We are looking at what the Gospel of Mark has to say about who Jesus was and what he did so we can reflect on the implications for how we understand what it means to live as the Body of Christ,
Remember our sort of “methodological mantra” when it comes to church
CHRISTOLOGY ———-> MISSIOLOGY ———-> ECCLESIOLOGY
(Who Jesus is and what he does) —> shapes (What we understand our mission to be) —> shapes (How we structure church to fulfil that mission)
I am not sure there are many passages more important in doing that than this one:
Mark 1:9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
The best way to understand this passage is like a sort of film trailer, it gives us a glimpse of the main themes that are going to characterise Jesus ministry and mission. Which means in turn that it is also an insight into what should characterise our mission as a church and as disciples, as Jesus self understanding and mission is to inspire and shape ours.
So what were the main features of Jesus’ mission we learn from this incident?
HE IDENTIFIED WITH PEOPLE …. There was no requirement for Jesus to be baptised yet he willingly submitted to it, why? The only explanation I can see is that he was identifying with those he had come to reach, he was entering into their experience. Jesus is committing himself to a mission which is incarnational, which identifies with people, enters their experiences. We can trace this theme right the way through the Gospels until it reaches its climax when Jesus identifies with humanity to the extent he was willing to share our death and the consequences of our sin. No wonder Neil Cole says “reaching people for Jesus sometimes means we need to sit in the smoking section” Mission requires us to go to people where they are and experience life with them, not always an easy or comfortable thing to do. Yet that is exactly what Jesus committed himself to. I have come to the conclusion that Paul may have had this incident in mind when he wrote that famous passage, Phil 2: 6-11. It would have been so much easier if Jesus mission had been about asking people to enter our nice world rather than us entering their, at times, not so nice world and identifying with them.
HE WAS EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT …. The second “act’ of this inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry was when, the Holy Spirit descended on him, when he was anointed by the Spirit. If identifying with sinners was his mission, we have to conclude that being empowered by the Spirit was the only way he could carry out that mission. When it comes to the empowering of the Holy Spirit the tragedy is that in the church we tend to get caught up in controversies instead of experiecing the realities. We argue over things like, when does it happen? what do we call it? is about ethics (how we live) or experience (power to do and feel stuff)? I agree with Ajith Fernando the head of YFC in Sri Lanka “What is clear is that God intends all Christians to be filled with the Spirit. So without battling over the time and the way in which this happens I believe our focus should be on ensuring we are filled. Our lives must be lived and our mission accomplished by the power of the Spirit” Think about it, the church wasn’t launched into mission until the Holy Spirit descended on it on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost wasn’t just about the Holy Spirit allowing some people to experience some exciting spiritual stuff, no what happened was that anointed by the Spirit the church opened the doors behind which it had been hiding and left the building on mission. I wish we had kept following that example! We can have great plans, great people, all the resources we need and the best missional theology, but unless we are empowered by the Holy Spirit Mosaic Edinburgh will accomplish nothing of lasting significance for the Kingdom of God.
HE WAS AFFIRMED BY THE FATHER …. God’s voice from heaven to Jesus links two passages of Scripture which to our knowledge hadn’t been linked before.
Psalm 2:7 “The Lord said to me, You are my Son, today I have begotten you” This is Royal Psalm about a Davidic King and the Jewish people used it express their longing for a new Davidic King who would set them free and usher in God’s Kingdom.
Isaiah 42:1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,and he will bring justice to the nations.” This passages points to a shadowy figure called “the servant of the Lord” who according to Isaiah will identify with God’s people and by his suffering set them free.
So God here at Jesus baptism is linking the role of the Messiah, the Davidic Royal King with Isaiah’s Suffering Servant. He is commissioning Jesus, saying Jesus I have confidence in you and here is the mission I am giving. God the Father commissioned Jesus to be the Messiah who will bring in God’s Kingdom, but not through military power, but by being the Suffering Servant who redeems and liberates through suffering. No wonder Jesus had such a clear sense of purpose and didn’t allow apparent discouragements and rejection to distract him from his mission. He knew His mission was from the Father to glorify the Father it was not a mission which was to be judged at the court of public popularity. Jesus drew His significance from this calling and affirmation from God, not what other people said of him or even the results of his ministry. “Let us carry out our mission, out of the strength of the identity and significance that we are called by God, that God is pleased with us and we have a role to play in establishing His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven” NT Wright. What would a church look like that was equally clear on its mission? Which drew its self worth from God and which judged itself by what God thought of it? Which was committed to mission being about the Kingdom of God being ushered in through being God’s servants, through humble sacrificial and at times suffering inducing acts of service? Questions which we should think about.
So if you were to rate yourself on how these characteristics characterise your life and ministry where would you put yourself for each one?
What about for us as a church?
(not present at all) 1 …2 ….3…4….5….6….7….8….9….9….10….11 (as much as I can be)
What practices would help us develop these characteristics individually and collectively?