January 11, 2015

Baptism of the Lord - B


Beloved Son of God

This short passage from Mark’s Gospel gives two identifications for Jesus.  Together, they teach us a great lesson of God’s way.

Jesus “comes from Nazareth of Galilee,” which in the words of Ched Myers, “Jesus is from Nowheresville.” [1] 

Nazareth is not even mentioned in the Old Testament [2].   At the time of Jesus, some scholars believe the town had no more than 30 people, overshadowed by nearby Sepphoris, Herod Antipas’ capital. [2]

There, in “obscure and tiny” Nazareth [3] Jesus lived and worked as a carpenter.  In the opinions of those who knew him, he was no more than the carpenter.  And his neighbors, the people of Nazareth did not appear to be people of faith (Mark  6: 3-6). [4]

Nazareth is so insignificant that Mark needs to identify it with Galilee.  But Galilee is not much better.  It was an area of a mixed population and mixed religions.  Galilee during the time of the New Testament was “at least half Gentile in population, half pagan in [religion], and bilingual.” [5]  For sure, devout Jews and their religious leaders in Jerusalem looked down upon Galilee and its residents with contempt. 

Yet this man Jesus, who is from “Nazareth of Galilee,” is identified by God as God’s beloved Son, “with whom I am well pleased.”

It is so for us.  The only identification that matters comes from God:  that we are God’s beloved sons and daughters.

[1] Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man, 128, quoted by Francis Moloney, The Gospel of Mark, A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002; p. 36. 
[2] Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, and Roland Murphy, Eds.  The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990; p. 636
[3] Ibid., p. 689.
[4] Ibid., p. 608
[5] Ibid., p. 638

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