Note to the Reader
This week, we continue our examination of the Gospel of Mark. As such, I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Gospel in conjunction with this article.
I am not sure why, but at the moment I am feeling hesitant about how to notate something. Part of me wants to give the specific verse(s) that we will talk about, yet I do not want to because I feel compelled to reveal the minimum context, yet that minimum context happens within the larger context of Mark. My whole dilemma about this notation is that I want to reaffirm that most verses do not have independent meaning outside the Books of Moses, the Book of Proverbs and perhaps some passages in other books, Bible verses are not independent statements. This means that each Bible word, phrase, sentence and verse(s) contain true statements, but those things become true because Literary Context gives them meaning. The Literary Context in its original setting (the Book’s author to his original audience), and influenced by a Theological Context as they are interpreted within the bulk of Scripture, yet each verse also has a Historical Context within the history of the Biblical Narrative, and we have not even mentioned how Culture begins to affect interpretation. All of this is mentioned to reveal that Bible study is in depth and sometimes tedious. But we do the best we can with the time allotted.
The name Jesus causes eyebrows to go up, it matters not where his name is spoken. While the name Jesus does not seem overly common in America, there are cultures within America that the name Jesus is quite common, it is just pronounced with a Spanish accent, Jesús. Just as Jesús is a popular Spanish name today, the Hebrew name Yeshua (from which Jesus is derived) was also common in Jerusalem of the First Century.
When Yeshua heard his name it is likely that several boys and men turned their heads to see if it was intended for them. This concept can be seen in a cell phone ring today (that is unless you have a specialized ring-tone); when the phone rings, it is common for several people to turn and look at their phone to see if the call was for them. Just as the same ring tone can apply to several people; it is the information that shows up on a person’s private screen that confirms for them that the call was for them. This idea can help us see that when Jesus was called “Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth”1 it was a means of specifying which Yeshua. But this reference also contains information referring to the geographic location that he came from, as seen in “Jesus (Yeshua) came from Nazareth of Galilee”.2
Before we meet this man Jesus we are introduced to John the Baptizer (or Immerser). He was preaching in and around the area of the Jordan River. When we first see Jesus it is because he is responding to John’s preaching and Jesus himself desired to be baptized by John. Upon rising from the water, Jesus has the Sprit fall upon him in the form of a dove, and then the people hear a voice from heaven, “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” While all of these things are important it is what happens next that is the focal point of our study.
From what I have experienced in my discipleship, when Christians discuss the Spirit, the conversation can be rather dull, or rather lively. The dullness or liveliness depends a great deal on how the Christians interpret the Spirit, and then how willing they are to express their thoughts about the Spirit. Let’s just say that for Jesus, the King James text says, “the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.” Let’s just stop right there for a moment.
I am baptized, and I am sure many of you readers are as well, but do you not find this idea of being “driven into the wilderness by the spirit” just a little uneasy, perhaps unsettling? No? Then consider what follows. Jesus was tempted by Satan forty days, surrounded by wild beasts, but angels (messengers) helped him.3 What does all of that mean? And what is the role of the Spirit?
The English word spirit is from the Greek word pneuma that Strong’s says refers to a current of air and breath among other definitions.4 Interestingly, pneuma helps create English words like: pneumonia and pneumatic. Also, if I studied the information correctly, the phrase “Holy Spirit” only occurs four times in the New Testament.5 I am not insinuating that it was not the Holy Spirit that took Jesus to the wilderness, it is simply a representation of the numeric findings of the phrase “Holy Spirit”.
Also the English word driveth is from the Greek word that the King James also translates as cast, casteth, and drove, among several others.6 It is interesting that we interpret this to mean that God’s Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness, literally casting out from the Jordan River area into a place filled with wild dangerous animals in addition to the temptations from Satan.
In the pursuit of intellectual honesty and ethical and moral integrity, I have to admit that my rational mind has difficulty with this passage. If God through his spirit drove Jesus into a place to be tested, can he drive me into a place to be tested? If so, will he drive me into a place to be tested? If that is true, then what does that all mean?
I have probably asked more questions than I could answer, and probably have unintentionally caused even more questions to be asked. But we as American Westernized Christians sometimes spend vast amounts of time analyzing and processing the parts of the Scripture that seem readily and easily, but perhaps not too easily, understood, yet they are grasped by our rationality. This is a portion of Scripture (if we are open with ourselves about the difficulty of the passage) that cannot be easily explained by our rationality. But there is one thing that we know: God is spirit.7 Since God is spirit, which is different than intellect, then intellectually, there must be more to spirituality that intellectual faith. May the LORD bless us as we continue our study of the Gospel of Mark.
1. “Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth.” Mark 1.24, 10.47, 14.67, 16.6, KJV.
2. “Jesus (Yeshua) came from Nazareth of Galilee.” Mark 1.9, KJV.
3. “Tempted by Satan” Mark 1.13, KJV.
4. Pneuma, Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Definitions (G4151), e-Sword Version 7.9.8.
5. “Holy Spirit” King James phrase search; e-Sword version 7.9.8; Luke 11.13; Ephesians 1.13, 4.30; First Thessalonians 4.8, NASB.
6. “Driveth” King James Concordance for the ekballo (G1544) e-Sword Version 7.9.8.
7. “God is spirit.” John 4.24, NASB.