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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 1:1–13

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

    “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way;
    the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 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. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 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. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 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. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. (NRSV)

I appreciate concision. A poem. A well-written instruction manual. A minute for mission that is, in fact, a minute. Straightforward and right to the point. The opening verses of Mark are a prime example of an economy of language. The first verse states clearly what it is: the beginning. No Tarantino-esque time warps to navigate. You are here. On we go from there.

This Gospel moves us along briskly. We zip along in these opening verses through prophecy, baptism, and into the wilderness. Big deal to big deal without pause. While the other Gospels fill things in and add fluff, Mark just focuses on the facts. Who, what, where. I like this. I like it very much.

I like it because it leaves a lot of room for us as readers. By not being very expansive, the Gospel of Mark leaves room for our imaginations to stretch out and explore. Mark feels like a framework, an outline, a blank coloring book, a miraculously unfilled-in crossword in an airline magazine. In other words, there is room for us in the Gospel of Mark to go on this new journey with Jesus.

When the text says simply “and he was baptized by John in the Jordan” we get to ask, What was that like? We get to ponder it ourselves. No one does it for us. Just as Jesus finds himself in the wilderness, so does Mark leave us, in a good way, in a wilderness between the words, allowed to explore who we are in the sparseness of the story.

God of the in-between spaces, we thank you for the space you leave for us in your story. May we find who we are as we explore who you are. Amen.

Written by Alex Wirth, former Minister for Evangelism

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