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THE BAPTISM OF JESUS

(MK 1:9-11)
A. FIRST CONTACT WITH THE TEXT
Where is Nazareth? Why did Jesus come down from Nazareth? Why is Jesus baptized by John since he has no sins? Why was Jesus baptized by John, since he was greater than him? What does it mean that the heavens were torn apart? Why does the Spirit look like a dove? Whose voice is the one that came from heaven? What does it means the voices expression?

B. THE TEXT WITHIN THE CONTEXT


Mark 1:1-8: John the Baptist announces the coming of the Messiah: - John is just a messenger from God. - He prepares the way for the Messiah. - He is not worthy to untie his sandals. - He baptizes with water for the forgiveness of sins. - The Messiah will baptize with Holy Spirit.

From the context, it is obvious that Mark now will introduce to us who the Messiah is, the stronger one that John talks about: Jesus. Mark 1:12-13: the temptations of Jesus: - The Spirit pushed Jesus to stay in the desert for 40 days: time for reflection and meditation about his identity and mission. - He was tempted by Satan: to go against Gods will.

C. STUDY OF THE TEXT


1. CHARACTERS OF THE STORY AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP a. JESUS: came down from Nazareth to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. b. JOHN: baptized Jesus: no important role in this scene. c. SPIRIT: looks like a dove and descended on Jesus. d. VOICE FROM HEAVEN (GOD): Calls Jesus his beloved Son, the one who enjoys Gods favor (his favorite). 1

2. LOCATION OF THE STORY Jesus begins his journey: - Departure point: Nazareth, in Galilee (his hometown). Galilee was the northern region of Israel. The majority of the people were Jews, but the border cities were filled with gentiles who brought their Greek language, culture, and religion. King Herod the Great (38 BC) invited foreigners to do business in the region and buy land. People were mainly farmers (olives, grapes, figs, walnuts, dates), shepherds, and fishermen. Many of them were laborers working for foreign landowners who owned most of the land. That is one of the reasons why the Galileans always fought against the Romans (most of the Jews who rebelled against Rome were Galileans). Galilee is the most important place for Jesus according to Mark: his disciples were mainly Galileans; he preached the good news and healed many there. He only left Galilee to face his passion and death in Jerusalem. Opposition between Galilee and Jerusalem: Galilee: safe place for Jesus; Jerusalem: place of his death. Nazareth was a small village in Galilee (around 500 people). His family, Mary and Joseph, lived there; Most of people were farmers and others just laborers; Jesus was a carpenter (Mk 6:3). They did not welcome Jesus and his message (Mk 6:1-6). Arrival point: The Jordan River. Where? Following Mark 1:5, must be somewhere near Jerusalem (maybe Jericho?), in Judea. Johns fame arrived to Nazareth because Jesus came from there to receive his baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

3. TIME OF THE STORY V. 9: at this time or in those days: No specific time, but this expression is connects this story with the previous one (Mk 1:18): when John was baptizing in the Jordan River. V. 10: at once or immediately: an adverb of time to indicate something that happened right away after Jesus was baptized, something that is surprising or amazing: the Spirit, like a dove, descended on Jesus.

4. CENTRAL THEMES OF THE STORY Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River (very short description of the event). The Spirit, like a dove, descended on Jesus. A voice from heaven (God) called Jesus his beloved Son, his favorite.

5. COMMUNICATION OF THE STORY Fast description of the events; no details or decorations: Mark wants his readers to concentrate on what is important in the story: Jesus baptism, the descent of the Spirit and God calling him his beloved Son.

6. REASONS FOR THE STORY TO HAPPEN Mark tells his readers that Johns prophecy has been fulfilled in the person of Jesus (he is the greater and powerful one sent by God).

7. RESULTS OBTAINED FROM THE STORY This passage focuses entirely on Jesus, where he is the main actor and the rest of the characters move or act around him: At the beginning, Jesus is just a person coming from Nazareth to be baptized by John; he is just someone who wants to repent from his sins, asks for forgiveness, and promises to change his life style. When the Spirit descended on him, we realized that he is not a normal person, he is the special one, the one the people of Israel are waiting for: the Messiah, the savior. When a voice from heaven speaks, we realized that his is not only the Messiah, but also the Son of God.

It looks like Mark reveals the identity of Jesus step by step, little by little: a) Jesus, a normal person; b) the Messiah; c) the Son of God. He is repeating the same idea of the title of the Gospel: the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mk 1:1).

D. LITERARY STRUCTURE AND GENRE (FORM) OF THE TEXT


1. LITERARY STRUCTURE OF THE TEXT The story follows the same pattern as the previous one (Mk 1:18). The story progresses, step by step, in order to reach the climax: A) JESUS BAPTISM by John in the Jordan River (Action) B) DESCENT OF THE SPIRIT on Jesus (Vision) C) GODS VOICE: You are my Beloved Son (Audition 2. GENRE OR FORM OF THE TEXT The story moves around these three verbs of which Jesus is the subject: COME SEE HEAR. At first sight the passage seems to be the story of Jesus baptism: a normal person from Nazareth. In the end, it is something much more important: the revelation of Jesus divine identity: Jesus is not just a normal person; he is the Messiah and Gods beloved Son.

E. THE TEXT WITHIN ITS HISTORICAL TIME


THE BAPTISM OF JESUS: Jesus did not have to get baptized because he had no sins, but he did it just to show his disciples (who have sins) the right path if they want to follow him (to set an example for them and show his approval of Johns mission). So, Mark is telling his readers that they must do what Jesus did: receive the baptism. Many Christian sympathizers in the Roman community did not want to be baptized because in time of persecution their lives could be in danger and suffer punishments. Mark encourages them by telling them that if they repent from their sins and baptize, they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit and will be called Sons of God. So, no matter what happens to them, God will take care of them. CONCLUSIONS FROM THE OTHER GOSPELS: The baptism of Jesus appears in the four gospels: Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34. 4

Johns story of baptism is completely different from the one in the other three gospels. The only element in common is the Spirit, like a dove, descending and resting on Jesus. Marks story of baptism appears completely in Matthew and Luke. But only Mark tells us that Jesus came from Nazareth. In Mark and Luke, only Jesus saw the Spirit and heard Gods voice. In Matthew, everybody at the Jordan River saw and heard it. Matthew 3:14-15 is very interesting (not in Mark and Luke): John refuses to baptize Jesus because he is the Messiah; Jesus should be the one baptizing John. Only when Jesus told him that this was Gods will, he baptized him. Probably Matthew added these verses to solve a problem in his community: How come that the inferior one (John) is baptizing the superior one (Jesus)? The answer: it is Gods will; Johns baptism represents the old world (repentance and conversion) that Jesus is going to bring to perfection (the gift of the Holy Spirit).

F. VERIFICATION OF THE RESULTS


There are still some questions we have not answered yet, now is the time to do so by checking commentaries on the Gospel of Mark: 1. What does it mean that the heavens were torn apart (Mk 1:10)? This expression probably comes from Isaiah 63:19 (or 64:1): Oh that you would tear the heavens open and come down. In this verse, the prophet begs God to open a hole in the heavens, to come down to earth and show himself to the nations; to make his name and presence known to the nations (cf. Psalm 18:9.16-19; Psalm 144:5-8). This means that before Jesus time there was not open communication between God and the people of Israel. God had his dwelling place in heaven while people lived on earth. The only way of contact was through his messengers, the prophets. Now, Isaiahs prayer will be fulfilled: God will tear the heavens apart and will come down to earth. God wants to be close to his people and be involved in their lives.

2. Why does the Spirit look like a dove? This is the only place in the Bible or in the Jewish literature where the Spirit is compared to a dove. No special meaning is intended.

The gospel writers need a graphic symbol to explain Jesus visual experience of the Spirit (saw) and chose the image of the dove (At Pentecost, the Spirit is compared to a violent wind and tongues of fire (Acts 2:2-3)).

G. THEOLOGICAL PRESENTATION
The baptism of Jesus is connected to the activity of John the Baptist. John is the messenger who announces the coming of the Messiah, the stronger one. Suddenly, Jesus appears in the Jordan River which suggests that he may be the Messiah they are waiting for. This Messiah (Jesus) does not come from Jerusalem (the spiritual center of Israel), but from a small village in Galilee, Nazareth, (the land of the gentiles and the unfaithful believers). The contrast between Galilee and Jerusalem appears all over the gospel. In the end, Jerusalem is Jesus place of death and Galilee the place where he shows himself after the resurrection (place of life). At that time, John was already very famous in Israel for his baptism of repentance and conversion. Jesus heard of him, left his family, and came to be baptized too, in order to begin a new life. Mark does not explain why Jesus was baptized even though he had no sins. The experts have given some reasons: - It was an example for the believers to follow; - It was his identification with the sinful humankind; - It was a preparation for his ministry; - It was a symbol of his mission: saving people from sin; - It was his approval of the ministry and message of John; - It was a prophetic anticipation of his death, burial, and resurrection (cf. Rom 6:4; Col 2:12). Whatever the reason, until now everybody at the Jordan River is watching what is happening to Jesus: he is just another man who wanted to change his life. Even Mark avoids giving us details of how John baptized Jesus. It seems that Jesus baptism is not the most important part of the story. The turning point of the story is coming next: nobody is watching, it becomes private and personal experience for Jesus (he saw). This coming revelation (vision-audition) is for Jesus eyes and ears alone. The first thing Jesus saw (vision) was the heavens torn apart. From now on, there will not be division or separation between God (in heaven) and the people (on earth). No need of prophets to communicate his words to the people, he will do it himself

The first thing to come down from the hole made in heaven was the Spirit, like a dove, descending on Jesus. The dove (Genesis 8:9; Psalm 68:14; 74:19; Matthew 10:16) as the symbol of the Spirit is not found anywhere in the biblical literature, but not special meaning is intended. Why did the Spirit descended on Jesus? - In the Old Testament, the Spirit descended on many people, especially leaders, kings, and prophets, giving them strength and power to perform some tasks or missions. - The Spirit will descend and dwell in the person of the Messiah, the anointed one (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 61:1). Mark wants to emphasize this idea: Jesus is the Messiah because the Spirit dwells in him. His mission has not been revealed yet, but it will be announced soon (Mk 1:15). Jesus also heard (audition) a voice from heaven, Gods dwelling place: You are my son (Psalm 2:7), the beloved (Genesis 22:2); my favor rests on you. This expression clearly states that Jesus is not only the Messiah, but Gods beloved Son, the only one. He is the one who enjoys his love, favor, and affection. To accomplish his mission, Jesus will constantly experience Gods love and the guidance of the Spirit. In this passage, we observe a summary of the title (Mk 1:1): Jesus, Messiah (Christ), Son of God. We can also see the Trinity at work in this passage: Jesus (the son), the Spirit, and the Father. The Father and the Spirit reveal the true identity of Jesus: Messiah and Son of God.

H. MESSAGE FOR US TODAY (ACTUALIZATION)


NEW BEGINNING: Does God have a plan for me? Do I follow Gods plan or do I make my own plan? Am I willing to leave behind human attachments (home, family, work, country) in order to follow Gods plan? Am I aware of my sinful condition and willing to repent and convert? Since I am baptized, should my life be an example for other Christians or those who do not believe in God yet? THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: Do I feel his presence and working activity in my life? Have I ever experienced the power of the Holy Spirit working through me or helping me in different situations? Give examples Do I let the Spirit guide me through life?

GODS BELOVED SONS AND DAUGHTERS: What image of God do I have in my mind and heart? What place does God occupy in my life? Did I ever experience Gods love and care? Give examples Does God, the Father, want my happiness and joy? How do I show my love for God in my daily life?