Tearing Open the Heavens

Mark 1:4-11 is the gospel text this year for the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord.

Mark has an urgency in telling the good news of Jesus. There is no nativity. There is no Jesus when he is 12 years old and his parents can’t find him after their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The words of the text start even with an incomplete sentence. “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. [the Son of God]…” Rev. Travis Scholl writes about finding good news in this incomplete sentence.

Mark has an urgency that does not build out of his lack of grammatical skills. He shares the urgency that the world is hurting and desperately in need of the good news that Jesus brings to this world.

Mark shares the words of Malachi and Isaiah to root this beginning of good news in the words of promise that were planted in the prophets.

John appears and he is in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Baptism was not new to the Jews, but before this it had been a means for God-fearing gentiles to convert. Baptism was an rite of entrance into the Jewish community. But John is not proclaiming this baptism of repentance to God-fearing gentiles and calling upon them to convert. This baptism is drawing all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem out to him. People were confessing their sins. This baptism by John was for sinners, for people missing the mark, for those who were an offense to God.

John did not come as a culturally relevant hipster. He was counter cultural and he was calling upon people to enter these waters for a radical purpose.

John knows that his vocation is to point people to the coming messiah and that he himself is not the promised Christ. I think this is a wonderful reminder to every leader in a church, we are not the messiah but we are pointing people to the Christ.

In those days, while John was out there in the wilderness doing his thing for sinners, Jesus was baptized by John.

When Jesus came up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open. This is not a gentle or tame word. The heavens did not open like an elevator door. The heavens did not open like a curtain on opening night for a Broadway musical. The heavens were TORN OPEN.

The gap between heaven and earth, between all that is holy and clean and that which is unholy and unclean is being torn apart. Jesus, the true God and true man is entering our story of sin and struggle. He is coming into the raging waters of our sin. He is not preserving for himself a way to undo this plan of salvation. He will not ctrl-z this action, there will be no undo function. The heavens have torn open.

The Holy Spirit descends upon him like a dove and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The urgency of Mark’s gospel is a part of the story for why Jesus has come into our world. We urgently need the savior that enters into our world of raging struggle.

I am glad that God has not introduced an undo button to his desire to save us from our sins. I can always count on Jesus seeking to be my savior. The heavens have been torn open. God does not want to close the door again on us.


One thought on “Tearing Open the Heavens

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  1. Well said, Pastor Evan. The example of John the baptist is an excellent one. John was reaching people by preaching the Word of God and pulling people out of the culture that was helping keep them from God. As you said, the hipster churches, want to embrace pop culture and bring it into the church and try to “clean the outside of the cup” instead of addressing what’s on the inside.


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