First Sunday of Lent, Mark 1:9-15

My preaching thoughts and commentary for this week's Gospel lesson are more brief than usual. But the translation notes (which help me form the spinal cord of my sermons) is more extensive, and follows immediately after the commentary. 

The reading from Mark has (at least) two themes. The first is Jesus’ baptism and God’s affirmation that followed it. The second is the temptation, which is only briefly, briefly mentioned in Mark. The extensive conversations that Jesus had with Satan are completely missing in Mark. Matthew and Luke are so similar in that that it is generally assumed to be derived (with their own personal changes) from the sayings source, “Q.”   
A note on the baptism itself: in the other versions, they avoid actually describing it, John’s Gospel has John retelling it after the fact, etc. They have John arguing with Jesus about whether John should do it, and why. Matthew says it is to fulfill all righteousness, i.e. to fulfill OT prophesy. Mark is the only gospel that straightforwardly has John baptizes Jesus.

Note that this Gospel doesn’t begin with Jesus, but with John. Jesus doesn’t appear until v. 9, and then unflatteringly: Jesus is said to come from “Nazareth of Galilee” a backwater no place. The Gospel of Jesus only begins in earnest after Jesus comes up out of the water (v. 10).

All of the events in heaven (sky, rent, dove, voice, etc.) are seen only by Jesus in this gospel, not in the others. Does that mean that Jesus sometime, somewhere told this story to his followers who stored it in their memories and then passed it down over the decades eventually landing in Mark’s hands? Or are the personal details theological additions that evolved on their own after Jesus died? Probably the latter, but who can say?

When the heavens open, it is like a split in the wall that separates heaven and earth. They believed in something like a cake plate: glass dome over the flat earth in which humans were on one side and God is on the other. This says that that wall, that firmament, is torn apart, and God’s voice thunders down through the crack. The wall of separation between God and the world is over.

When the Holy Spirit descends, it descends into Jesus, not upon Jesus as the other gospels have it (auton eis, vs. auton epi). Note also, that when the dove comes down, Mark says that it came down in the same manner as a dove would come down. Luke and John say that it came down looking like a dove looks.

Mark 1:9-15 

The Baptism of Jesus

9In those days[1] Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just[2] as he was coming up out of the water, he saw[3] the heavens[4] torn apart[5] and the Spirit descending like a dove[6] on him.[7] 11And a voice came[8] from heaven, “You are[9] my Son, the Beloved;[10] with you I am well pleased.”[11]

The Temptation of Jesus

12And the Spirit immediately[12] drove him out[13] into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts;[14] and the angels waited on him.

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming[15] the good news[16] of God,[17] 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled,[18] and the kingdom of God[19] has come near;[20] repent,[21] and believe in the good news.”[22]

[1] “In those days” (kai egeneto) In the RSV and KJV, “It came to pass.” The Greek begins this clause with Mark’s ubiquitous kai “and.” Not translated probably for clarity, but is another example of Mark’s flowing urgency. The phrase, kai egeneto is not found in non-biblical Greek, but was used 559 times in the LXX and seven times in Mark.
[2] “Just,” here the Greek has Mark’s favorite word, eutheoôs, immediately, shortly, straight, direct (hence the KJV’s “straightway.” “Mark is as fond of “straightway” (euthus) as Matthew is of “then” (tote)” (Vine). Occurs 47 times in Mark; 59 in all of the NT. Matt and Luke evidently thought Mark over did it. Luke deletes it every time he cites Mark. Matthew frequently changes it to the better Greek, eutheōs. “The word is probably a remnant of oral style and gives a certain vividness to the narrative, but by no means does it always mean ‘immediately’ (this cannot be the meaning in e.g., 1:21; 4:5), and it should not be taken to indicate that the Marcan Jesus always acted quickly and directly as a ‘man of action.’”  “The evidence concludes that we are dealing not with an adverb of time, but with a connecting particle” (Kilpatrick, ‘Notes on Marcan Usage’ [TBT, 7.3-4, 1956], cited in Bratcher, The Translator’s Guide to Mark (UBS), p. 27. The sense may be something like, “so then” (Bratcher).
[3] “He saw” (eiden, vb. indic. aorist active third per. sing.). “The verb itself cannot indicate whether a vision or an objective phenomenon is meant; the verb means simply ‘he saw’ and nothing else. The author doubtlessly means to describe actual happenings. There are two direct objects: tous ouranous…kai to pneuma ‘the heavens …and the Spirit’” (Bratcher, p. 27).
[4] Or “sky.” The Greek word oujranov" (ouranos) may be translated “sky” or “heaven,” depending on the context. The same word is used in v. 11 (NET Bible)
[5] “Torn apart” (schizouénous). rent, divide, tear asunder: much stronger than Matthew’s and Luke’sí, were opened. “The idea of violence is present in the verb; here is a breach in the firmament which separates the abode of God from the earth” (Bratcher, p. 28).
[6] “Like a dove.” (πνεῦμα ὡς περιστερὰν, pneuma hōs peristeran). “The comparison of the Spirit to a dove seems to go back to Gen 1:2, where the Hebrew m’rahepet suggests the brooding of a bird.” (CEB Cranfield, The Gospel According to Mark (Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary), CUP, Cambridge, 4th. ed. 1972). “The phrase like a dove is a descriptive comparison. The Spirit is not a dove, but descended like one in some sort of bodily representation” (NET Bible). “There are two possible meanings: (I) ‘He saw…the Spirit descending like a dove (descends)…’ or (2) ‘He saw …the Spirit, as (though it were) a dove, descending…’ In the first case the figure modifies the mode of descent, and in the second it modifies the Spirit as such, with the meaning ‘in the appearance of’ i.e. ‘in the form of.’ Most English translations are ambiguous, even as the Greek is” (Bratcher, p. 29).
[7] “Descending…on him” (katabaīnon) verb participle present active accusative neuter singular. Come or go down, descend; fall, fall down; be brought down (Mt 11:23; Lk 10:15); get out (Mt 14:29). There is no agreement on whether this should be “descend upon” or descend in him. “So far as spirit possession is concerned, the normal way for the LXX to narrate the coming of the spirit of God upon someone is by the use of the phrase ginesthai epi ‘to come upon’ (cf. Num. 23:7, 24:2; Judges 3:10, 11:29; 1 Sam. 19:9, 20, 23; 2 Chr. 15:1, 20:14)…These verbal parallels in the LXX are sufficient to show, (1) that if Mark had meant to say ‘the Spirit descended upon him’ the preposition epi would have been used (as Mt. 3:16 and Lk. 3:22 have it), and (2) that Katabainon eis means ‘descending into’ unless Marcan usage or the context clearly forbids this meaning” (Bratcher, p. 29). Wuest describes this as “the act of the Holy Spirit taking up His residence in the Messiah” (Kenneth Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, Vol. I (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1950), p. 23).
[8] “And a voice came” (φωνὴ ἐγένετο, phōnē egeneto). “Came,” Cranfield (The Gospel According to Mark (Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary), CUP, Cambridge, 4 th. ed. 1972) argues that the egeneto should be omitted — though Metzger includes it with a {C} rating.
[9] “You are” (su ei). Luke has the same construction (Luke 3:22), but Matthew 3:17 has “this is.” Similarly both Mark and Luke have “in you,” while Matthew has “in whom.”
[10] “My son the Beloved” (Su ei ho huios mou ho agapetos). Or my beloved Son (nrsv note) “The phrase is a compound of familiar OT phrases (Ps. 2:7, Isa. 42:1), full of meaning” (Bratcher, p. 31). “The force of ἀγαπητός (agapetos) is often ‘pertaining to one who is the only one of his or her class, but at the same time is particularly loved and cherished’ (L&N 58.53; cf. also BAGD 6 s.v. 1, quoted in NET Bible).
[11] “With you I am well pleased.” “The allusions in the remarks of the text recall Ps 2:7a; Isa 42:1 and either Isa 41:8 or, less likely, Gen 22:12, 16. God is marking out Jesus as his chosen one (the meaning of "[in you I take] great delight"), but it may well be that this was a private experience that only Jesus and John saw and heard (cf. John 1:32- 33)” (NET Bible note).
[12] Mark has here “immediately” where Matthew has “then” (see note on verse 9).
[13] “Drove him out” (ekballei). “Stronger than Matthew’s was led up,” and Luke’s was led.” Literally “to throw out from within, to cast out, to drive out” (Wuest, p. 25). See Matthew 9:38. Note that it is the same word used in the driving out of demons, Mark 1:34, 39. “The first thing the Spirit does is to drive Jesus into the wilderness, the expression not implying reluctance of Jesus to go into  so wild a place, but intense preoccupation of mind. Allowing for the weakening of the sense in Hellenistic usage…, it is a very strong word; and a second instance of Mark’s realizing: Jesus thrust out into the inhospitable desert by force of thought” (Wuest, Ibid.).
[14] “With the wild beasts,” meta toôu theôrioôn. Mark does not relate the three temptations of Matthew and Luke, but adds this about the wild beasts in the wilderness.
[15] “Proclaiming the good news” repentance (metanoia) is the keynote in the message of the Baptist as gospel (euaggelion) is with Jesus. But Jesus took the same line as John and proclaimed both repentance and the arrival of the kingdom of God. Mark adds to Matthew’s report the words “the time is fulfilled” (pepleôroôtai ho kairos)…Mark adds to Matthew’s report the words “the time is fulfilled” (pepleôroôtai ho kairos). It is a significant fact that John looks backward to the promise of the coming of the Messiah and signalizes the fulfillment as near at hand (perfect passive indicative)…Mark adds here also: “and believe in the gospel” (kai pisteuete en toôi euaggelioôi). Both repent and believe in the gospel (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 1: Matthew & Mark (Nashville: Broadman, 1930).
[16] “Good news,” Or gospel (nrsv note).
[17] “Proclaiming the good news of God” (keôrussoôn to euaggelion tou theou, subjective genitive).  An NRSV note adds that “Other ancient authorities read of the kingdom.” Swete observes that repentance (metanoia) is the keynote in the message of the Baptist as gospel (euaggelion) is with Jesus. But Jesus took the same line as John and proclaimed both repentance and the arrival of the kingdom of God. Mark adds to Matthew’s report the words “the time is fulfilled” (pepleôroôtai ho kairos).It is like Paul’s fullness of time (pleôroôma tou chronou) in Galatians 4:4 and fullness of the times (pleôroôma ton kairoôn) in Ephesians 1:10 when he employs the word kairos, opportunity or crisis as here in Mark rather than the more general term chronos. Mark adds here also: “and believe in the gospel” (kai pisteuete en toôi euaggelioôi). Both repent and believe in the gospel.
[18] “Time is fulfilled.” “It is God’s decision that makes a particular moment or period of time into a kairòs, a time filled with significance. So here the meaning of the sentence is that the time appointed by God for the fulfillment of his promise, the time to which the OT was pointing, the eschatological time, has come.” (Cranfield)
[19]The Kingdom of God. See notes below on Kingdom. Basileia, royalty, realm, reign.
[20] “Come near,” Or is at hand (nrsv note).
[21] “Repent” (metanoeo, vb. pres., act., imp. 2nd per, pl.). Repent, turn around, change (for the better), turn from one's sins. “The only clear example of pisteúte èn (faith in) in the NT… Probably a Semitism” (Cranfield).
[22] “Good news,” Or gospel (nrsv note).