The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
January 10, 2021 – The Baptism of the Lord - Mark 1: 7-11
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Jesus is standing in the river Jordan. John is doing his thing. No one might be impressed except for one addition to the gospel account. As this baptismal event was winding down, the heavens opened. That changes everything!
Here we might have to modify some of the images of “heaven” that we learned in our earlier years. I am referring to a three-story world where heaven is above, where God and the angels live. We are in the middle on earth. And you know who is below. This is called mythological imaging. It’s totally appropriate for children but we are adults. If we don’t reimagine “heaven,” we’ll miss the incredible message embedded in this gospel narrative.
We are correct in thinking that heaven is where God is. But God is not simply a very large reality, quietly sitting on a throne. Rather, God is the source, the creator of all reality that is not God. God is the one necessary presence that is the source of all that is. That means you and me. So, when the gospel states that the heavens open, it means that God is right there, fully present, and, in that moment, speaks into creation and to us. We are informed in this gospel what God communicated to us that relates to the baptism of Jesus.
Basically, God is saying that Jesus is God’s own son. A direct embodiment of God. Fully divine and fully human. It’s an affirmation that God is part of Jesus and Jesus is part of God. And all of what is happening to Jesus, and by Jesus, has God’s stamp of approval on it. In fact, God is fully involved.
Being lowered into water and then raised from the water is at the heart of baptismal imagery. It is a reminder that water is essential to life. We all come from the waters of our mother’s womb. We are given water so that our bodies may survive. Cosmologists search for water on other planets and solar systems because they know that water is necessary for life to exist – at least as we know it.
God is the God of the living. To affirm God’s valuing human life, God became one of us and submitted to all the usual expectations of the time. That included Jesus being baptized by John. That’s what many seeking God did in those times. This gospel is a huge affirmation of God’s intent for us: that we may live our life abundantly. Sometimes this makes great demands on us as it did for Jesus. The heavens opened as Jesus began his life. They do the same for us.
©David M. Thomas, PhD