January 10, 2021: Tearing Barriers Apart

stained glass, Jesus praying

First Sunday after the Epiphany

From the start of Jesus’ ministry, he was all about tearing apart the barriers that stand between God and God’s people. The Gospel of Mark’s account of the baptism of Jesus uses the Greek verb schizo, which translated in the NRSV is “torn apart.” He uses this verb to describe the heavens opening up so the Spirit could descend on Jesus “like a dove.” The only other time Mark uses this verb is to describe what happens to the Temple curtain at Jesus’ death. The curtain that separated God’s people from the sacrificial altar was torn apart. No longer did God’s people need a mediator to go to God for forgiveness. The barrier to direct contact was torn apart.

As Jesus began his ministry on earth, the barriers that had separated God from God’s people began to tear apart. The religious structures that were in place to keep people away began to tear apart. The assumptions about who was clean and unclean, who was acceptable and who was not, began to tear apart. Jesus began to tear apart the old ways of understanding and knowing God, so that any barriers would be removed and all could be welcomed into God’s kingdom.

Upon this tearing apart, God speaks, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Mark doesn’t say if anyone else at this event heard this voice, but it is recorded for us to hear. God was pleased with Jesus’ desire to tear apart that which would separate God from God’s people. God is pleased when we seek to do the same.


Beth Rohn-Habhegger, pastor, Wisconsin Rapids Moravian Church

 Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin