Medical school & Me
My first two years of medical school had a lot of similarities to college. It was classwork and professors, the cadaver lab and microscopes. After class one would study and study and study. Then come the tests and moving on to the next needful topic. Not everything was similar though for in medical school of all places attendance was not mandatory. “Seriously?” said my brain. “Yep,” was the most blessed answer (except for pathology which I will not elaborate upon here). Perfect!
Now that you have read this you may be scratching your head as you think about your own expectations to this. You probably are asking the same “Seriously?” question that I did. As you can guess from what I put above I skipped everything (except pathology, ugh!). Hold on a second and I will get back to Mark 1.
The reason that I wanted to skip class was not to go read Charles Dickens or shoot baskets on the basketball court by married student housing. I skipped because the professors from their depth of knowledge and the breadth of needful topics would move to new topics before I grasped their older ones. Before one concept was installed in my mind they would be off to the next one. I wanted (and rather needed) to get a certain critical grasp of a thing and then move to the next one. That was not how it worked.
There is another “Seriously?” that comes to mind. Here it is: I have been out of medical school for 20 years. Of course, residency follows medical school so I have really only been practicing independently for about 16 years, but that still adds up. I have different challenges now.
I sit on a hospital committee that reviews the physician’s role in events categorized as medical errors or almost medical errors (we call them near misses). We want to ensure that these events don’t happen again. Often a thing called a root cause analysis (RCA) will be done before our committee considers the situation. In the RCA an attempt is made to make an exhaustive review of the factors that ended up in the bad outcome or the near miss. Exhaustive is the operative word here.
Solomon told us that the first person to present a case will seem right until another comes forward and questions him1. Basically this means that truth is found in the details. Cursory glances miss the point.
Now, back to Mark 1. When I read through a passage like the one above I have the same mental approach as I did in medical school and in medicine. Since I have the Proverbs 18:17 approach to life it reasonably wiggles its way into my study of the Bible. I want to know all about the key things and then move to the next one, but Mark leaves out some of the details I want. I want info on Jesus’ coming, baptism, temptation, etc., etc.
What to do, what to do?! If the goal is to teach a significant proportion of Mark 1 in 45 minutes I must take from these verses what is given in them. Mark did not see fit to write a treatise on Jesus’ coming, his baptism or his temptation. So…I need to be satisfied with the things that he gives. No RCA, so to speak, can be attempted from this passage alone. It may be fine to consider other passages if my goal is to learn of these things. That, though, is for another time.
Jesus becomes the Messiah
Not just Jesus, but Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Messiah.
So Mark in writing to a Gentile audience quickly includes Jesus’ coming from Galilee. He drops in a couple of verses about Jesus being baptized. Then off goes Jesus to the desert, the temptation and wild animals. That’s all we get. That is all Mark chose to include so that is all Mark’s audience would get to hear from him on the subject.
We can still glean important things from this passage though.
Recall from the first 8 verses of Mark 1 that John had been brought by God’s intention. God had arranged the players. When the time was right he brought John the Baptist along. John was used by God to make a viral moment for individual people. John was a mysterious man. He brought a message that was mysterious in that it had been centuries since a prophet had come. To see John one had to go to a mysterious place.
Out of this mystique men were connected to God in a way that was relevant for them. It was the people who were confessing. John had merely provided the message of conviction. The transactions that were happening were between God and the individual. God was the doer. John was merely the obedient facilitator.
Jesus came and was baptized
Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee to the Jordan river. The place God had put John was the place God took Jesus. In verses 10 and 11 the transaction is between God and Jesus the man. That was what had been happening among the people. They had a need and God had an answer. Jesus was that answer. The need Jesus had was to enter into the ministry of Messiah. God did that for Jesus.
Jesus did not confess sins for there were none to confess. Jesus was baptized as a commencement to his ministry. Here again God was the doer and John the Baptist was the facilitator.
Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Satan & the angels
The nuances of the travel, the temptation and the angelic attention are not given to us by Mark. Mark merely says that they happen. Jesus was a man and as such he was not immune to temptation. Men have needs, desires and motivations. Satan uses these as tools in an attempt to make people fall. Jesus the man had these things as well and Satan tried to leverage them to the demise of Jesus. The leverage was insufficient, but God was not. God sent his messengers, the angels to attend Jesus.
While 40 days may seem long it is still finite. God allowed Satan access to Jesus, but those days did finish. The event in the desert was needful, but it was not permanent.
Back to me
Of course we bring our styles to the reading of scripture. My style in looking at scripture is more along the lines of a root cause analysis. In this passage I wanted more detail on the coming, the baptism and the temptation, but that was not to be. Even so God gave meaning and excellence in it. A person may excel in medical school by learning anatomy and pharmacology, but to merely know how and where a ligament and bone connect is insufficient. It is much more important to understand the why connecting observations to function. To explain nuances of baptism and temptation is less important than to understand that God meets me where I am. God shows the points of confession to me a sinner. God showed different albeit needful things to Jesus the man and he became the Messiah.
Key points from this section:
- God permits Satan to access his saints, but not forever.
- God attends to us when we face temptations.
- Since Jesus was not isolated from difficulty we should not think we will be.
- God conducts transactions with individuals.
- God did with Jesus and he will with me and with you.
- Mysterious places and mysterious men may facilitate a meeting with God.
- Trust God in reading scripture for the optimal lessons