Lent 1, Mark 1:9-15

I love the image of the heavens being torn apart. It is worth meditating on for some time. Jesus’ coming tears apart many things, and in the end, an encounter with Jesus tears me apart.  In a wonderful bookend to the gospel, I think of the veil of the temple being torn apart as well.  It seems that what happens to Jesus is a model for the rest of us – baptism, the heavens torn apart, and the Spirit descending.  We will see all of this repeated in the life of the church:  there is baptism and the descent of the Spirit recorded in the book of Acts.

And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am  well pleased.”

Now I’ve gotten on this band wagon before, but I think it bears repeating.  We tend to focus on the first part of the declarative statement:  “You are my Son”.  Well enough, as it tells us of Jesus’ identity.  But there is the second part:  Jesus is beloved of God before Jesus does anything – before the miracles, healings, teachings, sacrifice.  We who are baptized need to learn/yearn to hear that same voice.  Who you are comes before what you do.

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.

All I can say is that if you have tried to follow Jesus, chances are you’ve been driven into the wilderness.  Sometimes we do the driving ourselves.  But with Jesus it is the Spirit who drives him – in order to face temptation.  And it is in facing the tempter that we know the answer the demoniac’s question:  “I know who you are… have you come to destroy us?”  I suppose it might also be an antidote to too much “purpose driven” stuff.  Jesus is definitely “Spirit driven”; but the results of being Spirit driven are not pretty.  They are difficult.

He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild  beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Two things, well, three.  Alright, four, but no more.  There is reality to the personality of evil.  Why is he with the wild beasts?  Are they friend or foe?  We have an image from the natural world (beasts) and we have the supernatural world (Satan, angels).  Physical and spiritual reality:  Jesus is at home in both.  Yada yada – Jesus was tempted, so he knows what it is like…  which reminds me a a joke I recently heard:  “the pastor’s prayer:  Lord, grant me patience, and wisdom and grace in the trying times of my church, because is you grant me strength, I’ll beat someone to death.”  All that is to say is that Jesus does what I can’t.  I like Oscar Wilde’s take:  “The only sure way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”  Seriously, though, I think we ignore the various kinds of existence, beings and realities at our peril.  Some take it too far, some don’t take it at all.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of  God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;  repent, and believe in the good news.”

I like to think that God is a God of second chances.  That is the good news.  But of course if you have a second chance it generally means that you screwed up your first chance.  Repentance is the movement between the two:  from the screwed up first chance to the good news of the second chance, and third, and fourth…  The coming of the Kingdom seems to me to be like the episode of Jesus’ baptism: it is about a declaration from God’s side of the way things are.  At this point the good news is simply that the Kingdom has come.  Until we see that it’s coming in and of itself is good news, we won’t (I think) get a handle on the rest of the gospel.