jesus.