Faithlife Sermons

The Heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending

Epiphany 21 (COVID-19)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  44:18
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Mark 1:1–11 NRSV
1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ” 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

The beginning...

Mark 1:1 NRSV
1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Genesis 1:1 NRSV
1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,
John 1:1 NRSV
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Crisis

John’s Baptism

Repentance and the forgiveness of sin

Enter: Jesus

carpenter, son of Joseph and Mary so it was thought, true identity about to be revealed.
He comes in humility. Fully identifying with his human companions and their need for forgiveness.
But just in case anyone is confused about his condition and standing, there is an interruption of the scene:
Actually it’s a lot more than that.
Mark 1:10 NRSV
10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
God is tearing back the veil and entering into our world on a new level.
This same phrase is used later in Mark to describe the moment of Jesus’ death....
Mark 15:38 NRSV
38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
Sometime is being set in motion at this baptism moment that changes everything going forward. God is disrupting the status quo and entering the game more directly than ever before...

Enter God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Suddenly everyone saw Jesus in a different light:
Mark 1:11 NRSV
11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus was no selfish sinner coming with a white flag. He was the Son of God, humbling himself; confessing his need for the Father and Spirit to fulfill his purpose. Setting an example for everyone. But also signalling that it was time to get ready for something new.
It’s been 2,000 years and some look and ask what has changed? What’s changed is that now we can look at Jesus and know what to do. What’s changed is now we have the Holy Spirit to empower us to change. What’s changed is what is possible.
But how much has actually changed in your life? Well, to some extent that depends on you. I’m gonna take a wild guess that there are some areas where you and I could be more like Jesus. So we need to wade into the waters of repentance for forgiveness of sins. We need to come clean before God and be honest that we need to be forgiven; to be honest that we realize so much more is possible for our lives.
This week at the Capitol we saw people who decided to take the law into their own hands. They decided to try to violently overtake the government. Some of the same people who cried out when Macy’s windows were shattered, saw fit to shatter the windows on the US Capitol. Shame. On. Them. And shame on leaders who egged them on with conspiracy theories and selfish cries. But this is what happens when we follow Jesus as a hobby and follow our political heroes with devotion.
The Jewish people were faced with the same options the day Jesus waded into the waters. There were crazy ones who thought God was telling them to kill Romans and take the city. There were the selfish ones who said, let’s water down the truth so taxes stay lower and Herod lets us gather at the temple. They all had self-named Messiah’s in their own image: Barrabas would have been the crazy guy in the horns and fur. The people chose him back then, too. But it cost them everything. They lost it all and the city was eventually destroyed by the people they set their hopes on.
In the face of all that, Jesus waded into these waters with a simple and humble action. But look what happened. The heavens were torn open. The Spirit descended. A humble but strong messiah was affirmed by God the Father for all present to hear.
If you want to try to storm the castle and take what you want, there are always crazy false stories you can tell yourself are true. But the end is destruction and regret.
If you’re ready to be honest. If you realize you don’t have it all together. If you realize that taking by force is not the best way. If you realize Jesus is the only one who can deliver us then you can be written into this same story. Humble yourself before God. Confess where you have trusted in lesser stories, false stories, lies. Repent and believe the good news. Jesus is here. The heavens are torn open. The Spirit is descending.
A new world is on the horizon. Herod could not stop it. Rome could not stop it. We are closer now than we ever have been after 2,000 years. But Jesus is working through the power of the Holy Spirit to changes lives in love and service. After all this time, powerful greedy lying men still can’t overcome the simple truth of it.
Even Jesus, the Son of God himself, did not instruct people to storm the seats of authority. Instead he called them to bow to the authority above all others. Instead he told them to preach peace. Instead he told them to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them.
Will you truly follow this messiah? Will you abandon all other Messiahs to do it?
Mark 1:7–8 NIV
7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
There is only one Messiah. There is only one WAY or path and that is following him humbly. His truth does not advance at the end of a spear. It comes as God tears back the veil and pours out a love that overcomes fear, a light that overwhelms the darkness. Does that love and light live in you today?
That’s up to you. Since the moment recorded in this passage it has always been possible. Repent. Make straight paths for him to lead you and transform you. Believe that he has the true power and authority. Follow in his way of peace, love and forgiveness.
Let’s pray...
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