Mark 1:4–11. John Baptizes Jesus of Nazareth

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project
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From the Field: Family Business

Personally, having worked in a family business has taught me many things about better understanding my place and identity as a daughter of God. There is a difference in posture as I engage with my own father, not merely as my employer, but also as one whom I know loves me and sees it as a joy to provide for and guide me. Understanding my adoption as a child of God, likewise, informs the way that I should relate rightly with my father at work. For though it is tempting and far too easy for us to take our privileges for granted, our identity as children of God informs me that it is both my duty and delight to labor in God’s field. (Jessica Tanoesoedibjo)

Jesus himself comes to John to be baptized, as if to declare that he is the one John has been proclaiming. As Jesus emerges from the water, God’s Spirit descends upon him like a dove, and a voice from heaven confirms Jesus’s identity. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:10–11). Although Jesus is the Son of God, that doesn’t negate Jesus’ human ethnicity, language, culture, and family. He is from Nazareth of Galilee (Mark 1:9). Galilee was a remote region, and Nazareth had a bad reputation among the elites in the capital, Jerusalem (John 1:46). Jesus, like his ancestor Ruth (Ruth 2:6), is treated as a suspicious outsider.

Origins influence the way people present themselves and are perceived as they go about their work. Sometimes an identity may be an advantage. At other times, it creates barriers. Immigrant workers, for example, often face stereotypes about their homeland or ethnicity. They typically lose whatever status and reputation they had in their community of origin. Highly skilled workers may be shunted into unskilled jobs. Financial and emotional support networks may be torn apart.

Jesus’ identity as uniquely beloved of God is deeper and more fundamental than the circumstances of his origin. In God’s eyes, Jesus is not some suspicious character from Nazareth, but God’s beloved, born to bring God’s own Holy Spirit throughout the world (Mark 1:8). Jesus’ obedience to his calling, opens the way of the Lord to all creation (Mark 1:3), and his work on the cross fulfills and perfects all good work (Mark 16:9). If Jesus can embrace his particular human origin, each of us can embrace ours. No one has the right to treat us as inferior because of our identity. And none of us have the right to treat another person as inferior because of their identity. For most of us, this alone is cause to repent.

Even so, our origin does not dictate or limit our identity. Through baptism—the visible sign of turning to Jesus’ way—we accept our identity as children of God above and beyond any identity the world confers. The identity that we have as children of God is the starting point by which we live out our lives, even in the workplace.