As you no doubt know, we’re into Lent now (day 2) in fact. Now, I’m normally rubbish at Lent, I have some vague idea that I’m going to do “something”, but it never amounts to anything more than that. I’m also (you can’t fail to have noticed!) that I’m not so hot at blogging regularly, either.
So, my plan is to try and blog at least once a day throughout the Lent period (I have no idea whether this includes the Sundays or not – I’m just going to go for it and see where we end up by Easter).
But I also figured that just seeking to to blog about “anything” won’t do me much good. So, instead I’m going to combine this with my Bible readings for Lent, which are based on the Big Read 2012, using Tom Wright’s divisions of the book of Mark. These posts based on the readings aren’t supposed to be deep, profound thoughts, nor will they come laden with huge scholarly insights (I wish I had the learning to do that!). They will just be my reflections on the reading in question for you to take or leave as you wish.
So, here we go!
The first reading is Mark 1:1-20, focussing especially on vv.1-9. Here we have the opening of Mark’s Gospel, his account of how this all began. And already we’re in full-on mode here, Mark wasting no time in getting going and getting us into the thick of the story as soon as possible. In the first 20 verses, we’ve covered John the Baptist, Jesus’ arrival on the scene, His baptism & temptation, the beginning of His ministry and His calling the first disciples. Phew!
But what grabbed me about this was more than just the speed with which Mark moves us around the story. He seems quite happy to play with our expectations and, rather than confirming our preconceptions of Jesus, he almost seems to want us to be left scratching our heads and saying “Oh… right… hang on… so he’s going to… nope, no he’s not… oh…”.
Jesus, apparently, is vastly superior to John the baptiser – He has the power to baptise with the Holy Spirit. Yet here He comes, asking John to baptise Him with a baptism of repentance. Huh?
When He comes up out of the water, Jesus’ unique status as God’s own Son is confirmed (and conferred?) in the most public way possible. We’re all set for a glorious beginning to Jesus’ ministry. Then suddenly, we’re in the desert – at the Spirit’s insistence – facing temptation and wild animals! Sorry, Mark, did you get this right?
Yet this, it seems, is the way it has to be. Whatever the specific reasons why these things had to take place, Mark seems to want to throw us on to the wrong foot straight away. Whatever else this good news is, he seems to be saying, it’s not going to make everything straight-forward and easy. Jesus is coming with His and His Father’s way of doing things and these are not our ways. The Kingdom of Heaven has come profoundly near in Jesus. But if we want to enter it, then it’s going to mean reconsidering all our preconceptions of what life’s about, about what’s important. We’re going to have to allow God to turn everything upside-down in order that, just maybe, we can begin to see things the right way up again.