Today is Pentecost Sunday, the Sunday when the church historically celebrates the outpouring of the Spirit upon the disciples, empowering the Church for her mission to the world. The very outpouring, incidentally, which we came across in the Gospel of Mark last week. For John the Baptizer, the voice in the wilderness, declared, “I baptize you with water, but He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” And now the anticipation which Mark has fostered in the opening story of John the Baptizer comes to fruition: Jesus comes on the scene. He comes to be anointed as King.
But take special note of the first act of the coming king. When we read the various descriptions in Mark – Deliverer, Messiah, Son of God, Lord, Superior of John, Giver of the Spirit – our understanding of Jesus identity should be expanding, each title shoving more air into our balloon. Wow! Wow! Wow! And then we come to verse 9 and what happens – the very one John has described comes on the scene and what does he do? He bows. He humbles himself. He submits. Imagine the shock this would have delivered to a Gentile reader accustomed to the rulers of Rome; wait, what’s going on? Why is he bowing down? Why is he submitting to others? What kind of king is this?