September 5th, 1995, Serial No. 00283

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New Testament Class




Even a symbolism of imagery in a given group of parables, like those of Luke or those of Matthew or those of Mark. Even if you just look at Mark's parables there, you find quite a remarkable concentration of imagery. So, we'll go on with that, as well as other comparative texts. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, give us your Spirit and illumine your Word within us, bring your Word alive within us, that we may learn how to live it. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen. We've been talking about Mark taking a wisdom approach to Mark's Gospel, and the last time we talked about the structure of Mark, and I'm going to draw on one of these parables again, which turns every time you'll be having readings about Jesus. I found that Mark, too, had a five-fold structure. Starting from the wilderness, and along Galilee ministry, the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, to Jerusalem ministry of Jesus, which becomes increasingly, what we call, tense and contested.


And then finally, the empty tomb. We've got the passion and death of Jesus over here. We've got the Markan resurrection account over here, at the top, which is not really quite a resurrection account, because there's no appearance of Jesus, but that's the place of hope. The anticlimactic empty tomb scene. We don't say anything, because they're afraid and they're going to like it. And we said that the relationship here is explained through baptism, and we're going to get to that this time, with a little more follow-up. I said there's another structural approach you can take to Mark, which just continues and develops it further. It's typified by this book, which I do hope to recall, He is Risen, where you find not only a five-fold structure, but a nine-fold structure, which goes like this. And which is directly related to this one.


This is the Galilee ministry over here, this is the Jerusalem ministry over here. This is part one of the wilderness, this is part five, and this is the center of the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. And then he simply divided the Galilee ministry into two parts, and the Jerusalem ministry into two parts. And then he finds certain little passages that he calls hinges, in between all of this. And even with this, we have hinge passages, as you have in your handout. I mean, the hinges themselves are quite interesting, because you're interpreting them, and they shed light on the passages. I may refer to that a little bit, but I don't want to make things too complicated, so I'm going to try not to too much. I wanted to talk today first about the wilderness theology of Mark's Gospel, and the classic text on this, which, you know this book, don't you, Jonah? Mauser. It's an amazing book, really. Amazing, profoundly, from a Protestant scholar, on the depth of the wilderness tradition,


particularly in Mark's Gospel. Christ in the Wilderness, by Ulrich Mauser. The wilderness theme in the second Gospel is basic in the biblical, basis in the biblical tradition, that means the Old Testament tradition. So he's focusing on Mark. He also talks about John, and briefly about Matthew and Luke, but he's concentrating on Mark. Because Mark is the place where the wilderness tradition in the New Testament is most, what do you call it, is most central, and where it comes out perhaps most fully. You find it also, remember Hebrews, the letter to the Hebrews, is very important there, whether in the foreground or in the background. The whole of Hebrews is like a, treating Christianity, Christian life, as a journey through the desert, through the wilderness, to enter into the promised land. Now, I'm going to shoot a few points at you from Mauser. If you're interested, I'd recommend that you pick up the book. I didn't make a handout because it would have involved too many pages. But according to Mauser, the wilderness theology which begins,


the wilderness scene which begins at the beginning of Mark's Gospel, right in the so-called prologue where you find John the Baptist, defines Mark's Gospel. In other words, that is the setting with which Jesus identifies. And he identifies with that setting, according to Mark, as the place of struggle with evil. As the place of struggle with evil. And that happens right away after his baptism, doesn't it, when he's tempted in the desert. And that continues to the first half of the Gospel, and associated with the theme of wilderness are the theme of the mountain, of the sea, and the Greek expression, kat adion, which means alone. When Jesus takes his disciples up by themselves. All of those are what you call extensions or other metaphors for the wilderness theme. Now according to Mauser, this dominates the first half of Jesus. And this is where Jesus goes when he's not busy elsewhere. It's when he goes especially, where he goes especially into the wilderness, after he has just done something.


After he has just done some great work. Or as Mauser puts it, accomplished some victory over the powers of evil, the powers of darkness in his ministry, say a healing, or some kind of revelatory statement or something like that. Or not so much controversy in the first half. And according to Mauser, all the epiphanic experiences or events of Jesus' life take place in the wilderness. Transfiguration takes place there. The baptism of Jesus takes place there. Either in the wilderness or in these places which are associated with the wilderness, such as mountain and sea. Remember the multiplication of the bread takes place in the wilderness and by the sea, doesn't it? And then later on we're going to find the mountain gets more important in the second half. You wouldn't think right away that the mountain was very present. But remember the transfiguration and remember that Jesus sits down on the Mount of Olives when he gives that eschatological sermon or is it chapter 13? He sits down opposite the temple on the Mount of Olives.


And the word is important. It's almost a symbolic mountain. It's not much of a real mountain. It's a symbolic mountain. And then he draws a park with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, which becomes a kind of mini wilderness scene. It's not a mountain scene. Now, the wilderness way, the way in the wilderness of the first half of Mark, according to Mauser, turns into the way of the cross in the second half of Mark. So it feeds directly into the passion and death of Jesus. It's in continuity with the passion which dominates the second half of Mark. The Jerusalem ministry and then the actual arrest and trial and crucifixion of Jesus. So that establishes an axis right through the center of Mark's Gospel. And I think it's pretty convincing because if you look at the tone of Mark's Gospel compared to the other Gospels, it's dark, isn't it? It's as if the shadow of the passion, the shadow certainly of that struggle with evil, the presence of evil and darkness, which is also illness.


And it's demonic infestation. Remember the first sign of Jesus is the casting out of a demon, isn't it? Whereas we saw in Luke it's something else. It's a kind of epiphany, this appearance of Jesus with which he begins his ministry. But in Mark, it's a struggle with darkness in the synagogue. So that tone somehow, that somber tone of the struggle and of the wilderness is prevalent throughout Mark's Gospel. Let me read you just a few, a paragraph or two from Mauser. This is from his conclusion where he ties things up from pages 138 to 143. That's a concentrated distillation of what he's saying throughout the whole thing. Both Transfiguration and Gethsemane stories are ingrained with vital elements of the wilderness theme. In the former, the Transfiguration, the Son of Man is vindicated as the victor in the desert. Memory goes off into a place of Rome


with his disciples and they go up the mountain. The mountain which is a wilderness place. And there is Moses and Elijah, the two wilderness men. The two, one's the one who leads the Jews out into the desert in the wilderness in the exodus. And the other is the prophet who lives in the wilderness. And according to Luke's Gospel, they were talking about the exodus which Jesus would do in Jerusalem. Remember? So the whole thing is set in an exodus wilderness. Now remember that the wilderness has the immediate resonance of exodus for the Jewish people for the biblical tradition. And that's the birth of their people. That's the birth of their being. That's their birthday is Exodus, really. More than Abraham. More than the patriarchs. Another way, if you look in the dictionary of biblical theology under desert instead of wilderness, it's a helpful article but the one thing that caught my eye there was they did say that for the biblical tradition to return to the wilderness is equivalent to returning to the original chaos. If a place is made into wilderness, for instance the threats and the prophets that this place


is going to be a playground for jackals. This is going to be a roost for every dirty bird. That kind of thing. The threats of the prophets towards Jerusalem and towards the other cities. It's going to turn into a wilderness. The positive promise is this will be a paradise. The negative threat is that this is going to be turned into wilderness. Which means it's going to be taken back as it were to the original chaos before the creation. But how can that be a place where you go to voluntarily? How can that be a place which has a positive significance? And yet somehow it does because it's as if in the beginning you have to return to the state before creation. Remember that baptism itself recalls the event of creation. Remember? When the spirit was hovering over the chaos or over the waters in the beginning in Genesis chapter one verse one and the following. So baptism takes place in the wilderness and baptism is a second as it were return to the moment before creation


and then the moment of creation. Especially in the sense of illumination where baptism is the turning on of that inner light. The light at the center of the person the divine light. And the wilderness then is the place where you go somehow to go back to the beginning. Remember how the gospels tend to be in the beginning in the beginning in the beginning. Mark's gospel is called the beginning of the good news. You go back to the beginning and the beginning here is symbolically somehow a return to the moment before creation. A place of poverty where only God can act where there are no other resources and therefore where the manifestation of God happens. And this kind of thing has a lot to do with monasticism with the origins of monasticism and going into the desert. Whether it was an actual desert or whether it was a symbolic desert. The work of let's see in the latter that is Gethsemane the concept of temptation receives its final death. Remember Jesus is tempted


in the wilderness and then Gethsemane is a return to the moment of temptation after all of this ministry in between. And so symbolically or by a kind of resonance or association with temptation it's a return to the wilderness situation once again. Temptation and the wilderness go together in a sense the temptation of Jesus. An important difference between the wilderness and the mountain passages can be observed in this respect. All wilderness passages occur in the first half of the gospel before the turning point of the gospel in 827. 827 is just before that way from Galilee to Jerusalem it's just before that journey that crossing over at the point of the healing of the first blind man. They express the idea of Jesus' withdrawal from scenes where he has accomplished a part of his mission. It is striking that the two scenes related to the mountain in the first half of Mark disclose the same trait. It's 313 and 646. In the mountain


scenes after 827 a remarkable change occurs. The passages no longer follow descriptions of work powerfully carried out but announcements of impending disaster. This is typical also of the move from Galilee to Jerusalem. The whole tone changes. In Galilee it says Jesus nothing can stop him and everything flowers at his approach even though there's always that somber tone of Mark covering everything but he's doing all these marvels. Nothing can stop Jesus. In the second half the shadow of the crossing of his death which he's begun to talk about explicitly over the whole of the narrative. The mountain is now the place on which the most solemn affirmations about the hidden glory the necessity and the depth of suffering are made. He's talking about transfiguration and then what the other mountain passage is. One is the eschatological sermon and the other one


that's the last one now that that's the last one. In the second part of the Gospel the mountain is the scene where the mystery of the humiliation of the Son of God is made explicit while in the first part both wilderness and mountain stand as silent witnesses of this mystery which is not yet openly disclosed. What is the evangelist's intention in stating these retreats that is that Jesus retires into the wilderness? It's clear that the wilderness the mountain and the sea cannot be isolated one from the other the wilderness is systematically the dominant factor and the mountain and sea are variations dependent on the desert theme. Jesus after the successful performances of his teaching and healing ministry in his withdrawal returns to the place where his mission properly began to the desert. What happened in the story of the 40 days that's where Jesus is in the desert all the time is not merely an incident among others limited to a certain period the Spirit did not cease to drive him to the wilderness rather this is the late motif of Jesus' whole ministry repeated over and over again in the history which began


with the baptism by John and ended in the cross. J.M. Robinson has pointed out that the exorcism stories and the debates carry the cosmic struggle from the solitary encounter with Satan into historical settings. It is possible to say that the wilderness mountain and sea passages refer the historical setting back to the cosmic struggle. The word cosmic is interesting as if you are returning to a creation context in some way getting beyond the historical struggle between say God and Israel and Jesus and the people. Wilderness mountain and sea are reminders of a deeper level of history undergirding the historically tangible events of Christ's ministry. Mark's plan and the arrangement of his gospel becomes distinct. The final victory over Satan


is achieved in Jesus' obedience to his destiny of suffering and death. Beginning of the first passion prediction this theme is the center around which the second half of the gospel revolves. The first passion prediction in fact all three of them are in that central portion the crossing over from Galilee to Jerusalem what we call part three. It is therefore no longer necessary to speak of retreats to the death. Thus the withdrawals to desert mountain and sea in the first half of the gospel represent in semi-symbolic form the suffering predictions of the latter half. They establish the unity of the gospel making the accounts of Jesus' public ministry with its way to the cross. So that's one thing that pulls the gospel of Mark together. And it's one side and it's the somber side. The wilderness is a place of it's not the way we think of wilderness today as a place


of refreshment but it's overshadowed by this presence of evil where Jesus goes. Often the early monks thought of it that way of too. If you remember St. Mark's Rule chapter four. There is something I should say about the monastic tradition in this respect. There's a Benedictine theologian Anselm Stoltz who wrote about early monastic spirituality. And he was trying to find the motives which drove the monks to become monks to go out into the wilderness let's say. And he found three basic motives. The reason why I mention them here is that they all connect to this wilderness tradition in Mark. The first was to separate themselves from the world. The second was to battle against the devil in a special way. And that's what Mauser sees as the key to Jesus' wilderness way. Thirdly, to seek a return to paradise. The paradoxical act of approaching paradise or seeking paradise by going into the


opposite of paradise which is the wilderness. But wilderness may be the opposite of the paradise but in going there you've shifted to this different key, this different what would you call it symbolic key or whatever you've shifted into the key the theological key of wilderness and paradise. In other words, the fragrance of paradise that you get there even in the baptism of John this baptism of water which somehow is associated with the living water. Now that's one side of it that's one side of monasticism is withdrawal let us say into the desert and we're talking in symbolic terms it may not be an actual desert and it's got to do with the struggle with evil it's got to do with withdrawing from the world where everything's confused where everything is sort of locked in


good and evil and inseparable in the world and in the desert you go out and somehow they sort themselves out you're alone with the spirits and then this idea of the return to paradise now the other side of monasticism you might say is the positive side and if you look at the early Syrian tradition there's a woman theologian Gabrielle Winkler who brought this out some of you will have read this already but for the early Syriac tradition according to Winkler monasticism springs directly out of baptism and why? It springs out of the unitive experience of baptism they have a language in Syriac they have a vocabulary in Syriac especially the word Eukidia the only one which means the only begotten son of God it means the monogamous as they would say in Greek the only begotten son of God realizing yourself as a child of God as if we're hearing those words


from the Father you are my beloved son and you I am well pleased that's why the baptism of Jesus is so important for the early tradition especially for the monastic tradition the realization of that oneness was the key to what they did to what they began to take up in other words having realized within themselves the one of God the whole weight and power of that oneness which is God whatever that means in the center of their own being so they felt their own being to be one one one they felt their own being to ring like a bell with that oneness kind of a zen idea this is where Christianity and Buddhism meet in some way at this point this point of the non-dual of the one because


they felt that something like marriage for them would be somehow another direction would be another choice another option to establish a unity by union with a person outside themselves would somehow be another choice which would go in another direction from the inward movement the interiorization in which they would go more deeply into that oneness which they had realized in baptism that's sort of the implicit logic of it but why I say this is to bring out the other side of this connection of the wilderness thing with monasticism because baptism is somehow a wilderness experience baptism is going back into the moment before creation in order to be recreated as a child of God in order to be not only created but generated by God as the only begotten son and this typically somehow is wilderness is in the desert context and it's also in a way it's an


incorporation but it's also an interior personal and in a way solitary experience in which your oneness the oneness of your being the fullness which is the human being the human person is illuminated or you might even say is enkindled opens up lights up from within you and that and that would that would predispose you to a certain choice there were even places in which they thought that if you were baptized as a Christian you had to become a monk because of course that would be a heresy that couldn't be accepted by the church but so strong was this persuasion and this experience that people couldn't actually believe that in the early Syriac tradition so I won't say anymore about the connection between monasticism and wilderness and monasticism and Mark's gospel okay we tend to think perhaps Mark's gospel


as being something that doesn't have any the dimensions of depth or something like that that we would want in order to but somehow monasticism is rooted very much in that territory in that territory of the gospel of Mark because the gospel of Mark is a wilderness gospel and is a gospel centered in baptism and it itself has a kind of what would you call it a kind of austerity a kind of asceticism it's very simplicity it's very what would you call it apophatic almost you could call the gospel of Mark an apophatic gospel in the sense that it talks about Jesus without talking about him it says it by not saying the anti-climax that we were talking about in Mark's gospel okay the empty tomb you end with an empty tomb you end with an empty hole in the ground and no appearance of Jesus there's an angel there who speaks a few indispensable words a young man and a rope but that's an apophatic gospel whereas John's gospel makes explicit and brings into the light speaks that which is unspoken in Mark's gospel so in Mark


you have to dig to find it in John it comes right out of it and shines in front of it about the way of the cross in Mark's gospel I'm not going to develop this but it's very obvious and the center of Mark's gospel is said to be 827 to 1045 okay that's this crossing over from Galilee to Jerusalem it's between the healings of two blind men and it's where Jesus goes apart and therefore implicitly in a wilderness setting with his disciples in order to give them special instruction and they don't understand nothing and what he's teaching them is about the cross he's teaching the build up before this is that at this point they're going to receive the supreme wisdom in some way the paradox is that this wisdom is something nobody wants because it's the way of the cross which Jesus is teaching them off by themselves and so you get the passion predictions in there and you get all of these episodes which show that the descent dynamic of Christian life the


stories of the children that come to Jesus and Jesus says unless you become like one of these you can't get into the kingdom and where James and John come and say we want to sit on your right hand sit on your left and he turns it upside down he says now the son of man has come not to be served but to serve and give his life you got it wrong you got it upside down so this wisdom is the simple reversal of the cross as it were that turning upside down that our dynamic of ascent our compulsion our drive to realize ourselves by ascending somehow has to be reversed which is impossible of course except in some miraculous grace of God so it's that word of the cross which Paul puts at the heart of his gospel doesn't he remember in 1 Corinthians 1 he says I don't know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified it's the same thing he says I haven't got any wisdom the only wisdom I have he says is the cross and that's the wisdom that's at the heart of Mark's gospel that's the wisdom we don't want but in the


middle of that is the transfiguration which is intimately essentially related to the baptismal experience the words are the same remember the major words are the same this is my beloved son you are my beloved son and that's where the baptismal grace this grace of sonship the light turns on inside Jesus and the disciples see it but what they're supposed to understand is that that light will turn on within themselves so that's the central portion I'll simply refer you to it for that central teaching wisdom teaching of Jesus and Mark which is the way of the cross St. 27 of 1045 people will give you different centers of the center the central portion Stender the Benedict who worked out this baptismal thing and a lot of the structural thing believes that it's 834-38 which is the little sermon on the way of the cross just before the transfiguration I'll read


that to you because it's sort of the heart of this teaching of the way of the cross this is just after Jesus said he had to be crucified Peter says no that will never happen to you and Jesus says get behind me save me and then he says he called the multitude of his disciples and said to them I'm surprised to find the multitude there if anybody would come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me for whoever would save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life and so on the central teaching the application of what he's going to do what's going to happen to him the application of the way of Jesus to our way and that's what the disciples can't understand now that's one proposal for the absolute center of Mark another one is the transfiguration and of course that's a very attractive idea because it's a singular point in Mark's gospel that mountaintop experience where Jesus glows with the divine


light but maybe that's twinned with something else but maybe it's not the exact center there's somebody who figured out the count of the verses and that was supposed to be exactly central according to the number of verses a third proposal for this absolute center of Mark's gospel was 930 to 32 that's I believe what Humphrey has and I'm more inclined to accept that and that is the second passion prediction they went on from there and passed through Galilee also you see the journey is somehow condensed here the idea of the crossing the essential crossing from Galilee to Jerusalem and he would not have anyone know it for he was teaching his disciples saying to them the son of man will be delivered into the hands of man and they will kill him and when he is killed after three days he will rise so it's not only the passion that's predicted it's also the resurrection Humphrey calls these resurrection predictions but that sounds like a


what would you call it that's a little too bland but they did not understand the saying and they were afraid to ask him so I think that's probably the center what we call the geographical center of Mark does that last line there remind you of anything they did not understand the saying and they were afraid to ask him remember the empty tomb the women the women were afraid to say anything they were terrified and afraid to say anything and I think the reflection is intentional any questions or comments before we move on to the baptismal theme which is the main is the main issue that I wanted to put across today you have a handout which is a couple of pages from Stocks book from oh I'm sorry pages 16


through 19 okay it's H12 it's got Augustine Stocks a message of Mark at the top now this is just a chunk of of the material which persuades that Mark's intention is the purpose of Mark's gospel is to prepare people for baptism and the thesis is that not only is it an initiation book as Stocks says to prepare people for baptism but specifically at the Easter vigil at the Christian Passover vigil and so he calls it a Christian Passover Haggadah a historical recitation as it were but this is the new history the history of Jesus because they have typically a recitation of the Exodus scriptures the Testament and the Jewish the Jewish Passover ritual and supper now you


have to think about this and dwell with it for a while for it to become persuasive or convincing but remember that the Easter vigil takes place with its consummation its conclusion at dawn when the sun is coming up and people would be baptized and then they would receive they participate in the Eucharist for the first time and Mark is short enough to be read at one sitting to be read at one session and so a lot of people thought that it was meant to be read in that way and a lot of people have connected it with baptism Mark is in fact a Christian Passover Haggadah intended to be read straight through to the community assembled for the Easter vigil to be followed by the baptism of the Neophytes at dawn so somehow the celebration of the resurrection would have its central representation its central expression in the community gathered around those people who were to be baptized who were to be initiated and somehow


participating in their new birth in their illumination in their awakening and the whole history of Jesus which is recounted in Mark's gospel would be ordered towards that and therefore the baptismal reflections the explicit ones and the obscure ones and there are a lot of them if you look for them we'll do something with them Mark is an initiation book written to initiate those soon to be baptized into the followership of Jesus well baptism is the initiation and what would you call Mark maybe a what mystagogy that might be the word mystagogy usually they're used however for the preaching the explanation of the sacraments after their reception whereas the preparation of the catechumenum would be something else prologue and epilogue frame the central portion which contains the main teaching of the book which has to do with following theses on the


way of the cross now one thing about the way of the cross the cross symbol I believe that people were baptized in the earliest tradition with the sign of the cross the seal sealed with oil and the sign of the cross so you've got reflections like that of the baptismal experience which don't even appear in the text but are somehow in the tradition as well as the oil thing itself the fact that in some churches the whole body was oiled before baptism and the oil becomes nearly as important as the water because the oil is a more evocative symbol of the Holy Spirit perhaps it has this idea of penetrating its association with light its association with sweetness and joy and all those things and the Messiah that's right the Messiah is the anointed one and so oil is what we call an explicit symbol of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and so my mark again according to Jesus is the anointed one and the


anointed one the peculiar thing about it is to be communicated in other words he's anointed in order to anoint he carries this spirit of God on him with him in order to pass it on that's the point where most understanding of the New Testament doesn't cross that point okay but it's still got it out there I mean our Christology becomes a what do you call it a monster because we don't realize that what's in Jesus is supposed to pass into us okay it's almost like Jesus is functional in a sense he identifies himself so with us he's identified with God and he identifies with us and so it's we who receive the Holy Spirit and that's what it's all about and the anticlimax of Mark to put it briefly the anticlimax of the empty tomb is really the dark background it's the curtain the dark curtain behind the illumination of the baptism disciples in other words the climax of Mark's gospel is your baptism the climax of Mark's gospel is the realization


inside you of that which Jesus brings which is the Holy Spirit which is the very spirit the very presence the very being of God so the climax of Mark's gospel is really your realization of your demonization of your birth as God as your birth as a divine life now the anticlimax therefore turns into a very powerful climax because it leaps out of the two dimensional thing into the third dimension which is yourself it leaps out of the subject object of the dualistic world in which we live in which we think into a realization which is so much in you that it's the very center of your being that you didn't even know was there before it's so non-dualistic it's so non-extrinsic that it becomes the discovery and the awakening the coming to consciousness of your own center which you didn't experience before and in that way of course it's very close to the oriental illumination


the enlightenment of Buddhism or of some schools of Hinduism it's got to be because we're all built the same way and if the center of your person turns out there's got to be a similarity from one tradition to another but it happens in Christianity basically in baptism let me associate three things here one is baptism the baptismal experience which most of us since we were baptized as kids we didn't have it we didn't have the equipment we didn't have the consciousness we weren't ready for it the second thing is contemplative experience I believe that that fundamentally is a contemplative experience the third thing is what do we mean by contemplative experience we mean unitive experience we mean an experience which is fundamentally which crosses that barrier of every other experience in which we experience something outside of ourselves think about light for a minute because the light that we have in the world falls on the outside of things eliminates them from the outside so you've got these eyes looking out of you out of the front of you like headlights they don't see inside they see outside


and they see the reflection of light from other things so we know things from outside and our knowledge as St. Paul says is imperfect our knowledge is a kind of joke in that sense that we only know things outside of us we have another kind of knowledge which is more by participation more by union and that's faith and love and relationship and so on but optically and visually and sensually we know by outside well suppose there's a light that is not striking things from outside but that is inside them in fact is at their very center in fact identifies with their very center now that's this unitive experience I'm talking about that unitive reality and suppose that's God and suppose that your own being is an image of that that you are a light which is an image of that light which is God now to say the image of light is to say nothing beyond an image because light is not an image and it is like the vanishing point of an image light is like the vanishing point of an image in which it turns into what would you say the source or the womb or the font of images


or something like that the living energy out of which all images come and which somehow is identical with the core of our own being and with the core of our own being where somehow our own being is no longer distinguished from God is no longer distinguishable from God if the light of God should go out in that core then our light would go out so baptism has a contemplative experience and a contemplative experience is a unitive experience now if this is true the whole of Mark's gospel is pointing towards its awakening and then this is the light in which you read Mark's gospel the light of baptism that is the light of your own being turned on in God in the Holy Spirit is then the light with which you go back and you read the gospel and then the gospel begins to light up for you and things begin to fit together and if you do that you find that a great many things in Mark maybe everything I don't know a great many things begin to pour into this one channel begin to flow into this one meaning it pulls it all together now the meaning of Mark's gospel like the meaning of all the gospels I believe


is that Jesus comes to bring this thing he comes to bring this one thing which is the one thing you know the parables where you've got a seed here and you've got a lamp there and you've got a treasure and you've got a pearl and you've got money and you've got this and that but it's always one thing the parables are always talking about one thing and that is this thing that comes it doesn't even come because it's already here in some way this thing which is yourself this thing which is God this thing which is simply awakening to the being of all beings okay the one treasure the one pearl and that's this wisdom thing we're talking about okay now I believe that's what the heart of the New Testament is and the whole New Testament is talking about it and in baptism it's realized it's experienced so consequently everything in the New Testament is like slopes slopes around this one this one river this one stream or this one pond at the center which is baptism and it reflects everything once again and it searches yes well this makes a lot of sense the thing is it's being realized in baptism that's how it's true


at least for me it's like to me like baptism something happens in baptism it's like full realization comes through the practice and actually I find it through service yeah baptism is baptism is the beginning remember yeah I would say that the beginning is the receiving of the gift and the end is the Eucharist which is the giving of the gift which is the service you're talking about in other words baptism is the illumination at the beginning it contains everything and it doesn't contain anything until you've done it that's the other you haven't done anything yet so the gift received like your own being is everything and at the same time it's nothing until you become it by doing it right it's almost like for me in the past it was almost like a seed yeah it's a seed but I think originally it was also an illumination originally it was a realization okay they used the word fotosmos for illumination for baptism in the early tradition so it wasn't just kind of a little bump in life it was a real


quantum change a real quantum explosion partly it's because of the context of faith in which it's received you know the believing community the expectation you could call it the cultural context and everything but if you read Saint Paul writing about baptism you know it's like that the receiving of the Holy Spirit is a new world okay it's not just a turn in the road it's a new world for them read Paul writing for Galatians well I'm just thinking about my experience let's go back to our whole thing sure no I certainly don't want to say that everybody's experience of baptism is this I'm talking about what you call the essence or the ideal but nevertheless which is there which is substantially there and also if it doesn't happen at first it can awaken later but that to me makes more sense it's almost like the Buddhist thing where you're awakened and it's your true nature and you've always had your true nature but you've got to rediscover your true nature that's right you know it's kind of like the baptism for me I can see where something happens that looks familiar to me you know so I'm not talking about the baptism in church I'm talking about the real baptism for me it happens just out in the wilderness but you're talking


about an interior experience then you're saying not the baptism in church you're talking about your enlightenment well I don't believe in these actual numbers I'm talking about it was a baptism it wasn't in the church but it was a real baptism to me the baptism in the church is just a formal ritual that validates the baptism that really happens yeah well if you can identify the experience that you had of baptism but it's something different it's not exactly what I'm talking about even though it's connected with it it's your awakening it's your enlightenment and so on but I'm talking about the sacrament of baptism and the way that that is somehow the ground you know for a Christian and that's I'm talking about the early tradition particularly the New Testament that's the way to talk about it that's the way it is the enlightenment for them somehow is identified with baptism for us it's not maybe rooted in baptism maybe an awakening of baptism but we don't experience it at the same moment as baptism so I wasn't using baptism


in that that's a contemplative experience you're talking about probably a unitive experience but I wasn't talking about that separate from baptism so much it extends itself into that but I guess whenever you're talking about how does that impact us? how do we get baptized? what are our experiences with baptism? I don't know about people who haven't because to me if a person decides to be baptized in a sense that person has always been baptized by the spirit to make that decision yeah that's true in a sense or I don't know maybe that's being technical in terms but when a person goes up and receives like the baptism all that you know but still that in the sense of a real authentic experience was secondary to what happened to me a month two months prior to that so if a person when people hear they're baptized something the spirit came into us at some point before that to make the decision I want to be baptized in a sense that's almost I don't know how the church separates those two I don't think so I don't think so a lot of that depends on on the


what would you call it the context of understanding in which you look at it they look at baptism as the global thing really sure sure you've even got in the New Testament remember the actually apostles were Cornelius and his family we see the Holy Spirit before they're baptized so who is it Paul says or is it Peter he says well look they've already got the spirit we've got to baptize them obviously the spirit is there leading you towards and the spirit's everywhere anyway the spirit's in touch with everybody people that never get baptized the spirit is still in touch with them we don't have a theology that can cover both of those sides let's take a look at some of the connections with the baptismal theme in Mark's gospel itself let's use this couple of pages of stock here I should


refer you also to Paul's Romans 6 the key words there for identification of the baptismal font with the empty tomb in Mark 16 and here I'm assuming a lot because you may not be that familiar with Mark's gospel remember it's Mark 16 1 to 8 when the women go to the empty tomb now our contention is that down here you have a wilderness morning sparkly wilderness and the baptism of Jesus up here you have part 5 which is the empty tomb alright what we're contending is at least to reflect on each other and explain one another and that this is the baptism of Jesus and this is our baptism the empty tomb is supposed to be the baptism of Jesus the


verses in Paul are Romans 6 3 and 4 do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death we were buried therefore with him by baptism into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father we too might walk into his life the metaphor of burial is used for your baptism ok now that's something in the early tradition therefore and I believe that remember Paul is writing before Mark I believe that that is in Mark's mind when he writes this and I think there are enough things that fit together around that to make it plausible to make it convincing if that's true see that's almost the essential link that opens up Mark's whole gospel that one link between the tomb the empty tomb and the baptismal front baptismal experience so down below the baptism of Jesus at the beginning at the end


the baptism of the disciple of all of us and in the center you have this part on the cross which is also the transfiguration and the transfiguration reflecting the baptism of Jesus and our own baptism remember once again the words of the transfiguration this is my beloved son listen to him it's almost like at the beginning this is my beloved son you are my beloved son the baptism the receiving of the gift the illumination at the center listen to him that is what he is telling you now at this point especially is the essential wisdom which has to accompany this gift which you are going to receive in baptism and which you'll only understand somehow when you are baptized now Stock emphasizes the beginning the middle and the end and that is fairly standard I guess at least in ancient life that those are the key parts that tell you what something is about remember the prologues if you look at the various gospels the prologue of John particularly just a few more


in the prologue we first see John baptizing of the Jordan baptism is a theme from the very beginning of the gospel a lot of these things we are so used to we don't even think about them but John is a baptist why is John a baptist he's baptizing what's so important about that is it something that we go beyond in the gospel or is it something that we return to in other words baptism is only the beginning whereas baptism is actually the beginning the middle and the end of Mark's gospel our contention is that it's the beginning the middle and the end that's what the gospel is about in saying that we are not saying that Mark's gospel is not about the Eucharist but it's not about other things it's only that the central focus is on baptism and because it's on baptism it's on this unitive experience that we were talking about which as I said that becomes the hermeneutic light the light in which you read Mark's gospel and which opens up as it were the experience and the life of Jesus to your own life and experience the future form he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit is not


fulfilled within the confines of the gospel even the first words of Mark's gospel this is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ if this is the beginning what's the rest of it maybe the whole gospel is only the beginning if this is the beginning then what's the continuation of it but it's very appropriate that this is the beginning of the good news just before the baptism of Jesus the beginning of the good news is as it were the story of Jesus and the baptism of Jesus and what's the rest of the good news it's your baptism and then your story your appropriation of it or realization of this life of Jesus and I'm going to tell you read aloud to the community assembled about the baptism and then I will lead you down to the baptize and will be plunged into Christ in time Jesus tested by the wilderness reflects the ritual of baptism renunciation of satan we still repeat that the first


episode after the prologue is a double vocation account the calling of the first disciple take place on the seashore, one of the places that he could adapt to them by the measure. And the epilogue. Now this is the key connection. We hear how the women went to the tomb very early when the sun had risen. They found the stone rolled back. If you're curious about that stone, look in Genesis, the story of Jacob, Genesis 28 and 29. There's one of those stories of Jacob which relates very much to the baptism of Jesus. And that's when, remember he sees the ladder? He laid his head down on the stone. And he sees the heavens open and a ladder, angels of God wrestling and descending. And in Greek it's anabainon and katabainon, those two words. And in the baptism of Jesus you've got the same two words. As Jesus was rising from the water, anabainon, the spirit descended upon him, katabainon.


Those are part of the sentence, but whatever the form is. And I think, and the heavens were open, remember the heavens were torn open above Jacob there when he saw the ladder? The heavens were torn open. Same word, except it was in English, when Jesus was baptized. And remember Jacob says, this place is terrible. This is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven. And I didn't know it. So, that is a deliberate resonance of the baptism of Jesus, which opens it up to something of its importance in joining the heavens and the earth and everything. And not only that, the other story, which resonates with the tomb story, is right after that one, in Genesis 29, when Jacob goes to the well, I forget the place, but it's Haran, Alberta. There's a well with a stone on top of it. And he says, well, when are you going to water the flocks? And they say, well, we can't water the flocks until all the flocks are gathered.


And then Rachel comes along. Now, Jacob is going to marry Rachel, of course, so when Rachel comes along, Jacob gets energized and he takes the stone off the top of the well. He rolls the stone away from the well and waters the flocks. Now, this is kind of a side route that reconnects the beginning with the end, that is the baptism of Jesus there with the empty tomb scene. But that's the thought of baptism. We're open for all at this point, at the end of Mark's Gospel. For all, meaning not just for one, not just for the one Son of God, Jesus, but for all. Not just for one nation, not just for Israel, but for all. Remember the tearing of the veil of the temple at the time of Jesus' death in Mark's Gospel? It ripped from top to bottom. The centurion cried out, truly this is the Son of God. It's the same thing happening there. And the rending of the veil of the temple goes along with the tearing of the heaven's opening, Jesus' baptism.


It's a whole bunch of thing after thing that just pile in here at this point of baptism in Mark's Gospel. The legs go on with stocks again. So we're at the tomb narrative in chapter 16. By the way, Mark ended in the beginning at verse 8 of chapter 16. So the other things that are tacked on there are probably largely to make it more palatable, to make it a more satisfactory Gospel after you forget what it's about, it's about baptism. Substitute endings for the very difficult termination, conclusion of the Gospel, which is your own awakening. Very early when the sun had risen, they found the stone robe back, and entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side dressed in a white robe. And the white robe was a baptismal robe. The young man is not just an angel, it doesn't just signify that, but it's the same as the baptismal robe, the expression is. And it also reflects what garments of Jesus' transfiguration, remember when he was glorified?


The people knew that with the rising of the sun, the time has come for the baptism of the Neoprites. But there's at least a double reference here, that the sun had risen. The sun had risen may be the time for baptism, but it also somehow symbolizes the rising of Jesus himself, the resurrection, and of that light which is to be experienced within the baptized. These Neoprites clothed only with a sundown, a linen cloth, will put aside the sundown and descend into the pond, will emerge from the pond to be clothed in a white robe. The same Greek word, stolemn routine. There was an earlier young man in Mark, very mysterious. What's he doing there, and why does Mark include that seemingly trifling detail? Remember the young man was clothed only in a robe, and when Jesus is arrested he runs away, and they grab the robe and he runs away naked. Now, why was that? McCowan, the one who reads Mark, the actor, believes that that's Mark himself,


that that's his signature. Well, okay. But a much better reason, I think, which is this baptismal reason. The young man who runs away is the pre-baptismal person, as it were, who in some way, also like Isaac, you know, at the time of Abraham, cannot take a lot of sacrifice in his spare. And so he flees, and Jesus goes on to be crucified. And then he reappears as the baptized person, having, as it were, passed through the death and resurrection of Jesus through baptism. And then Joseph of Arimathea has brought the linen shroud and laid Jesus in the tomb, and puts together piece after piece. In the tomb, the neoniskos, that is, the young man, is found sitting where Jesus had been expected to be, clothed in a white robe. And then he points out one or two other references, but there are a bunch of other ones. Halfway through the Gospel, at the end of the center section, that's the section on the way of the cross, with its depression predictions,


the assembly have heard Jesus' words to James and Tom, The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized. The baptismal theme appears, therefore, at the termination of this central part of Mark, and it appears together with the Eucharistic theme, doesn't it? That's the other key, the stock doesn't follow up there, but which is important. Those two sacraments, or the two sacraments in the Old Testament, and you're going to find them reflected. Often where you find one, you find the other. If Jesus multiplies the bread, very often it's alongside the sea. This is sure, the place of baptism. Therefore, the baptismal theme, he says, appears at the beginning, the middle, and the end of Mark's Gospel. The baptism there, of course, is the baptism of Jesus' death. And you remember Romans 6, again, where we're buried with him by baptism, to his death, so that we might rise with him into new life. But remember the two passages which surround this central teaching


of the Way of the Cross in Mark. There are two interludes there, which are the healings of two blind men, ok? The healings of two blind men, which in one way seem to signify the state of blindness in everybody, and even, especially in the way of the disciples, which Jesus is attempting to dispel as he preaches in the Way of the Cross. His secret wisdom, during that central portion, across from Galilee to Jerusalem. But from another point of view, the two blind men who see are the baptized. The baptism of illumination, I believe, is reflected there too. It's very important to realize how strong is the identification of baptism with light in the early tradition, baptism with illumination. Remember the blind man in John's Gospel, who was sent, had to go and wash, and comes back, but when I washed him, now I see. And his seeing, actually, is much more than just the opening of his eyes and external eyes. And so it is here.


I guess we'd better quit there. There's a danger of piling too much on here, also, and just causing confusion. But throughout that central portion, I think you'll find a number of things that somehow resonate with baptism. Even the emphasis on the children, the little ones. The little ones are like the newly baptized, the newly born. I wanted to talk at some point, maybe we'll come back to this next time, do a little of it, the idea of Jesus' unitive wisdom in Mark, because that goes along with the baptismal theme. Jesus somehow identified with the wisdom of God, and that's not certainly explicit in Mark. It's not something you expect when you read Mark's Gospel, but I believe it's there. Miss Hugh Humphrey is the one that worked hardest on that. There's a paper, what I should do is copy that paper and put it on the, on the crash shelf, so we can take a look at it if we want to. So next time, let's wind up Mark, and start with Matthew and Luke.


And as we start with Matthew and Luke, we'll be looking at the three synoptic Gospels together. Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We'll probably spend two or three sessions doing that. Okay, thank you for your patience. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, it is now, and it shall be, world without end. Amen.