Bible Study – Mark 1:9-13

So, my goal is to do the Bible study blog posts at least once a week, and ideally more. With all the craziness of still trying to unpack, this week I wasn’t able to do more.

The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

The story this week seems pretty straightforward–it is, as the title suggests, about the baptism and temptation of Jesus. There aren’t a lot of differences between the translations that I looked at, so I won’t focus any time on that.

Basically, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. When he comes up out of the water, he sees heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

What does that mean? Did the sky open up? It is metaphorical? Did he actually see the Spirit, and was it actually in dove form? Or is that metaphorical too? Did anyone else see it?

On glancing through the other gospels, this story is actually told in all four gospels, which is incredibly rare, and probably points to its importance. John gives the most details, and says that John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend out of the sky and was told ahead of time that whoever that happens to is the one who baptizes with the Spirit, and that’s how he knew that Jesus was the one.

I’m still not sure of the dove thing. I think it has some kind of symbolism, but I’m not well-versed enough in Bibleology to know that that symbolism is. (Anybody reading who’d like to elaborate… please do!)

And, back to the story, then a voice comes from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Presumably, that’s God. And I guess that helps other people understand what they saw (even if they left confused, it was clearly a monumental occasion.)

After that, the Spirit sends him out into the desert, where he hangs out for 40 days with wild animals, all the while getting tempted by Satan. Luke and Matthew give more details about what the temptations consisted of. John doesn’t talk about the temptation of Jesus. It doesn’t say in Mark, but in Matthew and Luke it is clear that he did not succumb to the temptations.

Once again, the question that I come away with is why is this passage important? Why does it matter that Jesus was baptized?
According to Wikipedia, there is some background of water purification rituals in the Jewish tradition, so baptism through water wasn’t a totally foreign concept to the Jews.

The question of baptism is one that I haven’t fully thought through or researched. Is baptism necessary for everyone? Was it necessary for Jesus? I know that my LDS baptism was a day of some significant spiritual experiences that I have had. But is baptism required for everyone? Does God care if we’re baptized? If so, why? (Note that I’m not making light of the question by being somewhat flippant, but just trying to flesh out my questions so that as I read more, I know what kinds of answers I’m looking for.) The fact that churches don’t agree on necessity, mode, or age of baptism makes me think that the whole issue isn’t totally clear. And if it isn’t made totally clear by the Bible, and according to most Christians that’s the Word we have to go on (excluding the LDS who believe in latter day prophecy which clears up a lot of the specific requirements for things like baptism), how important can it really be?

Then there is the spirit descending like a dove. I have no idea what that means.

And finally, the temptation. Why was Jesus tempted four 40 days? Is it one of those foreshadowing of things to come (since 40 is one of those Biblically significant numbers that perhaps doesn’t literally mean 40, it might mean that he was tempted for a long (infinite?) time, foreshadowing the infinite nature of the atonement)?

Also, and finally, I wonder what it is like to be ministered to by angels.

I realize as I’m reading and writing that my questions mostly revolve around ‘why was this put in the Bible’ and ‘why should I care’. It’s not because I’m a big cynic, but more that it seems like if this is the stuff that has stuck around, and is the stuff on which I should be basing my faith, what about it should be resonating with me, what about it is significant?

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3 responses to “Bible Study – Mark 1:9-13

  1. Some points:

    1. Once, on my mission, this street person (we called him “Fifth Nephi,” but that’s another story) came to Gospel Principles Sunday School class, and my zone leader was teaching a lesson about the Holy Ghost. ZL asks if anyone would like to share a personal experience about the Holy Ghost, and Fifth Nephi’s hand–and nobody else’s–shoots up. ZL calls on him, and 5N proceeds to tell us that he used to wonder what shoulder the Holy Ghost sits on in the form of a dove, but then one time he was walking through the park and this dove came flying up and landed on his right shoulder. From then one, he knew that the Holy Ghost sits on the right shoulder when it appears in the form of a dove. The story is better in German because the words for”dove” and “pigeon” are the same word, so he was actually talking about a regular pigeon. Granted, in retrospect this doesn’t seem like all that funny of a story, in light of my own spiritual experiences over the past year, but at least in the Mormon context in which we heard the story, we thought it was awesome-hilarious.

    2. Doves are sacred to Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the goddess of (among other things) love. God transmits his love via the Holy Ghost. Interesting? Or mere coincidence?

    3. Some Mormons point to Jesus’s baptism as evidence for non-trinitarianism. If God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost are all the same being, then why does he appear to be in three places at once, acting like three totally separate beings. I think this is not necessarily a very solid argument against the trinity, though. It’s basically a strawman argument, setting up the trinity in the most simplistic, ridiculous way that most trinitarian Christians would not actually espouse.

  2. Kullervo:
    1. I love that story, and always have.

    2. I think that’s really interesting. It leads to a possibility that the dove perhaps transcends specific religions as a sacred symbol. But then-why?

    3. In the Mormon context, I think it makes sense. In the non-Mormon context, I think that it’s not easy to respond to, because the Trinity is freaking hard to understand. Which is generally why I try really hard not to understand and just know that it is there and that I don’t understand it. 🙂

  3. As for baptism Jesus said we must be baptized. Mark 16-16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved. But he who does not believe will be condemned.

    Baptism for me means a public display declaring your faith in Christ. This is one type of Baptism. Being baptized with water when you are dunked you declare that you accept the death of Jesus for your sins. Colossians 2-12 buried with him in baptism, in which you also were raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. Romans 6-4 Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

    This meaning just what it says we are born again when baptized into Christ. We must be baptized not into a church such as mormonism or pentecostal or lutheran etc. etc. We must be baptized in the name of the father the son and the holy ghost which name is Jesus. He is the way to God. Remember when he died on the Cross the veil was torn. This symbolized that we no longer needed to sacrifice animals to be forgiven. Jesus was the last sacrifice. God became available to everyone because of the death of Christ. He is our advocate to God 1 John 2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have and Advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

    Sorry got a little carried away.

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