Monday Reverb – 08January2024


The theme this week is the manifestation of God’s power.

The selected, supporting passages are … Psalm 29:1-11 • Genesis 1:1-5 • Acts 19:1-7 • Mark 1:4-11

  • In our call to worship psalm, the psalmist affirms God’s power over nature.
  • In Genesis, we witness God’s power in creating the heavens and the earth.
  • In the book of Acts, we see the power of God as the Holy Spirit falls on new believers.
  • And in our pericope in Mark’s gospel, he records the Spirit descending upon Christ at his baptism.

For those of us who follow the Christian Worship Calendar … we are now in the season of Epiphany, which begins, every year, on January 6 (Saturday, this year).

We don’t have a tradition of celebrating/observing Epiphany … so our home office has put out a short video on the subject … and we’ll be watching it in a little while.  Before that, however, I’ll be sharing an article … the Featured Article, Epiphany, by Rick Shallenberger, in the Equipper …

There are three “aha” events associated with the season of Epiphany. They are the visit of the Magi (wise men) from the East, Jesus’ baptism by John in the river Jordan, and Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine. What is your “aha” moment?

The Magi and the star

Only Matthew shares the story of the Magi, who aren’t named. Their identity isn’t nearly as important as their story. They had an “aha” moment when they saw a new star. Here are some interesting points:

    • The Bible doesn’t say how many Magi there were. Tradition determined the number from the three gifts given.
    • The term Magi was used to identify astrologers, seers, and fortune tellers. The story leads us to believe these men studied the stars, and all three discovered a new one, which they followed from the East all the way to Bethlehem.
    • They called the star “his star,” indicating this was a new light in the skies, from which they determined it was the star of a future king. We can only speculate how that was determined.
    • They gave three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Tradition tells us gold is for a king, incense for God, and myrrh used to anoint the dead.

 The dove and the identity

All four Gospels share the story of Jesus’ baptism, which was an “aha” moment for all four of them. Matthew, Mark, and Luke use similar terminology describing this event:

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw God’s Spirit descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from the heavens said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17 NRSVUE)

Not only was this a miraculous vision, but it was also a clear identification of who Jesus is. This event caused a number to “see the light” and start to follow Jesus. Two disciples began following Jesus right after John shared the story of Jesus’ baptism (John 1:35-36).

The water and the wine

John shares the story of the wedding at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. I love how he finishes the story:

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee and revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11 NRSVUE)

Epiphany “aha” moments lead to belief.

    • The wise men saw the light in a star, and they believed.
    • The Gospel writers saw the light in the descending of a dove and hearing the identity of the Messiah, and they believed.
    • The disciples saw the light in the miracle of water being turned into wine and seeing Jesus’ glory, and they believed.

I like the way Bobby Gross summarizes this season on page 84 in his book, “Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God.”

The season of Epiphany is a season for seeing more of Christ’s glory by focusing on his life and mission. Simultaneously, it’s a time for making that glory better to known those around us. We bear witness to what we have seen and learned and experienced.”

Epiphany is a time to pay close attention to “seeing” what Jesus has done and what he is doing. As Jesus said to the disciples in John’s Gospel, “Come and see” (John 1:39). When we see we can share by telling the story – the story of Jesus, the story of how Jesus has transformed us, the story of his love for all. And when we tell the story, more and more have “aha” moments and see the light.

Following are some spiritual practices for the season of Epiphany:

    • Ask God for a specific person with whom you can share your story of transformation in Christ. Ask him for the courage to share that story.
    • Choose a few friends to specifically pray for during Epiphany; ask God to help them see how Jesus is impacting their lives.
    • Read through the book of John and focus on the miracles he shares; how does each miracle show a bit more about who Jesus is.
    • Pay attention to some God sightings or divine appointments and treat each as an “aha” moment. Then share some of these moments with someone else.
    • Ask God to help you have the courage to mention Jesus more in natural conversation with friends, family, and coworkers.

May God fill you with “aha” moments throughout the season of Epiphany. Please feel free to share them.

Epiphany Blessings,
Rick Shallenberger




From the TRANSCRIPT … 


As the night sky glistens with the brilliance of countless stars, we are drawn to the story of the magi, following a star to worship the Light of the World.

Matthew 2:1-12 recounts their pilgrimage, their hearts set on finding the source of this celestial light, a light that leads to the very presence of God.

In the midst of simplicity, in the heart of the humblest abode, they find the King of Kings, the one they had traveled so far to worship.

Just as the Magi brought their gifts to the Christ child, we, too, offer the gift of our worship, our adoration, and our devotion.

“As we embark on this journey of Epiphany, let us remember that the Light we seek is not confined to a single location, or a single group of people, but shines forth for all to see and bask in the warmth.

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage.  Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.**  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Matthew’s account reminds us that when we seek the Light with open hearts, we, too, will find ourselves in the presence of God.

Today, as we gather in worship, let us offer ourselves to Jesus as the magi did, in awe and reverence before the One who is the true Light of the world.

As we journey through this season of Epiphany, may the Light of Christ continue to lead us, illuminating our path and revealing the boundless love of our Savior.


** A note about the three gifts … attributed to David Cottis, London SW15 …
THERE ARE two traditions.
  • The first, referred to in the carol ‘We Three Kings’, interprets the gifts as symbolising three aspects of Christ’s future life:
      • gold representing kingship,
      • frankincense (worship) and
      • myrrh (death and mourning).
  • An alternative tradition holds that Mary and Joseph used the gold to pay for the stable, the frankincense to perfume it and the myrrh as an ointment for the new-born baby.

** Another note … from Google … What does the gold, frankincense, and myrrh represent?  

  • Each of these precious gifts has a symbolic meaning. 
    • Frankincense was used for worship in the Temple; it is symbolic of Christ the High Priest.  
    • Gold is symbolic of Christ the King.  
    • Myrrh, a perfume, was used to anoint dead bodies, it is symbolic of His death for the sake of truth, and therefore of Christ the Prophet.  



Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Mark 1:4-11 NRSV

Our sermon today falls on the first Sunday of the year.  We can’t change a thing from last year, what’s done is done, what was said is said, it’s all in the past.  The old year is dead and buried, never to return.  And this is the beauty of baptism, we acknowledge that our old lives were buried at baptism and that we have been raised to new life with Christ.

The church calendar for today focuses on baptism.  Specifically, the baptism of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  It’s only fitting then, that we should have a closer look at the baptism of Jesus.  After all, there was no past Jesus needed to leave behind, there was no sin for Jesus to repent of.  So, why was Jesus baptized?  What significance does the baptism of Jesus have for our lives?  Let’s begin by reading the text.

Mark 1:4-11 (NRSV)   John the baptizer appeared[a] in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with[b] water; but he will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit.’   

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  11 And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved;[d] with you I am well pleased.’   (Cf. John 1:32-34) 


  1. Mark 1:4 Other ancient authorities read John was baptizing
  2. Mark 1:8 Or in
  3. Mark 1:8 Or in
  4. Mark 1:11 Or my beloved Son


What an interesting scene that Mark unfolds for us.  Here, you have Jews coming from Jerusalem and all over Judea by the thousands, traveling all the way out into the wilderness.  And the reason they were making such an arduous journey, was to repent of their sins and to be baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.

Clearly, some form of revival was happening in the nation of Israel at that time.  Word had gotten out that something was taking place, and many wanted to be a part of it.  John was the first prophet in the land for nearly four hundred years.  It was as if the heavens were shut.  They may have even wondered if they were still God’s chosen people.

But what may have alerted all these people to come out to the wilderness in the first place?  It seems everyone was represented: the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the rulers and the peasants.  Couldn’t they just repent and be baptized where they lived rather than endure this major inconvenience and disruption of their lives?

Traveling through the heat, all the possible dangers, and the inhospitable terrain should have caused many to reconsider their holiday plans.  They weren’t exactly headed to Disneyland.  Let’s see if we can get a better idea of what is happening.

 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. (Mark 1:6 NRSVUE)

In this verse, Mark goes into great detail to explain the appearance and lifestyle of John the Baptist.  When Mark does this, he knows right away that the bells are going to go off for his intended readers of his gospel account.  The Jews would have been very familiar with their major prophet, Isaiah.  In Isaiah 20:2, he is described as wearing sackcloth.  This would have been a close description to John the Baptist.

In chapter 40, Isaiah prophesies about the voice crying out in the wilderness. “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”  Malachi 3:1-2 also describes a forerunner preparing the way for the messenger of the covenant.  And of course, this is exactly what John is doing.  When you add all this up, this would not have escaped anyone’s notice in the nation of Israel.  This also came at a time of spiritual dryness in their history.  They were hungry for good news.  Could it be that their spiritual barrenness was about to come to an end?

The people had come to repent and to be baptized.  Being baptized in the Jordan would have held great significance for these people.  In order for their ancestors to enter the promised land, they had to enter into the Jordan.  When they came up out of it, they would have made it to the promised land.  So, coming up out of the waters is where they found liberation.

It’s common that when people are at their lowest point they are ready to receive the good news of the gospel.  Our sin leads us into a place of desolation.  Our hearts are dry, and our souls are parched from wandering in the wilderness.  We discover that this life of sin is actually a life of death – the antithesis of life itself.

Sin is no respecter of persons.  The young and the old, the rich and the poor, the rulers and the peasants — all have been inflicted.  Sin takes us out into the wilderness.  Yet it is here in the wilderness where sin is destined to reach its end.  Because it is here we find the Living Water, Jesus Christ, who takes our sins upon himself and brings us up in true and lasting liberation.  We will say more about that in a few moments.

First, it’s appropriate to look back and see how far along the Lord has taken you, to appreciate the new life, this liberation he has gifted you with.  We should have a sense of gratitude for all God has accomplished in our lives through Christ.  We should remember and appreciate the ways we are now walking in freedom where once there was only guilt, shame and fear.

He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  (Mark 1:7-8 NRSVUE)

So, we have established the connection between the words of Isaiah and the ministry of John the Baptist.  But something else is going on here.  A much greater conclusion is being drawn from this connection.  Isaiah 40 is a messianic psalm taking imagery from Psalm 28 and Psalm 103.  Further into that Psalm you will see the emergence of the Messiah.

The people, no doubt, were not just going out to repent and be baptized, but to also anticipate the imminent appearance of the Messiah.  John heightens their expectation for the one to come in verse 7 where he states that the One coming after him is much greater than him.  The people were already convinced that John was a prophet, yet this prophet said he is unworthy to untie the sandals of someone else.  You can sense the excitement and anticipation building at this point.

John indicates that while he just baptized them with water, the Messiah will baptize them with the very Spirit of God.  What an exciting proposition John is describing!  This had to mystify the crowd as to what that would even look like.

To be able to embrace a Messiah, is to understand that you need one in the first place.  We need to understand that there is something faulty within us and all of humanity.  We need to understand that without divine intervention, we are doomed to live a life that keeps us in the desert.  We are doomed to live a life that keeps us trapped without a means of salvation.

 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove upon him.  And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11 NRSVUE)

The baptism of Jesus is the first occurrence where we see each member of the Trinity explicitly represented in the Bible.  We see the Son (Jesus) submitting to the Father in baptism, by faith.  We witness the Spirit descending upon Jesus, and the Father expressing words of affection and approval over the Son.

While we must not minimize the importance of our own baptism, we should regard the baptism of our Lord as accomplishing something far beyond what our own baptism does.  We are to understand that through Christ, humanity has been taken through the waters of baptismJesus repented on our behalf, not on his, as he had nothing to repent ofThough he was sinless, he was the only one who could offer a perfect repentance.  His submission to the Father was for our sakes, as he was already submitting to God perfectly on our behalf by faith.

The good news is that we have been included into the faith of the Son of God.  The Spirit has been poured out upon us, and it is here that we are able to experience the great fellowship that exists in the Trinity. 

      • Acts 17:28  For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.”  
      • John 14:20  On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.  
      • Colossians 1:16-20   for in[a] him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him17 He himself is before all things, and in[b] him all things hold together.  18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.  19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Through Jesus, we have left behind all the years of needless wandering in the wilderness of sin with all its dryness and desolation.  The new has come and in Jesus’ baptism we see our sins and failings washed awayWe have been immersed into his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.

Jesus is our promised landLike the Jews of old, we have passed over and a new life has begun.  However, that Living Water stays with us.  You can’t have one without the other.  Jesus is both our Promised Land and Living Water.  This is true and complete liberation.  We are free in him.

So, why was Jesus baptized?  Because he was pleased to bring us into** the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy SpiritWe have been included, which was what has always been on the very heart and mind of God.  Just as the old year is dead and buried, we have died to Christ and raised to a new life to experience a freedom that is only found in God’s selfless love.

** Note verse 8 above and Mark 1:8 on biblehub


Small Group Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think it’s important to get baptized?
  • Name some reasons why Jesus was baptized for us?
  • What are some things that you are grateful that God has buried and taken from you?
  • What are some ways that you are experiencing new life in Christ?
  • How do you see the Holy Spirit operating in your life?



The Baptism of Jesus  (according to different evangelists)

Mark 1:9–11
9 rIn those days Jesus scame from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he tsaw uthe heavens being torn open vand the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And wa voice came from heaven, x“You are my beloved Son;1 with you I am well pleased.”  
Matthew 3:13–17
13 kThen Jesus came lfrom Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 mJohn would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, othe heavens were opened to him,1 and he psaw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, qa voice from heaven said, r“This is my beloved Son,2 with whom I am well pleased.”   
Luke 3:21–22
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when cJesus also had been baptized and was praying, dthe heavens were opened, 22 and ethe Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and fa voice came from heaven, g“You are my beloved Son;1 with you I am well pleased.”2
John 1:32–34

32 And John cbore witness: d“I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and eit remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but fhe who sent me to baptize gwith water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, hthis is he who baptizes gwith the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son1 of God.”  

  1. Mark 1:10 NU  out of
  2. Mark 1:10  torn open
Matthew 3:13-17 NKJV  13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”  

15 But Jesus answered and said to him, Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  Then he allowed Him.

16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and [a]He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”   

  1. Matthew 3:16  Or he  
Luke 3:21-22  NKJV   21 When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.  22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”  
John 1:32-34  NKJV  32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.  33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”     


The video presentation ended with the following …

Matthew’s account reminds us that when we seek the Light with open hearts, we, too, will find ourselves in the presence of God.

Today, as we gather in worship, let us offer ourselves to Jesus as the magi did, in awe and reverence before the One who is the true Light of the world.

As we journey through this season of Epiphany, may the Light of Christ continue to lead usilluminating our path and revealing the boundless love of our Savior.





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