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  • Writer's picturewakehadley

An Alternate Telling of the Baptism of Jesus in Mark 1

This alternate telling is not written to replace the original Biblical text. Rather, this telling is written with the intent to help the reader grow in appreciation of the original story of Jesus' baptism in Mark 1.

Two-thousand years ago, Jesus grew up as a boy and then a young man in the dusty village of Nazareth. From a very young age, his mother, Mary, told him that he was the Son of God. And because he trusted his mother, he started to act like the Son of God.

Jesus spoke daily to God and God always spoke back to him in clear and direct answers. Jesus healed every illness he encountered and repelled every virus from entering his body. Jesus never feared in frightening situations, because he had faith God would always protect him. When Jesus walked by beggars, he would go to his home, miraculously multiplied his mother’s bread, and return to the beggar with a fresh loaf (and he asked for nothing in return).

After three decades of being the perfect Son of God, it was then that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and asked to be baptized in the Jordan River by John, and John agreed.

With the sun shining overhead, John placed his hand on Jesus, and slowly lowered him into the water.

In that moment, everything changed.

Rather than being in the shallow, green, and warm waters of the Jordan, Jesus was submersed in a seemingly deep, black, and cold watery abyss. It was as if Jesus had been hurled into the Mediterranean Sea, and dragged down hundreds of meters below the surface.

From the depths of the sea, the Spirit ascended to him like a squid. And a low, distant voice arose from the bowels of the earth, “My Son…are you sure you want to be human?”

This question puzzled Jesus.

Through gurgled bubbles, he asked, “Haven’t I been human this whole time?”

Jesus waited for an answer.

But, for the first time in his life, no answer came back.

Growing up, people had spoken to Jesus about this experience of God not responding to their prayers. They often described it to Jesus as, “God is testing me right now.”

“This must be the first time God is testing me,” Jesus thought. Wanting to pass the test, Jesus said, “Yes, I do want to be human.”

Immediately, the protection around Jesus dissolved.

Water rushed into his mouth, making it impossible to breathe.

The pressure on his ear drums inflicted a sharp pain.

He cried out in misery. But no one heard him.

Jesus began to swim with all of his might, but he was not sure if he was swimming up or down or sideways. Everywhere he looked, the absence of light was the same.

He continued to tread through the darkness, hoping his navigational guess might be the right direction to the surface. He felt weaker with each passing second.

He knew he couldn’t hold his breath much longer.

With one last literal gasp. Jesus kicked as hard as he could and stretched into the void. Suddenly, Jesus breached the surface of the Jordan River.

He took in an enormous and desperate breath as oxygen filled his lungs.

The whole vision (or was it a nightmare?) was over as quickly as it started.

As Jesus racked his brain to piece together what just happened,

people on the shore of the Jordan River screamed in ecstasy.

“Look!” one shouted, “The heavens are open and I see the glory of God!”

“Praise be to God!” another exclaimed. “I see the very presence of God flying down toward us in the shape of a dove!”

Jesus turned his gaze skyward.

But he saw nothing.

Hallelujahs and cheers rang out from the crowd on the shore. Everyone witnessed the supernatural hand of God.

Everyone… except Jesus.

Feeling that God was suddenly speaking to everyone but him, Jesus waded to the shore.

He left everyone in their state or religious euphoria and walked in the opposite direction of home for over two kilometers.

And then Jesus flopped to the ground, put his head in his hands, and wept.

He remained alone in the barren wilderness lived among the wild beasts. Some say he was tempted by the devil.

But the most powerful devil could never inflict the ache Jesus already carried

from the betrayal of his own Father.

Forty days later, Jesus returned to the Jordan River and John was nowhere to be seen.

He bathed for the first time since his baptism.

After he was clean, he began to walk along the banks of the river,

until he stumbled on a gathering of twenty people.

He asked them, “Where is John the Baptist?”

A man from the crowd spoke up and said,

“King Herod arrested him. We assume he will be put to death any day now.”

A sense of betrayal welled up in Jesus once again.

Without any shame, he began to weep.

A woman from the crowd said, “John gave us so much hope,

and now he will surely die. God has abandoned us and left all of us here to die.”

With empathy, Jesus said, “Yes, I feel the same way as you.

I too have experienced the depths of God’s betrayal and the emptiness of his abandonment.

But do you know what I found in those depths?”

No one answered. And Jesus quietly said,

“This is the time of fulfillment.

The reign of God is at hand.”

“Change your hearts and minds,

and believe this Good News.”

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