My friend Wesley Hill just preached on Mark 1 at our church.  He did a fine job demonstrating the OT connections in the scene of Jesus’ baptism.  The rending of the heavens echoes Isa 64:1 (in Jesus God is coming); the descent of the Spirit recalls Gen 1:2 (through Jesus God is re-creating); the pronouncement that “this is my beloved Son” is from Ps 2 (by Jesus the divine Kingdom has appeared); et. al.

I have preached on the texts before, and I left worship today haunted afresh by the theological imagery with which Mark begins and ends his narrative.

(from Textweek.com)
Giotto di Bondone, 1304-06. Christus Rex (from Textweek.com)

When Jesus burst open the surface of those baptismal waters, heaven above burst open as well.  The rendering in the ESV of “he saw the heavens opening” is much too tame.  The verb for “opening” derives from “schizo” in the Greek.  The idea is to rip apart.  A whole was punctured that day in the cosmic ceiling.

Tthe verb reappears near Mark’s ending.  It’s what happened to the Temple curtain as the gasping, raucous death-cry of Jesus echoed from the perch of Golgotha.

Our God is a sky-ripping, curtain-tearing God.

This is a God who will not suffer barriers between Himself and His people.  This is a God who commits violence against obscuring boundaries.  This is a God who will tear heaven apart to get to his children.

We sometimes look skyward wondering where our God could be.  We wonder about his apparent absence, about that infinite distance stretching from the ground beneath our feet and beyond  the packed atmospheric layers up to some hidden realm veiled in faint starlight.

But do not forget that gaping gash overhead, edges dangling with tattered sky.  Do not forget the exploded wound above through which the Spirit descended on God the Son.

For those of us for whom divine distance is so acute we can touch it and smell it, our unglamorous (yet valorous) task is to lunge in our final shreds of hope toward One who has left an unpatched hole in the sky.  For those of us who are hiding from Him, consciously or even unconsciously slinking about in the cover of some shadow, we should beware—

No barrier is safe from a sky-ripping, curtain-tearing God.

Wes pointed us to Isa 64:1.  We can pray this prayer with Isaiah… and we can pray as those for whom the answer has come.  And will come again.

“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down…” (Isa 64:1).

3 thoughts on “The God who Rips the Sky

  1. “When Jesus burst open the surface of those baptismal waters, heaven above burst open as well. The rendering in the ESV of “he saw the heavens opening” is much too tame. The verb for “opening” derives from “schizo” in the Greek. The idea is to rip apart. A whole was punctured that day in the cosmic ceiling.

    Tthe verb reappears near Mark’s ending. It’s what happened to the Temple curtain as the gasping, raucous death-cry of Jesus echoed from the perch of Golgotha.

    Our God is a sky-ripping, curtain-tearing God.

    This is a God who will not suffer barriers between Himself and His people. This is a God who commits violence against obscuring boundaries. This is a God who will tear heaven apart to get to his children.”…You hit it right on the nail with these words! I love digging deep into the original language of the Bible because there so much depth that we miss. Exegesis is a powerful tool. Thank you for showing me that God doesn’t just open things. He rips them open!

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