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There is something exhausting in the water. Multiple times every day I have a version of this same conversation: One of you say - or I say myself: I am so tired. The kids are going every direction, all at once. I try to be intentional about what our family does, but we are running around all the time. Work keeps on piling on, the burden is crushing. I can't move at the rate I used to, can't accomplish as much as I want. I feel like I'm caring for so many people, both parent and kids. There are too many balls in the air. It's too much...
It all started so fast, so intensely. Jesus is baptized, calls four disciples, and then is in the synagogue teaching on the sabbath and healing a man with an unclean spirit. No flowery language, no angels singing, no back story - Mark gets right to his point from the start.
Mark moves quickly. Just 14 verses ago it was "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." He quotes Isaiah, then tells us that John the Baptist appeared, dropped down, proclaiming a baptism of repentance and forgiveness - turning away from what they had valued, towards a God who loves them. In verse 9, continuing to accelerate, "In those days..." Jesus shows up, no birth narrative, and hops in line by the river to be baptized. The heavens are torn apart, a voice announces, "You are my Son, the Beloved" Then the Spirit IMMEDIATELY – Mark uses this word 42 times1 – drives him into the wilderness for two whole verses of temptation. "Now after John was arrested," as today's text begins, we take another big step. It takes Matthew until chapter 11 to mention, offhand, that John was even in prison.
It is a rare and unconventional event to stare intently at someone. We would call this behavior rude and uncouth. We do it so infrequently that children make it a game, to stare back and forth at one another to see who averts her eyes first. The thought of looking at another person in the eye for an extended period of time makes us twitch in anxiety – how could we ever stay so focused? I always thought of it this way, too, as an event wherein I am the main actor, the one staring at another. But a staring contest goes both ways. To be stared at is a whole other level of discomfort.
I have preached on this text at least 4 times. I looked back this week, though, and was convicted, because in each sermon I did the same thing: I breezed right by John's message at the beginning, moving into a conversation about baptism. Now, it's the Sunday in which we mark the Baptism of the Lord, which makes that a reasonable thing to do.