It was suggested by my wife that if I am not going to post the words on my blog, I could at least provide a link, so this is what I will do. Here is your link to the Bible passage I am reading today: Mark 1:9-13. Now, this is the NASB, not the NET, because the NET isn’t available for free online to my knowledge. NASB is a pretty good, middle of the road between literal and figurative translations.
The first verse of this story talks about how Jesus came and was baptised by John. Here is the first question I have, if Jesus was as sin free and perfect as tradition claims, what need would he have for a baptism of repentance and forgiveness? Sure, you could say that he did it because he was supposed to do it so that it would be here in scripture, but if you’re reading this for the first time and have no idea who Jesus is, this sounds like a guy who was living his life, and heard about what John was teaching and was like, “Yes! I will go and repent and get right with God.”
In verse 10, as Jesus is coming out of the water of his baptism of repentance, he sees the heavens splitting apart, and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. Not as a dove, not in the guise of a dove, but the same way that a dove would descend. Like a bird, diving through the sky, probably about to eat some tasty bugs.
Again, this reference to the Spirit as if those present knew what that was. Not the Holy Spirit this time though, just the Spirit. Once again, I feel like this is a retrospective view of the event. Jesus certainly had an experience, and perhaps he told his disciples what he heard from Heaven because not all of the gospels agree whether this voice from heaven was audible to everyone or just to Jesus.
Interesting note about the use of beloved son, or one dear Son, is that the greek word used emphasises the individual’s uniqueness. It’s as if God said, you are different from all of my other children, and for that, I am very pleased, and happy with you, and love you dearly.
Meanwhile, Jesus was probably like, “Wow, really? I’m flattered, in what way am I different? Oh… You want me to go into the wilderness? Well… alright but it’s dangerous there…”
It says in verse 13 that Jesus was driven into the wilderness for forty days, enduring temptations from Satan. Any biblical scholar will tell you that the number forty is a buzz number for the ancient Hebrews. He probably didn’t actually spend forty days there, not that he couldn’t. It doesn’t say he fasted or didn’t eat, it simply says he was with wild animals and angels were ministering to his needs.
Perhaps angels travelled to the local fast food place and brought him back a chicken sandwich a day while he was arguing with Satan.
I definitely want to talk to you about Satan, and what we can say we know about him, but that’s going to have to wait for another blog. What I will conclude with here is what I feel we can reliably take away from this series.
Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist and had a spiritual experience. This experience was overwhelming, and in order to sort out what it all meant, Jesus felt he needed to spend time out in the wilderness, not an uncommon practice for seeking spiritual understanding from God at the time. Still not uncommon really, which is why we have all those retreat centres and camps out in the middle of nowhere.
While he was out there he ate and drank what he could in the tradition of being out in the wilderness, and wrestled with himself about what his spiritual experience meant. What conclusions he came to are not expressed in Mark, simply that he went and was tempted.
To better understand my conclusion, tune in next time for my blog on Satan!