Mark 1:4-11 (MSG)
4-6 John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.
7-8 As he preached, he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”
Some information to know about this passage of scripture:
The Jordan River is the setting of some of the most memorable miracles in the Old Testament. On their journey through the wilderness to the promised land, the Israelites walked across the Jordan River on dry ground because God parted its waters. Elisha, one of the prophets of God, healed Naaman by telling him to bathe seven times in its waters. Partly because of miracles like these and partly because of a growing wilderness spirituality, many of the Jews in John’s day are out to hear him and be ritually baptized in the Jordan’s cool, cleansing waters. They are looking for God to intervene miraculously in their lives as He has done in the past. What they don’t know is that God is about to intervene, for at that time Jesus leaves Nazareth and heads south.
9-11 At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.”
Many years ago, a Philadelphia congregation watched as three 9-year-old boys were baptized and joined the church. Not long after, because of dwindling membership, the church sold the building and disbanded.
One of those three boys was Tony Campolo, who became an author and Christian sociologist professor at Eastern College in Pennsylvania. This short story as he tells it... "Years later when I was doing research in the archives of our denominations, I decided to look up the church report for the year of my baptism. There was my name, and Dick White's. He's now a missionary. Bert Newman, now a professor of theology at an African seminary, was also there. Then I read that church's report for the year of our baptism. It read: 'It has not been a good year for our church. We have lost 27 members. Three joined, and they were only children.'"
Now, not everyone who is baptized grows up to be a Tony Campolo or a Seminary professor like Bert Newman. And while we might not go on the mission field like Dick White, we all become missionaries through the water of our baptism because, that water is the water of life. It changes everything. It cleans us up and gives us a starting over point. And it reminds us just how much we are loved. And all we're asked to do is drink deep from the water of life.
As the gospel of Mark begins... "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ"... it tells each of us that every baptism is a beginning. Every Christian is a new chance to tell the story of the beginning of the Gospel.
My friends, this has been a difficult week in our nation with more civil unrest and a pandemic which continues to persist in different areas around our nation and the world. However, we are each reminded that we are loved by God and that we are not alone. From the moment of our baptism, we are each on a life journey, and whether you have thought it or not, we are each a missionary where God has placed us in our world.
On this day, take a slow breath in the midst of all the chaos that seems to surround us, and remember that you are loved by God. You are NOT alone. Hear God saying to you... “this is my child whom I am well pleased.”
My beautiful church family, let us this day and all the days of this new year, notice how God is revealing His presence to us in our personal lives, in our community, and how God is moving within the world around us. Remember, you are born of water, and you are not simply a human being on a spiritual journey... you ARE a spiritual being on a brief human journey.
And through your baptism, may you remember that you are transformed by the grace and love of God through Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God made flesh. Your life has been forever washed by the water, and your life has been born by the spirit. Let us each continue to “Be the Church” to the world around us who desperately need to see, hear, and know the Good News of the Gospel. And let us each through the words and actions of our lives, share the water of life to those around us. Amen.
1. What from your life illustrates what it means to repent?
2. John the Baptist prepared “the way for the Lord.” Who prepared the way for the Lord in your life?
3. As Jesus came out of the water as he was being baptized, what did the voice from heaven say? What would you like to hear God say to you?
Pastor Kevin & Carla Evers
A Follower of Jesus who is a Husband, Father, Pastor, creative communicator, drummer, Truth Seeker, and all around coffee drinking beach lover!
"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience."
- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin