Wilderness

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, according to Mark anyway, starts in the wilderness.

Isaiah, a book of prophecy ancient when Mark was writing, talked about a person in the wilderness, calling out about the arrival of the Lord.

Then, Mark says, John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness.

Then people went out to the wilderness, or at least, out of the city to the river Jordan. They listened to John, they interacted with John, some of them were baptized by John.

Then Jesus. He arrived from the cultural wilderness of northern Israel, was baptized by John, and was led into the wilderness. The writer specifically mentions wild animals.

In fact, in these first few paragraphs of the good news about Jesus, we hear about camels, wild bees, locusts, some kind of leather, and wild animals. And we read about making paths where none exist, traveling from city to the riverbank, and wandering in the wilderness.

Whatever this good news is, it starts away from crowds and city lights, away from lecture halls and credentials. In fact, by being rooted in the words of the prophet rather than the teachers of the law, this pointing from Isaiah to John to Jesus places authority outside the authorities.

According to the voice from heaven, he is the Son. Which will give a whole different authority.

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As I reflect on Mark, I’m aware that there are choices by an author. The ideas, the words, the images, are chosen and collected and written out with intention. I’m assuming the writing is a rhetorical process, to bring understanding and action. I think that this is different than a literary process, or a historical process, though there are elements of history and literary devices. I’ll talk more about this as we go.

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