Mark’s gospel, as so I know many of you are aware, is the shortest of the presentations. And it begins with a very simple line. That he is telling you from the beginning, the story of Jesus Christ, the son of God. He then goes into a very brief piece of presentation about John the Baptist being out in the desert. But the highlight of that first chapter is this scene.
When Jesus comes to the River Jordan. And is baptized or submits to the baptism of John, despite John’s objections.
And as he comes up out of the water, the heavens are rent open. He’s able to perceive that. And he hears the voice of the Father say, You are my beloved son in whom with whom I am well pleased.
A few days ago, we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, January six and the Feast of the Epiphany is the three Magi coming to the infant in order that they might present their gifts. It is the realization or the way of expressing that there is a recognition from the world at large. The world at large, a recognition that Jesus is King.
But what happens today is another epiphany. It is an epiphany that one could say is personal to Jesus, but yet becomes essential in telling the story of Jesus Christ, the son of God. It is the epiphany of his baptism. One might say, well, the baptism at that point in time was not terribly significant.
Many, many were coming to be baptized by John. But the significance in the baptism of Jesus is that when he comes up out of the water – comes up out of the water. The voice of the father is heard. We might not think a lot of that, but a call that you should think back to Genesis.
Think back to the story of creation. And if you recall, creation comes when God speaks God’s word out of the chaos of the water. And it is from that, that the gift of creation emerges. God speaking his voice over the chaos of the water. And throughout scripture. You see over and over again these symbols, these stories relating to water. And how water is always seen as that which is chaotic. That which is uncontrollable by the human. But yet God is able to use it. To use it to bring forth the goodness of life.
And so when Mark puts this in as the first – of the story he’s going to tell us – of Jesus Christ, the son of God, he uses this image, which would have meaning for the people of the day. And the image is very clear. In the baptism, in this emergence of Jesus, from what we describe as the hidden years into his public ministry, it is in a sense God bringing forth a new creation, that will be initiated and accomplished through the work of Jesus.
And so in a sense, the words of the father are not merely words for Jesus.They’re words for us. Because it’s God the Father’s way of saying,
he is my presence in your midst. The Father to the Spirit, pointing to the Son, and saying to us, he is my presence in your midst.
Again, I tell you, go back to the story of Genesis. Again, we so often miss the importance of that story. We focus on Eve and the apple or whatever that fruit happens to be. And that’s kind of our focus. But there’s another very beautiful part of that story. And that is that in the cool of the afternoon. God would come to walk with his creatures. From the inception of creation, God’s plan was always that there should be harmony, that there should be union. There should be literally companionship between God and God’s creation.
When you see the event of the Lord’s baptism and you understand is rising from the water, the father speaking, the spirit coming upon him. Remember, this is Jesus who we celebrated very recently, his birth as a human. His incarnation. Here we see the father saying, my beloved son. Here we see the father saying, yes, this is my plan. That you represented in him.
Who captures all humanity and himself? I designed you to be with me, in my divinity.
Certainly, it opens up in Mark’s gospel. It opens up the story of Jesus. From that moment on. And it is a story of action. A story of action, the action of God. The action of God by the power of the spirit through Jesus. Bringing all things into harmony with the father. We don’t think of it that way.
Unfortunately, we don’t think of it that way, because if we did, we would understand. That when we’re baptized, we are radically changed. We’re given a new identity. The identity of being alive in Jesus by the power of the spirit brought into oneness with the father in this sense. When we’re baptized, we’re raised up. We’re raised up from our limited humanity. Certainly, nothing is more visible to us than our limited humanity.Then we’re baptized as an infant because we have no power whatsoever of ourself at that moment. But it is the action of God that lifts us up. It brings us from our limitedness. To our own limitedness. To our life in the Trinity.
And so as we come to this feast, it reminds us it reminds us of the unique dignity that baptism bestows upon us. It also reminds us that baptism is the door to action. An action born of contemplation and of prayer. But a concrete action has Jesus showed us walking on a new path. Because that’s the rest of Mark’s gospel, Jesus walking on a new path. All of the things that had been, in a sense, frowned upon. All of the things that were demeaned. He takes and he makes whole. He takes and he lifts up. And he heals.
Mark records all of those healings. They had the stories of the action, the stories of God at work in our midst. Because we are at one with God. That is so important.
Our world is a broken world. One only needs to have looked at the hard experiences that occurred this very week. It’s a broken world. We can’t ignore that. But it’s a broken world that we can heal. If we live up to the gift of our baptism. And we’ve seen signs of that. We’ve seen signs of it. I know that, again, the horror of Wednesday seems to control our minds, certainly our press and everything else. But think about all the good that has happened despite that. Think of all the good that has happened. Think of all those people who were given food on a regular basis. Think of the care that’s provided. In the hospitals. The doctors, the nurses, the aides, all of those people, in a sense, putting themselves at risk in order that I might help another. Think of all the other things that have gone on and that go on on a day to day basis. As people reach out checking in on their neighbor. Giving support to an elderly person. Think of all the people who are engaged right now. In the assistance to give the vaccine to as many people as possible. And all of the efforts that are being made along those lines.
It’s so easy, it’s so easy to only see the negative. But it’s so, so important to concentrate on the positive. To see what’s possible. When we live, not by the foolish ways of humans. But the glorious ways of God. And you and I, because we have been baptized. We have a moral obligation. We have a God-given obligation to live in that hopeful way. So they through our efforts of being at one with Jesus, by the spirit in union, with the father, we show our world, we show one another, we show our families, we show our friends, our communities. We are never alone. For God’s spirit lives on in our midst. Because God has continued to call us. To life in God. Let us never lose sight of that, no matter how dark the days may be.
Let us remember that that’s the gift, and that gift will sustain us today and for ever.