URC Daily Devotion Monday 15 January 2024

Monday, 15 January 2024


St Mark 1: 1 – 13
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
    “Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight”’,

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

And so it begins … and how! 

I don’t know if Mark had access to the nativity stories or whether we just didn’t think they were important, but he just goes for it with this dynamic and exciting start to his narrative of the life of Jesus.

John the Baptist appears very much in the mould of Isaiah, dripping with messianic expectation and explicitly identified as fulfilling ancient prophecy.  But he is also an innovator, proclaiming a rite of refreshment and new-birth for Jews who traditionally, did not need it. Only proselytes needed to be baptised, normally. 

Something new is going on here!  John is also portrayed as self-deprecating, acknowledging that it is not he who is the important one here. He is merely pointing towards the Holy Coming One of God, the one who is way more powerful.  I sometimes wonder if perhaps John was quite as modest as these and other texts imply but I sort of hope he was, and suggest it’s a great model for leaders, secular and Christian, that it would be good to follow rather than the common ‘me-me-me’ approach.

And then we roll on pell-mell to the arrival of Jesus himself, dramatically being baptised in the Jordan, and prompting an explosion in the heavens, as the Spirit spectacularly blesses the Galilean and commissions his mission!  Who needs a heavenly chorus, shepherds, stable and Magi when you’ve got such a demonstration of God’s blessings and intentions? Even if Christmas would be rather duller if we didn’t have the other Gospels!

Not ‘me-me-me’ but, rather ‘him-him-him’ – and worth saying that Mark’s Gospel has traditionally been explored with a so-called ‘Messianic Secret’ running through it. Yet, very clearly, we are being told with the very first words who is appearing before John and the crowd i.e. Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. 

Secret? Seriously? 

This is Good News with capital letters …  with the promise of more drama to follow.

I can hardly wait!

God of the New Beginnings and God of the Good News of Jesus, we give thanks and praise for this version of our Saviour’s story. For all its drama, insight and nuance.

As we explore these often familiar words, stories and texts, bless us anew with fresh insights, revelations and the inspiration of your Spirit as the Word is broken open before us. Amen.


Today’s writer

The Rev’d Peter Clark, Retired Minister and Member of Bridport United Church 


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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