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Who Do You Say I Am?
The Gospel of Mark

The Baptism

ESV Mark 1:9-11 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 being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

(sit down)

It must have been a gorgeous day when Jesus stepped into the Jordan River. 

After 30 years of just being Jesus… After 30 years of just being son of Joseph and Mary… After 30 years of just being a carpenter… Jesus was more than anxious to be about “his Father’s business”.  Jesus knew he was destined to be more than a carpenter.  But for 30 years he had lived an “ordinary” life as a peasant in Galilee… waiting for the call; waiting for the time to be right; waiting for his destiny. 

It had been a pleasant enough 30 years.

--Learning to read and write Hebrew, Latin and Greek. 

--Being a good son… Could there have been a better son?

--Being a caring member of the community; helping; serving; teaching.

--Learning to be carpenter…

(stand up)

He was not most likely what we think of as a carpenter.  He was most likely a stone mason.  The Greek word tekton, used later in Mark, means craftsman; worker.  It is more likely that Joseph and Jesus had worked on the Roman city of Sepphoris, just 3.5 miles over the hill from Nazareth.  There was more stone work than wood work in the area.

(sit down)

It had been a pleasant enough 30 years living in Nazareth with his family.

--Taking care of his mother and siblings when Joseph died.

--Going to the Synagogue ever Saturday… learning of YHWH… himself?

It had been a pleasant enough 30 years… but it wasn’t what Jesus was called to do.

It had taken Jesus four days to hike the 60 miles from his hometown in Nazareth to the Jordan River; where John the Baptizer was preaching.  It had been a solitary hike.  It was a time of reflection on his upcoming mission.  The 60 miles had been a time of soul-searching prayer.  Each step from Nazareth toward the Jordan took him closer to his approaching destiny.  Each step filled him with excitement at finally getting to his… purpose.  But each step also brought an equal sense of trepidation at where that purpose would lead.  Four days of internal dialogue had brought him to edge of the Jordan River.

It must have been a gorgeous day when Jesus stepped into the Jordan River

The news of John the Baptizer had reached all the way to Nazareth.  “There was a prophet in Israel again!”  Just like Elijah of old, John, in his camel hair suit and eating locust, preaching in the wilderness, demanding repentance… A prophet had come to Israel again…

“You brood of vipers!” John had called the Pharisees, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

But, when Jesus that heard John’s message was…

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight!”

What?  Make his paths straight.  Make my path straight! There was a strange stirring in his heart.  Prepare the way of the Lord… prepare the way for me.  John was the call.  John was what Jesus had been waiting for all his life.  Now was the time.  He had to go.  John had made his path straight.  Now, Jesus stepped onto his path. 

It must have been a gorgeous day when Jesus stepped into the Jordan River; his first step on the Path.

Mary, his mother, had known one day the call would come.  She had both dreaded and longed for this day… Jesus was the perfect son.  Mary had enjoyed every day of those 30 years.  When she saw the glow in his eyes as he approached her, she knew that the call for his path had come!

As Jesus approached, she flashed back to when Jesus was just seven days old.  Joseph and Mary had taken Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised…

ESV Luke 2:25-35 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also).”

Mary had known that the day would come when her son would be called to be the Salvation of all peoples; to be the light of revelation; to be the glory of the Lord.  She wanted that day. But she also knew that there was a sword waiting for her heart.

As her son approached with that glow in his eyes, she knew the day had finally arrived.  She wished she could go with him… but this was his Path.  

And so, after a four-day soul-reflecting hike, Jesus stood in the Jordan River on that gorgeous day.

The scene at the river was amazing. In the middle of nowhere, a huge crowd stood on the bank of the Jordan listening to John preach. Pharisees, dressed in their fancy robes, mumbled amongst themselves.  Soldiers stood guard.  Kids played all around.  The tax collectors stood by themselves being avoided by everyone. Peasants, wealthy, religious, the not so much, zealots, Romans, even a few foreigners… were all magnetically drawn to the Jordan river to see the Prophet.  It was a hodge-podge of humanity out in the middle of nowhere… listening to John the Baptizer.

A que of people stood in line waiting to be baptized by John.  One at a time, they would wade out to the middle of river.  One at a time, John would place his hand on their heads.  One at a time, John would dunk them into the muddy waters of the Jordan.  All the while John never stopped preaching…

“Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”

As soon as first one in line was baptized, another would take his place…

Hand to the head… dunk under the water… preach…. 

 “You tax collectors, collect no more than you are authorized to do.”

New person… hand… dunk… preach…

“You soldiers, do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

New person… hand… dunk… preach…

“The kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

New person… hand… dunk… preach…

“There is a mighty one coming…”

Hand… dunk… preach…

Jesus got in line…

Hand… dunk… preach…

Jesus stepped forward toward the front of the line, toward his Path.

Hand… dunk… preach…

“He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.

Hand… dunk… preach…

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Jesus steps forward in line…

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Hand… dunk… preach…

Then everything froze!  Jesus stepped into the edge of the river.  John’s eyes locked on Jesus!  John stopped preaching.  The world shrank on just the two of them.  John recognized who was standing in the edge of the Jordan…

“I need to be baptized by you,” John implored, “And do you come to me?”

But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Hand… dunk…

ESV Mark 1:10-11 And when Jesus came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son with you I am well pleased.”

It was a gorgeous day when Jesus stepped into the Jordan River…

The heavens were torn open…what was blue sky ripped… revealing another world; another dimension; another reality.  Briefly, there was an opening between earth and heaven.  An invisible curtain was drawn back, instead of rocks and river and the sandy bank, and the crowd, there was a revealed a different reality, altogether.

From that heavenly reality appeared the Spirit of YWHW descending like a dove.  The crowd was stunned.  The Spirit of YWHW landed on the shoulder of Jesus. The Spirit of peace? The Spirit of love? The Spirit of unity? The dove whispered affirmations in Jesus’s ear.

As if the dove weren’t enough of a sign…a voice spoke from heaven.

This voice from the other side had spoken before…

--At creation… “Let there be light, and there was.”

--From a burning bush… “I Am who I AM!”

--On Mount Sinai… “I am the Lord God who brought you out of Egypt!”

But the voice from heaven had never spoken with such pride… “You are my beloved Son with you I am well pleased.”

God, the Father, was pleased…

--That the Word had become flesh and dwelt among us. 

--That though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing,

--That Jesus had taken the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

--That the son took the first step on the Path… Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

A dove and a voice affirmed the Path for Jesus. 

Wow!  It was a gorgeous day when Jesus stepped into the Jordan River…

(stand up)

Last week, I told you that we were going to examine each pericope on three levels…

--We are going to explore what it meant in Jesus day;

--What message there was for the Romans, to whom Mark, wrote

--And what the pericope means for us, today, here in Los Alamos. 

Let’s do this. 

To Jesus his baptism was significant.  Jesus had been doodling for 30 years.  If Jesus was anything like me as a human, waiting is hard.  Were there doubts?  Were there insecurities?  Was there hesitancy?  I think Jesus knew there was a cross waiting at the end of his path.

The writer of Hebrews states…

ESV Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

If Jesus was human, then there must have been some temptation to stay in Nazareth and just be a pleasant peasant.   A pleasant peasant good have been a pleasant life.  The affirmation of the Spirit and the pleasing of the Father were huge to Jesus.  “Yes, you are my Son!  Yes, you made the right decision. Yes, I will be with you on the path! Yes, I will be with you to the end!
 To Jesus it was a gorgeous day to be pleasing to the Father!

But it was also a gorgeous day for the Roman Christians in 68 AD.  Mark reminded them of their own baptisms.   Their baptisms were a commitment to be fearless disciples!  Just as Jesus stepped onto the path that led to a cross… their baptism might very well lead them to a cross.  The Father would be with them every step on the path to their destiny.  Mark’s message to his people was… Be like Jesus.  You made the commitment.  Be fearless disciples.

Now, let’s apply the Baptism of Jesus to us…

The gospel can be summed up in this pericope: when the living God looks at us, at every baptized believer, he says to us, what he said to Jesus on that day... “You are my beloved Son with you I am well pleased.” To each of us who were baptized into Christ… we are pleasing to the Father.  We can call Him Abba Father!  He calls us his children; his pleasing children.  At our baptism and every day since, as we walk the path before us, God is pleased with us. 

Personalize this concept… God is pleased with Tim Stidham… Say it… God is pleased with _______!  We live in his pleasure.

If you have not been baptized… today is a gorgeous day to step into the water.   The curtain between the two realities gets very thin when we step into the water.  You may even hear… “You are my beloved Son with you I am well pleased.”  I can’t think of a better way to begin our Study into the Gospel of Mark then making this your gorgeous day. 

“You are my beloved Son with you I am well pleased.”

--Gave Jesus the courage to step onto his Path.

“You are my beloved Son with you I am well pleased.”

--Gave the Romans disciples of 68 AD courage to follow their Path.

“You are my beloved Son with you I am well pleased.”

--Gives us the courage to live every day on our Path!


Tim Stidham

January 29, 2017

Los Alamos Church of Christ


Los Alamos Church of Christ - 2323 Diamond Drive - Los Alamos, New Mexico - 87544 - (505) 695.5875