Mark 1:7–13 NRSV
He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
The Holy Spirit always points to Jesus. In his short sixteen chapters, Mark brings us the core of the core of the gospel. I love the clarity of, “And this was his message:” in the New International Version (v. 7). John said many things, but in the midst of many things I suspect John always said one thing and it was likely pretty much the same thing. This was his message:
“The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
That Mark could bring it to such clarity says much more about John than it does about Mark. John was focused on the message. We live in an age where a premium is put on being a great communicator of the gospel. The key is not style points for the messenger, but laser-like focus on the message itself. I often say of myself, “I am an average preacher, but I have an incredible message.”
Let me switch gears, though, and put the question to you (preacher or not). If I were to spend the next year alongside you, at the end of that time, how would I summarize your message? Could I bring it to a sentence? What would it be?
The Holy Spirit personalizes the Word of God. Consider Jesus’ baptism. John baptized him with water, but the Father baptized him with the Holy Spirit. He saw heaven being torn open. He saw the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, descending on him as though he were a dove landing on Jesus’ shoulder. Then the voice: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
So often, the baptism of the Holy Spirit gets spoken of in terms of phenomenology. In other words, it’s all about heaven being torn open and a demonstrative manifestation of the Spirit. Entire branches of the church believe the definitive and exclusive sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit must be the phenomenon of speaking in tongues. While I do not want to diminish the gift of tongues as a manifestation of the sign of the Spirit, I do want to inquire as to why there is no reference to Jesus speaking in tongues? Doesn’t it make sense that the baptism of the Holy Spirit would be accompanied primarily by the Word of God?
If I’m staying close to the text, here’s my observation: the definitive sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the inward perception of these words from the Father spoken as a pure gift, individually over the sons and daughters of God: “You are my son . . . You are my daughter . . . whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” When these words move from believed concept to experienced truth (which is far too rare), it’s a primary sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is literally an internal flood of the holy love of God inside of a person. The definitive demonstration of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, of course, is the creative expression of the holy love of God flooding into the world. The rest of the gospel will be the unfolding of this awe-inspiring demonstration. You will see as we move along that I am something of a purist in my belief: As it was with Jesus, so it can be with us.
The Holy Spirit deepens faith through fasting. The Holy Spirit sends the baptized ones straight into the heart of the place formerly known as Eden, which has now become the wilderness. Note the textual details pointed out: the presence of angels, the animal kingdom, and Satan. Note also that Jesus fasted. Eden was a place of perpetual feasting. What if fasting in the wilderness of this world is actually the divine way back to feasting in the kingdom of God (a.k.a. Eden)?
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
What if fasting is the divinely appointed means to sustain the fullness of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the wilderness of the world? Might this explain your lack of fullness?
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