Jesus Hears a Voice (Mark 1: 9:13)

Continuing with my translation of Mark:

As these things were happening, Jesus came from the village of Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the River Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. Jesus heard a voice from heaven, saying, “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Immediately thereafter the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness, where he stayed forty days. There, Jesus was tempted by Satan. Jesus lived with the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

Commentary

Unlike later uses of this story, in Mark the Spirit descends upon Jesus only in his own mind. Others do not see it. God claiming Jesus as his own child is important in the Mark narrative, since, without a birth narrative, the Gospel According to Mark leaves Jesus fatherless. Joseph does not appear in Mark.  The later reference of neighbors to Jesus as the “son of Mary” clearly indicates the lack of a father in this patriarchal world.

The “adoption” of Jesus by God here, right after his baptism, is the first indication in the story that Jesus will reinterpret the concept of God away from a distant king or warrior toward that of a loving parent, an important element in the Christian message. This is a radical vision. Jesus uses “Abba” for “father,” which in his native language, Aramaic, means “Daddy.”

The desert temptation is not fleshed out in this narrative, but certainly proclaims that Jesus is in the tradition of the prophets of old. Mark signals symbolic action by such shorthand as the use of “forty days” in this scene.

Notice that the desert contains wild beasts. Is this a frightening image, or is Mark hinting that Jesus enjoys a sort of Eden?  Note the casual mention of angels.


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