Sunday, August 29, 2010

Take Me to the River (Mark 1.9-11)

Just a couple of quick words before I start: First, feel free to pull out your Bible and study along with the post. There were some places that I didn't have time or space to include things like Scripture references for (like the sections on prayer and on the Holy Spirit), so just feel free to ask for them in the comment section. Second, from here on out I'm swapping the name 'Joshua' for 'Jesus'. In Galilee and Judea, Jesus would not have been known as 'Jesus' (a Greek name), He would have been known by the Hebrew 'Joshua' or 'Yeshua' (different forms of the same name). It's weird at first, but we'll all get used to it. I'm still adjusting. I think it adds to the re-telling of the Gospels, and I briefly explained why in the first section below.

Take Me to The River (Mark 1.9-11, With Additions)
"In those days Joshua came from Nazareth in Galilee to be baptized in the Jordan by John. But John tried to stop Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You, and yet You come to me?' Joshua answered him, 'Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then John allowed Him to be baptized. As soon as He came up out of the water, as He was praying, He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending to Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are My beloved Son; I take delight in You!' and also, 'This is My beloved Son, I take delight in Him!'"
-Mark, Matthew, and Luke (HCSB)
(For note on the text, see end of blog post!*)

God's Son, Jesus (or 'Joshua') came from lowly and despised Galilee -truly God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise- and became our righteousness on the cross. Throughout His ministry, He kept His strength by prayer and was full of the Holy Spirit. Observe,

The Lowly and Despised Things
Joshua came from Nazareth in Galilee. Joshua is the Hebrew name of Jesus, and sounds more common. And Jesus was common: First, He came from Nazareth, a city which is not mentioned by the Old Testament, or by Josephus, or in the Jewish Talmud, and of which it is said by Nathanael in John 1.46 "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Second, Joshua came from unclean Galilee, of which the Talmud says "Galilee, Galilee, you hate the Torah; your end will be seizure by the Romans" (Shabbat 16, 15d). Third, He appeared to be a simple carpenter, and people took offense at Him for it (Mark 6.3). But truly God has chosen the world's insignificant and despised things and raised up the weak to shame the strong; He has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. Joshua the Messiah was a blue-collar worker from a hick town, and He had no form or splendor that we should look at him. Take three things from this: (1) God came as a humble man because He did not hunger for the riches of this world, and neither should we; (2) He did most of His ministry in unruly Galilee because He loves to reach His hand out to save the lost, for which we should be thankful-as He said, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance; (3) Yahweh chooses poverty to mock wealth, a despised home town to mock good society, and foolish disciples to mock the wise, showing that what we see as valuable is actually laughable, worthless, and stupid.

The Messiah, Our Righteousness
This is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness. Matthew adds that John protested against baptizing the Lord, because baptism is for repentance (that's what John's baptism was about) and Joshua was the sinless savior of mankind, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. If anything, John needed to be baptized by Him, not the other way around. But our Savior, the Son of God, stood in our place as sinners. Not only did He do it on the cross, but even cryptically in the Jordan River; he began His ministry taking the place of a sinner in baptism, and ended it taking the place of sinners in death. Our sin was imputed to Christ -counted as His so that He could be punished for it- so that his righteousness could be imputed to us, counted as ours so that we could experience its rewards. While we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son (Letter to the Romans, 5.10).

The Perfection Discipline of Prayer
As He came up out of the water, and as He was praying. Luke adds that the Spirit came and rested upon Joshua as He was praying, so the order must have been that He was baptized, then got up out of the water, and was praying to the Father as He did so (Matthew Henry thinks that He was praying for what came next to happen). Note, our Messiah did nothing without prayer: He prayed in the morning while it was still dark, He prayed before moving on beyond Capernaum in Galilee, He prayed after feeding 5,000 men, He prayed before going to His death, and He prayed on the cross as He was dying, to name just a few instances. I don't think that we value prayer enough; of course we could always pray more, but do we even take time to pray before making big decisions? We should. We should, because Christ did, and He's our example. He said we could do nothing without Him, so prayer is the only way we can get things done.

The Divine Descent of the Holy Spirit
The Spirit descended to Him like a dove. This was a sign, which God had told John the Baptist about beforehand (John 1:33). But it was also part of a deeper reality, that the Lord lived a Spirit-filled life: He was led by the Spirit, drove out demons by the Spirit, had words of knowledge given by the Spirit, was full of the Spirit, had joy in the Spirit, and thought of the Holy Spirit as a gift from the Father.** The Spirit descended to Him like a dove, not just as a witness to John the Baptist, but to illustrate that Christ had been anointed with the Spirit "to preach the Gospel to the poor, to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of God's [Jubilee] favor" (Luke 4.18-19). If God in human flesh was led by the Spirit, and filled with the Spirit, and did miracles by the Spirit, and had holy joy in Him from the Spirit, then we should make it our mission to ask for that Spirit and to let Him guide us into all truth. Ryan Rice is in the middle of writing a great pair of articles on the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Spirit; I suggest you check out that series here.

Summary of the Post
  • God chooses the despised things of this world to shame what is honored.
  • Joshua the Messiah took on our sin and gave us His righteousness.
  • We should imitate our Lord and Savior by praying always, as He did.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit, third member of the Trinity, to lead you.
*The above text is a combination and an adjustment: A combination of Mark's structure, Matthew's account of John objecting to baptizing Jesus, and Luke's mention that Jesus was praying when the Spirit descended on Him; An adjustment in that 'Joshua' is given for 'Jesus' (see the first heading for more detail), and that the double account of God's voice is worked into it as well (Matt records the second version, which shows God is also speaking to John).

**Matt 4:1; Matt 12:28; Mark 2.8; Luke 4:1,14; Luke 10:21; Luke 11.13.

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