Into the wilderness where John the Baptiser is offering - what is it he's offering, a folk alternative to the Jerusalem cultus? A geographic political statement out on the very margins of society? A challenge, as John Dominic Crossan thinks, to Hebrews to symbolically re-enter the Promised Land & re-conquer it for God after baptism for a change of heart out there on the other (wrong) side of Jordan? By his own statement, that's where MK sees the Gospel beginning. I believe MK means the good news has to begin with a change of heart. Even Jesus when he takes over from the Big Dipper can't do much with people not prepared to turn their lives around in God's direction.
As locusts & wild honey are an alternative physical diet, baptism to show we're allowing God to turn our life around is an alternative spiritual diet! In most of our cases, it may have to mean 'growing into' the baptism that's already happened to us somewhere along the line. Letting our baptism really happen to us! Speaking of alternatives, those who go out to JB maybe wondering if he's the Messiah, find themselves pointed in an alternative direction. Not whom they expect, any more than Jesus is the kind of Messiah they expect! A lot of people today need to be pointed in an alternative direction to the one they're travelling in. Are we confident enough to do that - for God?
JB's humility in what he says about Jesus & the way he points people to him, is a) a validation, an authentication of his message. He's no windbag blowing his own trumpet. It's also a pointer to the kind of Messsiah come among them/ us. To that humility at the heart of Jesus' life & ministry. Servanthood. JB & Jesus are both conscious of whose servant they are! Are we?
JB's such a colourful figure it's tempting to focus on him, but to do that is to go against what he himself asks. A trap for preachers! We're to focus on the One greater, & only on him. The One stronger than JB; the One whose sandal JB isn't fit to stoop to untie; the One who will baptise with Holy Spirit. The One at whose acceptance in baptism of his role as Messiah the very heavens can't keep still!
Theophanies like that at Jesus' baptism don't sit too well with us today. It's OK for spectacular things to happen when we're in control - like pressing a key on our computer, or mobile, using the click stick of our TV, etc. Are we so keen on God wanting / taking control of our life? God's on about more than technical production, imaginative creativity, virtual reality. God's good at all those, but even more so, God's on about making people & things real!
Gospel never becomes reality till we have whatever change of heart is necessary for us, & we experience as a consequence in some way, 'the skies opening' for us. Hear God telling us we're his beloved son or daughter; that he's well pleased with us! When humbly, & obediently, we accept whateveris God's role for us today.