The Violent Side of Jesus' Baptism

And how it helped me discover my Father's love.
The Violent Side of Jesus' Baptism
Image: David Bjorgen / Wikimedia Commons
Baptism of Christ

I grew up with a father who couldn’t communicate love or concern for me in a way that was meaningful. Whether he was unwilling to do so, I am still unsure. For most of my childhood, my father seemed indifferent to me. In the same way, he was a satellite orbiting my world. I knew he existed, but he was peripheral and seemingly untethered to my day-to-day needs.

Relationships with fathers can get complex. I’ve wrestled with what it means to extend grace to a parent whose dominant posture toward me was and is apathy. Through prayer, I have sought to forgive my father for his shortcomings, and I have looked to therapists to help me grieve the absence of a father-son relationship that seems out of reach to this day.

But despite all of my efforts to address my pain and longing, I would be lying if I didn’t admit to a chronic ache that continues to haunt me in my quiet moments. I ache not knowing whether my father was even on my side.

Still, I have experienced healing, most recently as I prepared to teach on Jesus’ baptism as it is recorded in the Gospel of Mark.

The Father’s Words for Jesus

Mark tells us that Jesus is immersed in the water, and as he comes up, he sees heaven being “torn open” (1:10). The Greek word used here is schizomenous, the present participle of schizo, which means “to tear or cleave open.” It is from this Greek root schizo that we get schizophrenia (i.e., “a torn mind”). It’s a violent word that completely altered my image of this pivotal moment in Jesus’ life.

I had always pictured this to be a quiet, sacred moment that revealed the unfathomable intimacy between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I had read into the ...

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The Violent Side of Jesus' Baptism
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