On the Gospel of Mark 1:7-11
The Baptism of Our Lord
This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. The Gospel is taken from the beginning of the Gospel according to Mark. It is a real beginning as John the Baptist specifically reveals Christ to the world, after centuries of expectation; John preached about Christ, and all those who received his teaching he baptized with water. This was a custom of the Jews which admitted converts to Judaism. It was a token of them cleansing themselves by repentance and reformation, and also of God’s cleansing them both by forgiveness and by sanctification, which were the blessings promised.
It is striking how Jesus comes forward to be baptised. In the Gospel according to Matthew we can read that John protests against baptising Jesus, but Jesus firmly holds that it is necessary. Jesus really took upon himself the likeness of sinful flesh, so that, although He was perfectly pure and unspotted, He was still washed as if He had been polluted. For our sake He sanctified himself, so that we also might be sanctified, and be baptized with him (cf. Jn. 17:19). The event at the river Jordan, while revealing so much of the Father’s love and of the Trinity itself was, from the worlds point of view, only something noticed by a very small group. But the encounter with God is usually small but significant I find, and we have to learn to see God working in our lives in the small but significant ways He does.
It sounds majestic when the heavens opened, and the spirit descends upon Jesus like a dove, but we too receive the Spirit, and we can perceive the Spirit descending and working in us, even if it is only a small whisper and not a loud voice. The encounter with God is an encounter that goes deeper than anything else, it always leaves us changed, but we have to allow it to go deep.
What really strikes me on the feast of the Epiphany is the verse in which the Magi left and “they departed to their own country by another way” (Matt 2:12 RSV). The Magi came a long way to see this King, and “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matt 2:10 RSV) when they arrived. They went into the house… and they only found a little child…
But this was the encounter and “they departed to their own country by another way”, they did not go back the way they came! They were changed by the encounter with the child, and their life was never the same again… this seemingly little insignificant event in the history of the world made a deep impact on their lives…
So let us allow the encounter with God, as little as it seems to be, to make a significant impact on our lives, and then, we too, as adopted children of God, will hear the words of the Father: “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”
And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased”.
– Mark 1:7-11