As we begin reading the Gospel of Mark, we realise very quickly that there is little to say about Jesus’ life before his baptism. There is no mention of his birth, nor his upbringing, just a few simple verses about the ministry of John the Baptist and the importance of baptism.
Baptism is an interesting concept. There is something mystical about watching a person spring up from the waters after being lowered down in. It is meant to remind us of Christ’s death and resurrection. Baptism is an outward sign of an inward change, and it marks the beginning of something new. In the Old Testament, the closest thing to baptism was circumcision. Circumcision was used as a sign of the covenant that God created with Abraham. Men within this covenant would do something physical to mark themselves and claim the blessings that God had promised to Abraham. The result was a new physical identity based on those inward promises of blessing. Now we claim a new identity based in a New Covenant with Christ by symbolically participating in the death and resurrection of Christ through water baptism.
Prior to our passage, John prophesies about an entirely new identity that is to come, and would be marked by Spirit baptism (Mk 1:8). A few verses later, none other than Jesus comes to be baptised and take on this outward sign of baptism in order to fulfil the prophecies of old, and begin a new chapter to his life that would be filled with miracles and teaching.
Our theme for this week’s passage is new creation. Jesus is beginning his ministry by starting something new. From the moment of his affirmation by God in his baptism, to the beginning of his teaching ministry about the Kingdom of God, Jesus wants us to experience new creation as his followers. The stories immediately preceding and following this passage involve Jesus interacting with different religious leaders, particularly the Pharisees. We learn a lot about Jesus’ character and mission through his answers, and ultimately, we experience a glimpse of his desire to bring about something new. Keep in mind the theme of new wine.
Jesus uses a parabolic illustration about two types of containers that hold wine to compare two types of vessels for God’s spirit. There are those Pharisees who stick to the old form of religion to worship God, and then there are the disciples whom Jesus teaches to look for new ways to express the fresh life that the Spirit breathes into the church.
Our goal this week is to discuss practical ways in which we can experience this new creation in Christ no matter where we are in our current seasons of life.