Message from Mark 1:4-11
by Major Pauline
note: These are preaching notes, not academic essay papers,
and so may lack a reference here or there (indeed, they were
prepared for preaching and not for wider readership).
It is not the intent to withhold credit from a source.
Once torn, things will never be quite the same
I was talking with friends about vacationing in Cuba. It seems
the right topic with the weather we are having. I was speaking
to one family who shared that even today there is still
control of information. One example is that the government
does not want tourists to stay with locals. We are bussed to
all-inclusive resorts which can only be accessed by the locals
who work there. Even as you tour town you will notice a
beautiful site, well kept, but if you look just behind, the
houses are not so nice.
the moment this family landed back, the messaging bombarded
them, screens all over, invest here, eat this, dress, have…
We think we are free but the truth is that regardless of where
we live we have to intentionally
decide to whom am I
going to give my allegiance.
If we are not intentional, the subtle or not so subtle
messaging will do the job for us, and we will consume what we
are being told to consume.
So we, as
God’s people protect our identity and our freedom by coming to
Church, by reading His Word, by continually seeking to align
our life to the principles taught in the Bible.
We are in
the Gospel of Mark, not too frequently read during Advent or
Christmas because he makes no reference to Jesus birth,
angels, guiding stars, Bethlehem, shepherds or wise men. He
informs his readers then and now of the mind-blowing truth of
the incarnation in two short sentences:
(Jesus) saw heaven
torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a
voice came from Heaven: You are my Son, whom I love, with you
I am well pleased. Mark 1:10-11
That’s it, succinct. The life altering, history altering event
of the incarnation in two short sentences.
We read it so fast that it is easy to miss the
magnitude of what is being communicated.
two expressions to which I want to call your attention. One is
“You are my Son”, the other is the word “torn,” “torn open”.
Jesus – the Son of God
Mark begins his Gospel stating:
The beginning of the
good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1)
No need to guess who Jesus is.
I did a search for references to Son of God within the book of
Mark and found that Mark begins by telling us of the divine
acknowledgement (Mark 1:10-11), God the Father speaks, God
the Spirit descends, God the Son is affirmed.
The next time we find the expression used
is when Jesus is recognized by spirits – Mark includes
two occasions when Jesus was helping people possessed by evil
spirits and the spirits saw exactly who was addressing them:
(3:11) whenever the
evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out,
“You are the Son of God.” (also Mark 5:7)
It dawns on man
And then at the most unexpected place, the oddest moment, the
truth dawns on man, a man with no jewish background, a man who
had seen Jesus mocked, tormented, rejected and now dying. He
sees Jesus for who He truly is:
Surely this man was
the Son of God! (Mark 15:39)
I don’t know if the Centurion realized the significance
of his declaration, but Mark - when he was told of this detail
- saw it as the climax of the good news about Jesus, from
God’s own declaration, to a man’s realization, and a foreigner
even further significance when we notice another word used
both in the account of Jesus’ baptism as well as in his dying
And that is the word
Torn open. In greek it is the word
schitzo as in
schism. “Torn open” has a different connotation than simply
saying “opened”. Once something is torn, it is never quite the
same. In the other Gospels it is used for example to describe
the old cloth that tears when patched with new cloth, in
Corinthians when urging Christians to get along that there may
be no division, no tearing. So it is not an obscure word.
Luke and John in their description of the events speak of
heaven opening. Mark choses this word
torn, torn open to
imply that something happened beyond the awesome yet
straightforward affirmation of Jesus’ identity.
Think about it. This is Mark’s incarnation narrative – “the
rending of the heavens by the Father is a declaration that the
One on whom the Spirit rests is the Son out of Heaven. The Son
of God has pierced the barrier between heaven and earth. In
Mark’s Gospel the incarnation of the Son of God is declared by
the revelation that happened at this moment. The rending, the
voice, the dove all announce that now the Kingdom of God is at
hand, now from this moment at the Jordan, the kingdom of God
has come; now the beginning of new things – a new beginning in
the history of redemption with the advent – the coming of the
Son of God.”
It was Isaiah who cried out in prayer:
O that you
would tear the heavens open and come down to make your name
known to your enemies and make the nations tremble at your
(Isaiah 64:1) Now if
you think of that day by the Jordan, the nations were not
trembling when God the Son began to walk among us, no one else
may have noticed but this does not mean that things were the
same. Something had changed profoundly.
“Moses walked down to the red sea and the waters parted,
Joshua came to the Jordan and the waters parted, Elijah struck
the water too, but when Jesus went down to the Jordan the very
heavens were parted. There is something new and greater here.
Torn places never close as neatly as before again. Nothing
would ever be the same.
torn, never to be the same?
event in particular we see that:
changed the concept of God – He reveals himself to us as God
who humbles himself, God being willing to identify so
completely with us. God with us in a way He has not been
Jesus changed the concept of Messiah. (What is your concept of
Messiah, of the one who comes to rescue us, a Liberator, many
women were brought up with the concept of a Prince Charming
who will ride in on a white horse and make all well… who do
men dream of? Who would be your liberator)
Jesus changes the concept, He is the one who comes to
liberate us from ourselves first and foremost, who comes to
give us the Holy Spirit. Not a Napoleonic force imposing his
rule, but the Power from within. The meaning of the word for
Spirit is breath. The indwelling Breath of God…
tearing continued throughout His ministry. He tore the concept
of poor as a personal failure, of the ill as failures
(remember when the disciples so callously asked, who sinned
them or their parents?)
the basis for determining the value of a human being. We see
it in the way He treated women, foreigners, children, elderly,
sick, the outcast showing the intrinsic value of each person
regardless of race, age, gender, nationality.
all Jesus changed our possibilities so that we could be free,
holy people, He tore our bond from victims to people with
choices, real choices.
the separation between heaven and earth, creating the
possibility of relationship, real relationship not just as
created and their Creator, but as family, friends.
We need to hold on to these concepts/assumptions that Jesus
tore because we keep being pulled back to the old way of
There are only two places in the Gospel of Mark where he uses
the word torn (schitzo).
In the oddest place we hear the same words again. In
describing the death of Jesus Mark tell us “The
curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom
(Mark 15:38). In the very next sentence he tells us about the
centurion, standing at the foot of the cross, a Roman official
waiting to pronounce him dead, who somehow as he witnessed
Jesus taking his last breath said the same words Jesus had
heard at the Jordan, truly this man was God’s Son.
What does this mean for us?
If you think of the two moments which Mark joins in our minds
by the use of the same terminology, they are moments of full
surrender. At the
Jordan, surrendering His life for ministry, at the cross the
ultimate surrender - His life for our life. These two dyings,
unexpectedly in our mind, become moments of transparency,
moments when His true identity come shining through.
baffling but even being God the Son, it was His willingness to
surrender it all for us that tore open the heavens. You and I
have life and hope because of Jesus’ surrender.
Ephesians 3 tells us that
God’s intent is that now, through the church, the manifold
wisdom of God should be made known. Ephesians 3:10
How do we make this known?
Following the example of Jesus.
have surrendered their lives by entering into a covenant with
God as soldiers
we read the doctrines at the beginning of the meeting, when
you go home review your commitment.
it look like? Surrendering is not a matter of a moment, but a
daily practice, it is intentionally living each day following
today I will send you an e-mail with various tools available
as you seek to be intentional about your surrender.
am using Infinitum as a rule of life.
For some it may mean that
turning on your technology making sure you have your
quiet time with God, reading the Bible, meditating on,
surrendering your day to Him.
*editor's note: These are preaching notes, not academic essay
papers, and so may lack a reference here or there (indeed,
they were prepared for preaching and not for wider
is not the intent to withhold credit from a source.