A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross – Day FIVE

Mark 1:1-13, The Message:*
The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
   Watch closely: I’m sending my preacher ahead of you;
   He’ll make the road smooth for you.
   Thunder in the desert!
   Prepare for God’s arrival!
   Make the road smooth and straight!
John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.
As he preached he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”
At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.”

At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.


As I’m reading this very familiar passage this morning, I find myself wondering about something.

I’m wondering if the Protestant evangelical movement, so forceful and strong in the last several decades, isn’t maybe listening a bit more to John the Baptist than it is to Jesus?

I know, I know – that sounds dangerous and provocative, maybe even political. I don’t mean it to be any of those things. 

I am just wondering.

John the B preaches repentance and lifestyle change – and people lap it up. They see something in him that they like, they hear things that challenge them and they grab hold.

But what strikes me in this passage is that John didn’t take himself nearly as seriously as everyone else seems to have done. In fact, he clearly points to Jesus and he differentiates between his message and ministry and what will come when Jesus shows up. 

Because Jesus will speak with a different kind of authority, a different kind of power. And it won’t be about lifestyle change alone. It will be about total makeover, from the inside out.

So, I’m wondering.

With the intrusion of what was the precursor of the evangelical movement today – the fundamentalist movement of the early 20th century (and that movement is an important part of my heritage and I am grateful for many pieces of it) – 
but with that movement came a strong emphasis on         
     right behavior,
     right belief,
     strict adherence to a moral code 
without nearly as much emphasis on the radical nature of the Jesus message and the power of the Spirit to wreak havoc with who we are, not just what we do…

As I keep saying: I’m wondering. And I’ll likely keep on wondering. Seems to be what I do a lot of.

And I’m also struck – again! – with those very opening words – Jesus the Messiah, the bringer of the Message, the Good News – is the very specific fulfillment of the prophetic ministry of Isaiah. 

I think maybe it’s time to read that dude again.


Sometimes, Holy Spirit, I’m not sure I like the way you mess with my mind. So, please keep me open and humble and honest as you muck about in there. Because when it’s all said and done, I really do want to be like Jesus. Even if it means I’ve got to live with the muck more often than I might choose.
*Right here is an example of how the daily lectionary sometimes overlaps with the Sunday one. We did part of this passage yesterday – so I chose a different translation to work with today. And sure enough, the Spirit took me in a completely different direction. The Spirit is weird that way.

 And if you haven’t a clue what I mean when I reference the lectionary, click here to go back to Day One and the explanation provided there.

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  1. I’m kinda quietly shouting, ” Amen!” over here. Like you, I’m thankful for much of the way my fundamentalist heritage shaped me, but I’m wondering too.

    At least week’s conference, one of the speakers kept referring to the Holy Spirit as the wild one who invites us to dance. Sounds a little edgy to me, someone who was taught to observe right behavior.

  2. These are questions worth raising, thoughts worth sharing.

    Our community theater is doing “Godspell,” and seeing John the Baptist dramatized made me completely reconsider his role. I go again on Saturday, with my daughter. I wonder what she will think.

  3. Glenda Childers says

    I grew up in the era where it was all about what you know. (how to have a quiet time, how to memorize Scripture, how to share your faith etc.) … which sometimes did not lead to transformation of my life. I still struggle at times in this area. My favorite book that has lead me along in this is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality … a nice blend of spiritual work and emotional work.

    You got me thinking again.


    ps. I mentioned you in my post today.

  4. Oh, yeah – edgy is exactly the word! Thanks for stopping by, Nancy, and wondering with me a while.

  5. Diana Trautwein says

    Thanks for the encouragement, Megan. I think the questions are worth raising, too.

    I haven’t seen “Godspell” in 30 years or so and don’t recall the characterization of John the B. I just remember the exuberance of the singing and the wonder of seeing the gospel told in a fresh, new way – even if some of it was startling, it got discussion going, that’s for sure.

  6. Diana Trautwein says

    Thanks for stopping by, Glenda, and for your always encouraging words. I’ll look up that book – I like the title! And thanks for the mention at your place today – that is kind and generous of you.