You Are My Son, the Beloved
You Are My Son, the Beloved
We have come to the Sunday on the Church calendar where we remember that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan. This account is contained in all four Gospels, even though John does not explicitly mention it, just that He came to John where the Baptist was baptizing. Of all of the Gospels, Mark’s account which is the lectionary text for today is by far the shortest. In fact, the introduction to the gospel is minimalist. There is no mention of Jesus’ birth. We have no Magi with gifts or the presentation of Jesus in the Temple as well as Jesus confounding the teachers at the Temple when He was twelve. There is hardly any introduction to John the Baptist either. The Gospel begins with the short statement: “The beginning of the Good News concerning Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This is followed by two short Old Testament citations, one from Malachi 3:1 and a longer one from Isaiah 40 which introduces John the Baptist as the messenger God had sent to prepare the way before the Lord in the wilderness.
So when we ask the question why the introduction of Mark’s gospel is so short, including a very brief note about the Temptation in the wilderness. It is true that Mark is the shortest Gospel, but Mark’s account is not always the shortest in dealing with the life of Jesus. In particular, the passage about the healing of Jairus’ daughter intermixed with the woman with the issue of blood is much more elaborate than Luke or Matthew. A similar treatment is given to the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the Temple.
The sparseness of the beginning of the gospel makes the passion account much longer in relation to the gospel than either Luke or Matthew. This places special emphasis on the passion. In Fact, Lane in his commentary calls Mark: “a passion account with an introduction.
We must remember that the Holy Spirit is the true author of Scripture. The Holy Spirit does use humans as well in these accounts, but we must remember that the Holy Spirit shares in the omniscience of the Holy Trinity. He knew from the beginning that there would be four gospels. So some of the questions that Mark leaves us are answered in the other Gospels. This means that when we look at Mark, we should emphasize what is said in his text. By omitting details, he is stressing certain things.
The first thing that Mark wants us to zero in on is in the phrase, “the Son of God” in verse one. This is the same confession the Roman Centurion at the cross makes. The traditional author, John Mark was said to be the son of a Roman soldier and a Jewish mother. Although we cannot determine this for sure, there are some Latin terms in the text. The mention of wild beasts in the wilderness is only in Mark, If Mark was writing to a church or churches in Rome, we can thing of the Christians being thrown to the wild beasts in the wilderness. Jesus faced the wild beasts in the wilderness and angels ministered to Him. In the same way, angels will minister to us in times of our greatest distress. The mention of the blind man’s name as Bar-Timaeus is interesting as it is a mix of Latin and Aramaic. There also seemed to be a person in the Roman church by that name.
The reason I have introduced this is that the term “The Son of God” was significant in the Roman world. This is the title of the Caesars who ruled Rome. The Roman Centurion made a daring confession. He had made an oath to serve Caesar as the Son of God. But now, in front of other Roman soldiers, he was confessing that it was this crucified Jew who was indeed the Son of God, not Tiberius Caesar. He was putting his life on the line to make such a confession. So here, in one short statement, there is a great deal of information to be had. Confessing Jesus is the Son of God is risky for us as well.
The two short citations of Scripture in verses two and three demonstrate that the coming of both John the Baptist and Jesus was part of God’s plan from the beginning. He could have quoted many Scriptures, but these two make the point. Even though John and Jesus appear suddenly in the gospel does not mean that it was spontaneous.
In accordance to Isaiah 40, John the Baptist preached in the wilderness. Later on, Mark mentions that he was clothed in camel hair and a leather belt and ate locusts and wild honey. Even though Mark does not cite Malachi 4:4-5 which mentions the return of the prophet Elijah before the Lord comes, the dress of the Baptist was the same as Elijah.
The shortness of the account of John’s preaching places emphasis upon repentance and baptism. If one want to know more details of the preaching and what repentance looks like, one can read either Luke or Matthew’s account. The central details are that those who heard John from Jerusalem and all Judaea were to repent and to demonstrate repentance in baptism. This baptism would bring remission of their sins. We do need to read Luke who mentions that repentance was also soldiers not shaking down people for money and other works. If we don’t, we will gloss over what repentance is. In Aramaic, it is the idea of going back to solid ground. In other words, go back to the fork in the road and take the other fork. The children of Israel had first taken the wrong road in the Wilderness. In fact, they took the wrong road often. John the Baptist called the people of Israel to return to the fork in the road. By going into the Jordan to be baptized, they would have left Israel and re-entered it. It was in essence starting the conquest of Canaan over. Israel had failed previously to take all the land under Joshua. If we realize that Jesus’ name in Hebrew is also Joshua, then we realize that a new Joshua was coming to lead Israel into the ultimate possession of the Kingdom. Moses could only get them so far. The first Joshua brought Israel into the land of Palestine. The Joshua that John was introducing would take His people down a better road to a greater inheritance
Baptism is the new circumcision in which both males and females participate. The children of Israel when they fist crossed over Jordan were not circumcised. This had to be done at Gilgal before the Holy War to conquer Canaan. So in like matter, baptism is not just a symbol of forgiven sin, it is a call to follow Joshua (Jesus) into a new and better Holy War, one that saves sinners rather than destroy them. This is done by doing what verse one says: “We must begin to tell the world about the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
There was apparently some controversy between some of the followers of John the Baptist and Jesus. Matthew, Luke and John take many opportunities to set the record straight. John and Jesus were not competitors, but a team. John throughly knew his place. He was to introduce one far greater than him and get out of the way. Jesus had to increase and John decrease as the Gospel of John records it. Mark only uses the preaching of John where he proclaims to Israel that he was introducing someone greater than himself, so much greater that he was unworthy to do the slavish and humiliating work of loosing Jesus’ sandal strap. This statement is sufficient in itself to show the proper relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus. By making such a brief statement, he avoids the problems a longer treatment might give. If too much time is spent on trying to explain why John was less than Jesus it ironically gives more emphasis on John the Baptist.
John’s protestations that he needed to be baptized of Jesus is recorded in Matthew and not here. What Mark is emphasizing is the fact that Jesus was baptized. It is necessary to read Matthew lest one make the mistake that Jesus needed the baptism of repentance that John offered. Without Matthew, one might jump to that conclusion that Jesus needed to be baptizes for His own sin.
The One John had prophesied of was bringing a greater baptism than that of water. He was going to baptize people in the Holy Spirit. The heavens were rent opened at Jesus’ baptism and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him as a dove. The one who was going to baptize with the Holy Spirit was Himself baptized with the Holy Spirit. One can see a relationship between the Baptism of Jesus and the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The heavens were rent and the Spirit came down and rested on them, just like Jesus as His baptism. Then the voice of God was heard. Jesus, and perhaps John the Baptist heard the words “This is my Son the Beloved in whom I was well pleased.” The beievers spoke the words of God in the tongues of the listeners. Then Jesus was led out into the wilderness to begin His mission. In like matter, the church is driven out into the wilderness of the world to begin its mission.
The shortness of the account of the Baptism of Jesus places special attention on the words which the Father spoke. Again, we must be cautioned to read the other accounts as well as Scripture as a whole, lest we run into heresy. The “I was well pleased” is in the Aorist past tense in Greek. However, we must notice that the Greek Aorist tense is often used in a timeless matter. It does not say then that at some time in the past, God became pleased with Jesus the man and adopted Him in the way that God adopted King David who was found to be after God’s own heart. The 2nd Psalm when it speaks of David says: “Thou art my Son; today I have begotten thee.” Begotten in this sense is better translated “adopted” as the LORD was not biologically the father of David. But Scripture teaches and our creeds confirm that Jesus, the Son of God as being eternally begotten. There was never a time that the Father was not pleased with Jesus. John the Apostle records that the Son is eternal and had no beginning. “In the beginning, the Word already was.” So when we read all the Gospels together, we shall not fall into error.
The emphatic statement which the Gospel of John brings is the words of the Baptist proclaiming:”Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This is why John does not mention the act of baptism directly. On the other hand, the Gospel of Mark emphasizes the “YOU are My Son, the Beloved.” This is very emphatic as the Greek pronoun “Su” is added. The placement of “beloved” after “Son” is also emphatic. This emphasis is lost in the English “My beloved Son.” This is a statement of commissioning just as His earthly ancestor King David was commissioned.
When we deal with the person of Jesus, we confess that Jesus Christ is both fully human as well as fully God. Another confession says that these two natures are distinct and unmixed. It goes on to say that there is but one Christ. These statements are difficult for us to understand, We simply confess them both. We have a hard time putting them together. The way the Bible does this is to present the two natures of Christ side by side in two portraits. We can see this in the Garden of Gethsemane. Where Luke emphasizes the humanity of Jesus crying out to the Father, John emphasizes the divine side in which Jesus is the only person in control in the confusion and anger of that night. This is the same Jesus seen from two different angles. This is the best we can do.
So how would Jesus the man understood this commission as compared to Jesus the Son of God? One would have to be Jesus to know. All we can do is hear the words spoken to Jesus ourselves. We clearly perceive that Jesus is unique among men and very special to God. But the fact that the Son is beloved of the Father implies that those who believe on Jesus are beloved of the Father as well. The Bible tells us that we are the body of Christ. What the Father says to the head of the church also applies to the body as well. So we should lift up our hearts with joy realizing that in one sense we find our belovedness in Jesus Christ. We, too are special. We are also called and commissioned in His commissioning to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Head leads his body. The church is as much he plan of God as the coming of Jesus that day to Jordan.
The message is this. Repent! This is the message of John the Baptist. This is the message of the commissioned Jesus who preached: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God has come near.” It is the message of the early church: “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” We too call out to the world to repent and believe the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Take the right road. Take the road of Jesus Christ who says: “I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” Having done this, let us follow the new Joshua unto eternal life.