As we enter Bible Month looking at the book of Mark I thought I would write about something I have been reflecting on, on and off for the better part of a decade. The passage that I am looking at in this is Mark 1:9-11, the baptism of Jesus. The reason why I am writing about this now and exploring the thoughts I had many years ago is because when doing some reading in preparation for this month I had an answer to a question which was the central part of my reflecting. However, before we get to that let’s take a look at the passage of scripture
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 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. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
I do not hide my love of all things sci-fi as I’m sure many of you already know by now, but, what you might not know is that I am also very interested in history, it was my favorite subject in school and I still really enjoy reading articles about the past and watching documentaries. So with this new information about me it should not surprise you that I very much enjoy books and shows about time travel, whether it’s H.G Wells, The Time Machine, or Doctor Who. Star Trek also has some very good time travel episodes in it as well. So what does time travel have to do with the baptism of Jesus? I’m sure this is a question some of if not all of you must be thinking. It’s either that or your wondering if has Chris finally lost his grip on reality and is just putting my geeky ramblings to paper? To be honest the answer to the second question is probably, yes I have at least a little bit, and yes I am.
The answer to the first question however, requires going on a journey back about eight years or so when I first started thinking about this passage. What captivated my attention and my reflecting back then and has pretty much kept me fixed on this passage comes in verse ten. “Just as Jesus was coming out of the water he saw heaven being torn and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” What fascinated and fascinates me is the way the language is used. You have the almost violent imagery of the heavens being torn or ripped apart being followed by the Spirit descending in the form of a dove. Here we have the violence of the heavens tearing juxtaposed with the dove a symbol of peace coming down. This peace is then followed by a blessing and anointing in verse eleven. In these few verses I see a foreshadowing of the death and resurrection of Jesus which brings peace between man and God.
At the start I said that a question that was a key part of my original reflecting on this passage had been answered. The question I had was, is the Greek word that was translated as the heavens being torn in Mark 1:10 used in the scriptures for the passion narrative? Like I said at the start the answer to this question was yes it was. The Greek word is, eschisthē. In every gospel this word is used to describe the curtain in the temple being torn in two. For the Gospel of Mark this is Mark 15:38, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The curtain is what covered the Holy of Holies the inner sanctum of the temple where God’s presence dwelt. Only the chief priest was allowed to enter and even then they could only do that once a year on the day of atonement, the day where Israel would come to God in repentance and ask forgiveness for their sins. As I’m sure you know the curtain was torn when Jesus died. On the day of atonement, the chief priest would make a sacrifice to God for the forgiveness of the peoples sins. When Jesus died He became the final sacrifice taking every sin on Himself and in doing so the barrier between man and God was removed. With the actual barrier removed the symbolic barrier is no longer necessary. In my imaginings I like to envisage the Spirit of God bursting out of the sanctuary in a giant explosion causing an earthquake and tearing the curtain on His way out. God is no longer confined to a part of a temple only accessible by one man on one day of the year. God’s presence is everywhere for everyone.
So here is where time travel comes in, God is not linear. By that I mean God stands outside of time. So when we come to faith in God spiritually we are transported back in time to the cross and everything that stopped us from having faith and entering into a relationship with Him dies with Jesus. Then we share in the resurrection of Jesus and are raised to new life, living in a relationship with God as one of His children. However, the time travel does not stop there. I also believe that through faith in our own baptism, as adopted children of God we share in the baptism of Jesus. God tore the heavens to speak words of blessing and anointing on His Son. This is how much God loves us, Jesus was torn with nails and thorns so that we could share in His blessing and anointing. As a child of God hear His words of blessing and anointing spoken over you today.
“You are my child, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.”