Readings: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Mark 1:7-11
There are three places in Mark’s Gospel where a voice affirms that Jesus is the Son of God. The first is at the River Jordan, the second is on a high mountain and the third is at a place called Golgotha. The fact that the first place is just after the beginning of the Gospel, the third is just before the end and the second is smack in the middle of Mark’s Gospel, hints that Mark is making a point.
The River Jordan is a place that Moses never reached because his faith in his people faltered; it would be his successor, Joshua–the Hebrew form of the name “Jesus”–who brought the same people across the Jordan into the Promised Land. The Jordan is the same river whose waters Elijah separated and crossed before he’s carried to heaven in a fiery chariot.
Jesus/Joshua will be transfigured with that same Moses and Elijah on that mountain at the center of Mark’s Gospel when his future suffering, execution and resurrection are first mentioned. And as at the Jordan, a voice from heaven says, This is my beloved Son…
What is happening at Golgotha where Jesus is flanked, not by Moses and Elijah, but two thieves? What does it mean that his last cry is interpreted as summoning Elijah? Or that a centurion, not a voice from heaven, says, Truly, this man is Son of God?
Is this like packing up the Christmas ornaments and returning to the ordinary grey day? Or might that final confession reveal what today’s Baptism is for us? Might it not give us the hope that Jesus isn’t out there in the extraordinary, but, when he entered the Jordan, he entered into our limits, our frustrations, our creepy mortality? As God has taken our part in the Christ, might we, like the centurion, take God’s part and, with the conviction of experience, affirm who Jesus is?
If there is any truth to this, could I face my sins, rather than rationalize them? Couldn’t I even find the Son of God there, in my sins, where he was not afraid to go? And why could I not follow Jesus out of bondage into the Promised Land?
If that is what Baptism in Christ really is, why couldn’t my repentance be more than a ritual and actually change the way I live? Can’t I make the Gospel live, and live it humbly?