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  • Writer's pictureJohn Bryant

Mark 1: 9-11: Why Do I Have to Walk in the Water with Jesus Christ

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The idea is for the Word of God to have a good long look at my week, and for my week take a good long look at the Word of God, and for one to begin to make sense of the other. For the week to be the creation of the Word. For the Word of God to have its own way in a slovenly, slapdash, curmudgeonly week like this.

It is, to let one small story from the Gospel, one anecdote of Christ govern and preside over a week, and to have the week transfigured by starting at Christ for far too long.

It is for a week to be transformed from an extraordinary week of doing into an ordinary week of waiting, waiting for the Word to bear Christ to us.

I have looked at this moment, this odd anecdote, as I walk my bike back from the soup kitchen, after a failed zoom Bible study, and I have wanted to know what to make of it, or better, what it makes of me.

Maybe it is not until writing about it that the confusion becomes transfigured, becomes offered, that is, becomes more than confusion. Recently I’ve felt to be a Christian, more than anything, is to have all our frailty and confusion pointed in the right direction, to not make more of a mess of it by keeping it to ourselves.

But to have all that frailty and confusion walk arm and arm with Christ into the Father’s House, this Christ who, when he went back to the Father’s house after the all mess and glory of being born and bored and turned on and spitted on killed, brought with him all of the pain of being a human, and all the pain that it is possible to have if you have to live and move and breathe in the world of Sin and Death.

But here, in this passage:

Jesus, before he was the One who bore the sin of the world, was a man from a place. He was one of the people who came out when the wild-man called. A man summoned by a Voice that had the authority to summon Man.

Jesus walks out as a man from a place.

He watches people get dunked in dirt water by the strange wild man. But when he gets dunked all the heavens open. All of Israel starts again.

And when the heavens open, God, for whom people have waited and waited to speak,

finally has one more thing to say,

and its this:

This is my Son. I love him.

And it is said with Jesus getting the water out of his eyes and looking up to, strangely I guess, to receive it.

We know about water from the Exodus, the water that swallowed the Egyptians, the water that wiped out everything but Noah, his family, and the boat he made them.

But there is no boat now, there is no path made by Moses. Jesus walks into water. He drowns like the Egyptians. He walks into water. He drowns like the people God destroyed in the days of Noah.

This is what it is like to be loved, to be the one on whom God’s love is set, is to be the one on whom His wrath is set. To be the beloved is to take on judgment.

What kind of beloved is this? A beloved must die? What is the unbearable act of being loved by God?

John the Baptist’s baptism was no good. He said it wasn’t. He said it was just water. Jesus will have to do it again, he said, and do it right. He will have to bring us to His Baptism. The One where they heavens open, the Spirit descends, and God declares: “This is my beloved.”

At Christ’s baptism, the Spirit came down as a dove and made its home with Christ that day. And when we have Christ’s baptism--the one that works--the Spirit now makes its home in us to. Not temporarily, but forever.

At Christ’s baptism, God called Him His beloved. And when we have Christ’s baptism, God says that to us too, powerfully and forever. Maybe we stopped listening. But God has not stopped saying it.

But when Christ went down into the water, he asked for wrath. He asked to bear the wrath for God’s people. He took responsibility for their stubbornness. He took responsibility for the hardness of the human heart.

Is that our baptism too? Or do we just get the fun part?

The Christian life is treacherous like that, tricky like that. How can we say it? How can we mean it?

“God, please kill us. Please kill our life as we now know it. Give us watery judgment, make us Egyptians who don’t come home to Egypt. Make us sinners who don’t go home to sin.”

What do we walk into with this Baptism? When somehow, and in a way we can’t explain, Christ dying for us becomes us dying with Christ?

“Please God, make us bear, with Christ, the hardness of man’s heart. Make us put to death, by Christ’s Death, the hardness of our own.” Who can bear a baptism like that?

One day, while doing my street pastor rounds, I found myself angry. Having to bear, I thought, ungratefulness, blindness, stubbornness. If you are in ministry for very long, people throw your worst at you because you’ll take it.

But then I stopped. I don’t know why. And, as if Christ himself was with me, I understood in my heart

“No John, I bore man’s hardness of heart. But for a moment, just for a moment, you bore it with me. Just for a moment you walked into the water.”

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