Testimony: Advent context

john-the-baptistThe 3rd Sunday in Advent continues to feature John the Baptist as the herald and forerunner of the Messiah. The Reading for the Third Sunday of Lent is John 1:6-8, 19-28 (shown below in bold italics) – but it seemed good to me to also show the more continuous context of the Gospel according to John:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be 4 through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; 5 the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 A man named John was sent from God. 7 He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. Continue reading

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The One Coming: John’s message

Baptism-Jesus“One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

John’s message is telescoped to focus upon a single theme, the proclamation of a person still to come who will baptize the people with the Holy Spirit. As seen in the Notes, it is not clear what Mark means by this expression, nor is it clear that John understands the very messianic terms he uses – at least in their fullness. In referring to this new Baptizer, whose dignity overshadowed his own, John avoided traditional messianic terms. The precise identity of the Coming One remained hidden, apparently, even from John. Continue reading

The One Coming: John

John the Baptist is a crucial figure in the history of revelation and redemption. In retrospect, his appearance in the wilderness was the most important event in the life of Israel for more than three hundred years. The absence of a prophet throughout this period had been interpreted to signify that the prophetic task was accomplished. Yet all clung to the hope that the “faithful prophet” would appear, the Prophet like Moses, whose coming would signal the events of the “last days” (Deut. 18:15–19; 1 Macc. 4:42–46; 14:44). The very fact of John’s appearance was an eschatological event of the first magnitude, and signified that the decisive turning point in the history of salvation was at hand. It was John, the preacher of radical repentance, who initiated the messianic crisis. To speak of the gospel of Jesus is to speak of the good news which began with John. Continue reading

The One Coming: who?

Baptism-Jesus2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. 3 A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’”

We often interpret vv. 2-3 in light of Matthew and Luke where they clearly refer to John the Baptist. John is presented before the OT quotes are given. However, in Mark, the only person who has been named prior to the quotes is Jesus. Note also, for those who have difficulty memorizing scripture, Mark’s quote is a hybrid: v. 2 seems to come from Ex 23:20 (LXX) and Mal 3:1 (MT) and v. 3 from Isaiah 40:3, but not quoted exactly. Continue reading

The One coming: more questions

Baptism-JesusQuestion 3: What was meant by “Christ”? Is it a title? Is it part of Jesus’ name?

  • The Greek christos is used to translate “anointed” or “Messiah.” It might have made sense to a Greek audience. But it would be hampered by its first century usage to refer to wrestlers who had “greased up” before their match to make it more difficult for their opponents to gain a tactical hold on them during the match.
  • The uses of “Messiah” or “anointed (one)” in the OT do not help much in understanding Jesus as Messiah.
  • The word is used of “the anointed priests” (Leviticus 4:3, 5, 16, 6:22; 2 Maccabees 2:10)
  • The word is used of the king. (Throughout 1 and 2 Samuel)
  • The word is used of Cyrus, the Persian King (Is 45:1)
  • The word is used of the prophets (Ps 105:15; 1 Chr 16:22)

Continue reading

The One Coming: questions

Baptism-JesusMark begins his writing with a statement by the narrator: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ (the Son of God).” For the people in Mark’s narrative the realization of who Jesus is will come only in starts and stops. As readers of this gospel, right from the beginning, we are given the answer to the question, “Who is he?” We already know this is narrative is good news for us; news about what will happen to us and for us. Yet even as the opening answers big questions, we are left with other important questions, ones that will help us to plumb the depth of this good news. Continue reading

The One Coming: context

jbaptistmafaMark 1:1-8   1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ (the Son of God). 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. 3 A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” 4 John (the) Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. 6 John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. 7 And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Continue reading

Finding Joy

I like words, their origin (or etymology if you prefer) and the ways in words affect people – and people affect words. Such as the word “peruse” which people understand to mean “glance over, skim,” etc. Yet originally the word means (and I would argue still does) to read completely and in exacting detail. Another interesting word whose meaning has done an about face is “egregious.” Today it means to be conspicuous or flagrant – and almost always in a negative sense. Yet the origin of the word from the Latin ex-“out of” and greg- “flock” to give us egregius “illustrious” or in a more modern sense, “outstanding.” Somewhere in the late 16th century the word was increasingly used in an ironic sense, until that usage became it every day meaning. Continue reading

Watchfulness – reflection

First-AdventFrom Pheme Perkins [The Gospel of Mark in The New Interpreter’s Bible, 695]

“On the one hand, Mark underscores the certainty of Jesus’ word. Readers know that the death of Jesus on the cross does not end the story of salvation. On the other hand, Christians need not concern themselves with apocalyptic speculation. Disciples should remember that ‘doing the will of God’ (3:35) has no relationship to the timing of divine judgment. Neither should Christians concern themselves with the fate of those who persecute them or who reject the gospel. When Christians rush to judge others, they should remember this exhortation. The only question the master will ask is whether the servants have been faithful to their call as disciples. Continue reading

Watchfulness – commentary

First-AdventJesus concluded his discourse by stressing the responsibility of maintaining vigilance. The duty to watch draws its force from the fact that “no one knows” the critical moment of God’s decisive intervention. “That day” evokes a formula hallowed by use in the prophetic Scriptures; it appears with a clearly eschatological resonance in passages which announce the day of Yahweh’s appearing (Amos 8:3, 9, 13; 9:11; Mic. 4:6; 5:9; 7:11; Zeph. 1:9f.; 3:11, 16; Obad. 8; Joel 3:18; Zech. 9:16; 12–14). Continue reading