After Pentecost Devotional - Day 58

I immerse you with water, but he will immerse you with the Spirit of the Holy One!” Mark 1:8

Traditionally, we use the term baptism in our translations of the New Testament, but the term simply means to immerse. On the other hand, it can indicate being joined with someone or something. We also tend to use the phrase in English, “Holy Spirit” as an entity somehow separate from God, yet the phrase in Greek might be better rendered, the “Spirit of the Holy One.”

Our traditional take on this verse simply does not do justice to the meaning John the Baptist had in mind. He was making a distinction between an outward symbol of being converted and being placed in direct contact and relationship with God's Spirit.

Being immersed or anointed with God's Spirit was something always reserved for the prophets. It was a special relationship, but it was also generally viewed as a temporary experience of God's presence and associated blessings. The Spirit was known to come upon a prophet to grant a specific utterance or upon one of the judges to grant temporary power to lead Israel to freedom. Joel spoke of a coming day when that would be different. Moses and Elijah stand out as prophets who walked with God consistently, more in keeping with the kind of future Joel envisioned. Joel and John, however, take Moses and Elijah's experience and multiply it to embrace the multitudes.

John was immersing in water. He was joining one to the water as an expression of change, of conversion to a new participation in Judaism. Jesus, however, would bring a wholly new experience and relationship to the crowds than John could accomplish. He was ushering in a new experience of intimacy with God that would include much more than one or two prophets in a generation. Jesus would bring all who accepted his call into that relationship of direct intimacy. He would cover, shower, and immerse them in the Spirit of the Holy One of Israel.

Such was John's promise to his listeners. Such is the message Jesus fulfilled on our behalf, as well. Jesus came to accomplish so much more than we often accept and recognize. We talk about Jesus granting us freedom and salvation from the clutches of sin, but we often miss the purpose of that salvation. He did not so much come to take care of sin as to introduce us into intimacy with God on the order of the experiences of Moses and Elijah. Much more than conversion to a religion, Jesus was coming to join us to the very Spirit or Breath of God.

The gospel is not about going to church, claiming a ticket to heaven, or receiving a “Get Out of Jail Free Card.” It is about a life with God. It is receiving direct access and intimacy, joining our lives with God. In being joined to God, immersed in God's Spirit, our lives should be changed on a wholly new level. Instead of relying on others to tell us what to do and how to live, instead of following an external set of rules to regulate our conduct, we relate to God on a deeper level. We learn what is important to God, and apply the values of God to changing circumstances of life.

Fellowship with God on this side of the resurrection should impact every area of our lives. Focus on God's presence in your daily activities and interactions.

"Lord, make me more aware of your presence, infusing my life with your values."

©Copyright 2016, Christopher B. Harbin

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