Do Over – Mark 1:1-11

I can understand why the crowds made their way the Jordon River to be baptized by John.  In many more ways than we might imagine, they were people just like us.  They struggle with the same types of sins to which we are prone to fall prey.  That is why they came to hear John preach.  They recognized their need to repent.  They came because they hungered for some fresh expression of God in their lives which is exactly was John was offering them. 

 Our mental photographs of John the Baptizer often paint him as some sort of hell-fire and damnation preacher.  I think that does a huge disservice to John.  His preaching was not so much about hell-fire and damnation as it was about hope and preparation.  John set up shop in the Judean wilderness to help the people prepare the way for the dawning of God’s new day.  “You have to get ready!” he said.  “You’ve got to be prepared.  The Messiah is coming.  Take a bath.  Put on a clean set of clothes.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

 That the people came from Jerusalem all over Judea is not much of a surprise.  They needed John’s message of hope.  They needed a word about forgiveness.  They came oppressed, depressed, abused, and misused, feeling forgotten and rejected by God.  They came seeking hope and John did not disappoint them.  “You have not been forgotten!  You can be forgiven.  Everything God promised is about to be fulfilled.  Confessed your sins, repent, be baptized, and start over.”  When John entered the waters of the Jordon River, it is really no surprise that the people lined up to be baptized.  When they came up out of the water, they went home refreshed, ready to start all over with God.

 I understand what drew the people to John’s preaching and baptism.  There is nothing in the world as powerful as the ability to start over.  Do you remember what it was like as a child to swing a bat, or kick a ball, or take a shot as a basket, only to have your effort go awry?  When I was a child playing sports, I remember a special childhood authority that my friends and I possessed. 

 Here is how it worked.  We had a basketball hoop over our garage when I was a boy.  My friends would sometimes congregate at my home to play basketball.  On occasion, I would take a shot and the basket and I would miss.  The guys on the other side would recover the ball and get ready to take a shot.  Then I would shout, “Oh, wait a minute!”  “The sun was in my eyes.”  “The wind blew.”  “The dog was barking.”  “A pretty girl walked.”  There was always a reason.  Then I would speak out from that special childhood authority.  “I call for a ‘do over.’”  The guys on the other side would give me back the ball without argument.  They knew that it wouldn’t be long before they, too, would need a “do over.”   

 You don’t see that kind of thing watching the NBA.  You do not see Shaquel O’Neal calling for a “do-over” when taking an errant foul shot.  You do not see guys in Major League Baseball calling for a “do over” after their third strike at bat.  You do not see a NFL quarterback asking for a “do-over” when he throws and interception. 

 Do you know what made John’s preaching so appealing?  He was offering the people something no one else was offering.  We might call it grace, or mercy, or forgiveness – but I prefer to call it a “do-over.” 

 Have you ever wanted a “do-over”? 

 You say some harsh words that really hurts your spouse:  DO OVER

You loose your temper with you child and begin screaming like lunatic: DO OVER

You embellish a story about a co-worker in a moment of gossip:  DO OVER

You throw out some racial epitaph slandering a Hispanic man: DO OVER

You are cut off in traffic and your language become a bit colorful: DO OVER

 John was offering people a “do over” – a total life do over by the power of God.  “You’ve sinned,” he said.  “You are dirty and broken – but you can start again.  God’s new day is coming.  God’s ‘do over’ Kingdom is right around the corner.  It will not be long now.  Soon there will come one who will not baptize with water, but with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  Come, be baptized, and get ready to take part in God’s great and glorious “do over.’”

 We can understand why the crowds came to hear John preach.  What we cannot so easy to understand is why Jesus came to be baptized.  Why would the sinless son of God come to John’s wilderness revival for a “do over” baptism? 

 I read the text several times looking for some clues, but I could not find any.  Mark simply says that Jesus came to be baptized and John baptized him. 

 In the Gospel of John, the whole notion of Jesus’ baptism must have struck the writer as a bit odd. He writes a great deal about the Baptizer, but he never mentions anything about Jesus’ baptism.

 In Matthew’s gospel, even the Baptizer had some problem with the notion of Jesus’ baptism.  “I should not baptize you,” he said to Jesus.  “You should baptized me!”  However, Jesus insisted saying, “It must be done so that everything is done right.” 

 In Luke’s gospel, the crowds come to pray and be baptized and Jesus right there among them – as if to say that what was important was that Jesus identified or associated with all the people.

 Mark says nothing about the reason Jesus came.  Why, at the age of thirty-something, did Jesus close down the carpenter’s shop and make his way to the Jordon River to be baptized by John?  Why was Jesus baptized?

 Folks smarter than me – theologians, pastors, and philosophers of religion – have been debating this question for centuries.  The gospel writers themselves do not offer us any clear, definitive, uniformed answer to this question.  Then again, maybe that old adage is correct.  “Never try to be more clear than clarity warrants.”  When it comes to why Jesus was baptized – as least when reading Mark’s Gospel – maybe we ought to be content simply to say, “It happened!” and then move on.  

 It did happen according to Mark, Matthew, and Luke.  For whatever reason, it happened.  Jesus came to the Jordon River and was baptized by John.  That much is clear.  What is also clear is that in the moments following Jesus baptism, something remarkable happen. 

 The baptism itself did not seem very remarkable.  Mark and the others paint a rather bland picture at first.  John is conducting his baptism services.  The location is the Jordon River.  There is a long line of people who have come that day to be baptized and Jesus standing in that line.  All of this is quite ordinary.

 Then, suddenly, just as Jesus comes up out of the waters, all heaven breaks loose.  Mark chooses his word to describe this event very carefully.  He uses the Greek verb schitzo, from which we get the word schism.  Mark is the only one of the three who uses this word.  It is translated in various English versions of the Bible as “to break open,” “to split,” “to ripped open” or “to tare apart.”

 Mark says that the heavens “split open” or were “torn apart.”  That is a rather strong phrase.  Mark only uses this word two times in his Gospel.  The first is here at the beginning when Mark says the heavens were ripped open and the presence of God was revealed.  The second takes place at the end of Mark’s gospel, in that moment when Jesus died, and the temple veil was torn in half from top to bottom. 

 At the front end, God tares open heaven and Jesus is right there in the middle of that event.  At the back end Jesus tares into pieces the veil that symbolized the people’s sense that they were separated from God, and there, too, Jesus was right there in the middle of that event. 

 I remember witnessing a scene several years ago in a parking lot at a shopping center.  A young woman pulled into a parking spot.  She stopped her car, turned off the ignition, and pulled out the key.  Next, she opened her car door.  She paused for a second, reaching for her pocketbook.  As she did, a young man pulled into the parking spot next to her.  His stereo was booming.  His head was bopping.  He really wasn’t really paying attention to what he was doing.  His car hit the opened door of the young woman’s car, mangling and breaking it completely off its hinges. 

 We open doors.  We close doors.  However, when something is torn apart, the ragged edges never fit back together again.  That is what Mark is describing.  In that moment when Jesus came up out of the waters, heaven could no longer contain itself and so it split apart and spilled out upon the earth, and in the middle of all of this breaking, and splitting, and ripping, and tarring, we see and hear God and nothing will ever be the same again.

 The heavens split apart.  God’s Spirit descends upon Jesus.  Then there is the voice.  “You are my beloved Son.  With you I am well pleased.”   In these words, we have the conglomeration of two verses of scripture from the Old Testament.

 “You are my beloved Son” is straight out of Psalm 2.  These words were used as a part the coronation of a new king.  When David, Solomon, or any of the others received the crown as King of Israel, the High Priest from the temple would declare King to be the “Son of God.”

 The voice from heaven speaks to Jesus, saying: “You are my Son!”  Does that make Jesus a King?  He’s certainly not like any King we are familiar with.  Born in a stable, not a palace – heralded to lowly shepherds rather than the powerful elite. 

 Was Jesus a King?  Do you remember that day when Jesus was preaching about the kingdom and performing great miracles?  The people got all excited and wanted to crown Jesus right then – but he would have nothing to do with it! 

 Was Jesus a King?  Do you remember the story of Palm Sunday when Jesus entered the city and the crowds all waved palm branches and sang songs about Jesus as conquering King.  They expected him to take the city by storm – but he did not.  Instead, he looked around for a little while and then slipped out a back door and went back to his friend’s home in Bethany. 

 Was Jesus a King?  Remember what happened when Herod, Pilate, and the Sanhedrin conspired against Jesus to have him crucified.  The Roman guards beat a crown of thorns into his head and mocked him as though he was a King.

 Was Jesus a King?  Was this man who was nailed to a cross a King? 

 The truth is that you are going to have to answer that question for yourself.  Is Jesus your King? 


“You are my beloved Son,” the voice says.  “With you I am well pleased.”  The second phrase is from Isaiah 42.  This is one of those Old Testament songs about “the suffering servant.” 

 Now look at this!  In one part, the voice quotes a verse about a King.  In the next part, the voice quotes a verse about a servant – one who washes feet.  Which is it?  Is Jesus a King or is Jesus a servant?  And the answer is YES!  How is he King?  How does he receive the glory and the honor of God?  Through service!  This is an entirely new definition of what it means to stand tall before God and hear God say, “You are my child!”[1]

 Throughout his life Jesus tore into tiny pieces all the values by which human society operates.  “The greatest will be servant!”  “The first will be last!”  “If you want to follow – take up the cross.” 

 Jesus tore apart the social fabric that separated rich from poor.

Jesus broke through the hardness of many hearts to bring forth compassion.

Jesus ripped to shreds those religious rituals that had grown so rigid and routine.

Jesus broke the chains that bound some in the demon’s power.

Jesus ripped into pieces the prejudices that separated people by race or class.

Jesus split apart the notions of what it meant to be God’s Beloved Child.

 There is a lot of splitting, and ripping, and breaking, and tarring in Mark’s gospel – and God through Christ is in the middle of it all.  You might be tempted to say that here is a lot of splitting, and ripping, and breaking, and tarring in our lives, too, and of course, you would be right.  Maybe you have asked, “Where is God in the midst of all torn places of lives?” 

 On December 26, 2004, a Tsunami ripped through nearly a dozen Indonesian countries, killing over 250,000 people.  In the middle of it all that turmoil, God’s presence was revealed through the loving kindness of God’s beloved children who sent or brought food, water, medical care, clothing, compassion, and a message of grace and mercy.  Lives ripped apart by this tragedy will never be put back together quite the same again, but that does not mean that they will not be put back together.  By the grace of God, these folks can start over again. 


Several years back,  portions of our own nation were torn apart by the winds of storm after storm after storm.  Yet, in the middle of it all, God’s beloved children sent and brought the promise and presence of God’s love and mercy and compassion.  There were meals for the hungry, shelter for the displaced, counsel for the bereaved, and kindness for the broken-hearted.  Things will never be put back together the same for people in places like New Orleans.  Yet thanks to the love and efforts of God’s beloved children, there is still hope and possibility for tomorrow.

A couple years ago  in neighboring West Virginia, emotions were run ragged by the alternating messages of promise and despair surrounding the Sago mining tragedy.  Late Tuesday night there was the realization of a miracle as reports came that 12 of the 13 trapped miners had been rescued safely.  Early Wednesday morning it was discovered that the numbers were actually just the opposite.  Only one miner had survived and, in fact, 12 had perished.  What a terrible and tragic tare in the lives of that community and those families.  Did you notice where those families spent the 40 plus hours of this terrible ordeal?  They spent it in church, surrounded by the love and ministry and prayers and compassion of God’s beloved children.  What drove them into the church as their emotions were being ripped apart by the events of those days?  We know what it was!  They were aware that in their darkest moments of despair, even when it seemed that their miracle had been taken, God was still there. 

 Right now in Iran, people are protesting, marching, screaming, and shouting  for freedom, liberty, and a more hopeful future.  As they do, they are being shout, beaten, and abused.  Their lives are being torn apart – and they hope and pray that it will all be put back together in better form. 

Not long ago we got a couple pieces of new furniture.  You should come by and see what we got some day – just don’t all come at once.  We needed some new furniture.  There was not enough seating in our living room for all the members of our family – and when you sat on the old couch, it could take up two minutes to dig yourself back out of it just to stand up.

 Anyways, we got this new furniture (a couch and a love seat) and we did some house cleaning and rearranging to welcome these new additions to our home.  In one corner of my little “home-office” area, I found some clergy records.  These are the little slips of paper I received from the undertaker when I perform a funeral.  I now have 50 of those pieces of paper covering my five years as your pastor. 

 Not all of these were members or active participants in the life of the Morattico Baptist, Unity Baptist, Red Bank Baptist, and Patterson Avenue Baptist (the churches I have served as pastor).  There are a few other slips of paper in the stack.  These are for funerals performed by other pastors, and yet attended by me because they were my friends, and/or the relatives of some of you who are in the church. 

 In each case, without exception, these deaths represent a tragic tare in the fabric of somebody’s life – perhaps your life.  Thing will never be put back together the same for you again.  That does not mean that things will not be put back together.  That does not mean that God through Christ is not with you right now in the midst of your brokenness. 

 Are there torn and broken places in your life?  Sure there are.  There are torn places in all our lives.  It might be grief, pain, illness, loneliness, depression, or despair.  It might be economic, social, professional, emotional, or spiritual difficulties.  It might be something caused by your own failures, or some injustice imposed upon you because of the sins of another.  It might just be the results of the “slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune that flesh is heir too.”  It does not matter the source or the cause.  What matters is whether God is there in the midst of all that breaking, splitting, ripping, and tarring.   

 That’s the real question, isn’t it?  Where is God?  Mark tells us.  He tells us at the beginning of his Gospel when Jesus is being baptize.  He tells us at the end of his Gospel as Jesus breaths His last breath. 

 Where is God?  You know.  God was there when that deacon called and said a prayer with you over the phone.  God was there when the women of the church hosted a reception in the fellowship hall after the funeral for your spouse.  God was there when one of the men in the church stopped to help with some chores around the house.  God was there when that friend sat with you in the hospital, funeral home, or living room.  God was with you in that handshake or embrace, which said more than words could ever say. 

 Where is God?  God is there in that Sunday School class, or a Bible study, or a sermon, when that verse from the Bible finally made sense and brought guidance to you through a broken period in your life.  God was there in that prayer gathering when you felt yourself strangely warmed by a peace that passes all understanding. 

 Where is God?  God is with you in those moments when the fabric of your life seemed torn into pieces.  God is there.  God is there. 

 More importantly, perhaps, God is with you in those moments when you serve others whose lives seem to be torn into piece.  In fact, if you will listen closely in those moments, you probably will hear God a voice from heaven saying:  “You Are My Child.  With you I am fully pleased!”


[1] Section inspired from a sermon by Fred Craddock preached at Cherry Log Church, titled: “Jesus is Baptized, But Why” based on Mark 1:1-11


by: Fred B. Craddock
publisher: Abingdon Press, published: 2010-05-01
ASIN: 0687659949
EAN: 9780687659944
sales rank: 39932
price: $14.36 (new), $9.22 (used)

A standard textbook on the art and craft of preaching. Craddock weaves history, theology, and hermeneutics into an exhaustive text on sermon preparation and preaching.

Painstakingly prepared for seminary students and clergy, this book answers the fundamental question: How does one prepare and deliver a sermon? Craddock’s approach is practical, but also allows for concentrated study of any particular dimension of the process.

“Filled with practical wisdom. . . . A liberating book.”–Richard Lischer, Duke University.

The Cherry Log Sermons
by: Fred B. Craddock
publisher: Westminster John Knox Press, published: 2001-03-01
sales rank: 252718

A collection of sermons on a variety of texts and topics, all showing the wit, gifted turn of phrase, narrative skill, and biblical insight of Fred Craddock.


Craddock Stories
by: Dr. Fred Craddock
publisher: Chalice Press, published: 2001-06-01
ASIN: 0827204833
EAN: 9780827204836
sales rank: 613027
price: $12.54 (new), $3.37 (used)
One of the things that makes Fred Craddock’s sermons so compelling is his masterful use of storytelling, but, until now, few of his stories have ever been published. This collection offers for the first time hundreds of Craddock stories told in his own words and a glimpse of his life.

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